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:
Federal worker Philip Kellett, 29, switched off his television set at the conclusion of President Reagan's address, convinced that government employes like himself are in for another tough year.
"Nothing he said surprised me," said Kellett, a $25,000-a-year paralegal at the Federal Election Commission, who watched Reagan's speech at the Arlington apartment he shares with his wife, Elizabeth, a public health nurse.
Kellett, who moved to Washington from Detroit six years ago to take his government job, saw the president's attack on "runaway spending" as an attack on federal workers. Recommendations to freeze federal pay, delay pension raises and force new federal employes into the Social Security system were greeted with anger and sarcasm.
"It's interesting that he referred to ruining the civil service retirement system as a sacrifice government workers have to put up with," said Kellett, who said he is already taking home less pay than a year ago because of taxes and increases in federal health insurance premiums.
And he added one other note: "You didn't see Air Florida hero Lenny Skutnik sitting next to Nancy Reagan this time. Lenny Skutnik isn't going to get a raise this year. And none of the Iran hostages are going to get a raise this year, and none of the astronauts."