Developers are building as fast as they can say "speculate." Construction crews are widening interstate highways to handle the traffic. From downtown north to the suburbs, Rep. Wyche Fowler Jr.'s district looks like a stage set for Ronald Reagan's economic recovery.
But the debate in Fowler's district this recess sounded more like a rerun from the liberal 1960s.
When Fowler (D-Ga.) hosted a 50th birthday party for Social Security on Aug. 16, the "real" 5th District turned out: hard-line Democrats of modest means, more than 60 percent of them black and from the inner city. They won Atlanta for Walter F. Mondale in 1984, even as Georgia as a whole and 48 other states went for Reagan.
The captains of Georgia industries -- life insurance, timber, real estate, textiles -- had lobbied Fowler to oppose tax revision, cut the deficit and fight imports. But the elderly men and women at the Social Security party cared little for Reagan's Washington. They wanted to celebrate the legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt and to thank Fowler for fighting to save their benefits. The deficit was barely mentioned.
"I don't think about it the deficit ," said Jane Carrier, a spunky Social Security recipient who directs a local washboard band of senior citizens. "When they go into that too much trying to cut the deficit , it takes away from poor people . . . . If they were as concerned as they want us to think they are, they'd find some way to tax people in the top income classes."
Throughout the morning, one senior after another, black and white, voiced the same refrain: "The government just doesn't care as much as it used to," in the words of retired teacher Miriam Edwards.
It was a theme strikingly out of sync with national politics, as Democrats as well as Republicans bemoan widening budget and trade deficits. But to these elderly on fixed incomes, there was no more urgent theme. Many expressed a powerful sense of having been forgotten -- by both parties, by Washington, even by their children.
"I voted for Mondale, but I have a son who's an investment manager in Norfolk and do you know he's for Reagan all the way?" Carrier said incredulously.
Many in the crowd echoed Reagan's critique of the "unfairness" of the federal tax code, complaining that the wealthy and many corporations gain more than the middle class. But these seniors seemed unwilling to trust the White House, Congress or anyone in Washington to represent their interests.
"I think it the tax code needs changing very, very badly," said Carrier. "But I don't know if what they're going to come up with will help. I'm afraid they'll change it and it won't help the common people."
"Rather than reducing social services, I'd be in favor of a tax increase, although that would affect me also," said Cecil Harbing, 68, a retired clinical psychologist. "I'm concerned about this approach of taking government help away from people who don't have anything to begin with."