In his State of the Union address, President Reagan focused heavily on the concerns of the middle class, requesting patience with the nation's economic problems and offering new programs to broaden educational opportunities, provide jobs and contain inflation.
At the same time, he called on the middle class to make some sacrifices--including a six-month delay in cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients, a one-year freeze on federal pay and pensions, and a willingness to accept a standby tax increase.
To get a sense of how his address was received here, six Washington Post reporters watched the speech at the homes of some middle-income residents of the Washington area.
While the selection was not scientific and their opinions clearly cannot reflect the full range of opinion, the people interviewed were chosen from specific segments of the population: a couple just starting out, a working mother who is raising two children by herself, a retired couple, a laid-off worker, a mid-level federal worker, and a man with a small business.
Here's how they reacted:
Navy Lt. Larry Ledford voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and says he's optimistic enough about the present state of the economy that he hopes to buy a house this year and a second car.
Last night, after he watched the president's State of the Union message, his optimism was unswerving.
"I see him offering hope," the 31-year-old Ledford said as he sat near a crackling fire in the living room of his small rented Cape Cod home near Falls Church. "I think he's really trying to do something for the overall country."
But a few feet away, his 25-year-old wife, Jane, an administrative assistant at Veda Inc., a Crystal City defense consulting firm, took a more skeptical view of the 196th State of the Union message.
"It was a good speech," said Jane Ledford, a California native who voted for former representative John B. Anderson for president in 1980. Still, she said, "It's easy to say something. It's so idealistic but something no one can do."
In short, the Ledfords, who have been married for a year and a half and have a joint income of $37,000, did not much change their views of the president or the state of the union after hearing his speech.
Larry Ledford, who has served in the Navy for 10 years, said he was not even upset that Reagan proposed freezing the pay of military personnel. "I think everybody's got to do their part," he said. "I'll pass the 4 percent up." Still, his wife felt that Reagan was "preoccupied with the economy and defense when you can't walk outside" without worrying about crime."