Cammers stood up, stammered and introduced himself as a disabled veteran. He said the whole budget predicament seemed like an impossible choice between a mounting national debt and devastating cutbacks. He explained that he was living on Social Security, and that he had made a pretty decent living once while working in management, and that he could survive a few cuts.
“I will be fine,” he said. And then he came around to the question.
“I guess what I’m saying is, what are all these changes going to mean for my son?”
The next morning, in a single-story farmhouse on the edge of town, the son awoke a little before 10, threw on sweat pants, grabbed a bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats and sank into a recliner across the living room from his father.
Tim Cammers, 32, has always lived in the bedroom down the hall from his parents, the one with two “Lord of the Rings” posters still hanging on the wall. He makes $10 an hour working in food prep at a nearby resort, but the bosses cut his hours whenever business is slow. Lately, he has been collecting part of his income through unemployment and spending a lot of time in the recliner, watching news about the federal budget and wondering how politicians expect him to retire on “a bunch of worthless vouchers.”
“How’d the thing go yesterday?” he asked.
“It was a mess,” his father said. “I feel bad about the country you’re getting.”
“Oh yeah? Why’s that?”
“Either the debt keeps going up and you have to pay more taxes, or we cut back and you don’t get the retirement you deserve.”
“I lose either way,” Tim said.
“You lose either way,” Clarence said, nodding.
His question to Ryan at the listening session had resulted in a broad response about “hard cuts across the board,” and Clarence had begun to wonder if any answer would have satisfied him.
What would happen to his son? He had always worried about Tim — about his seizures in preschool, his severe attention-deficit disorder, his preoccupation with video games, his lack of a serious relationship. His money. Tim lived day to day, spending whatever he earned on mocha Frappuccinos and video games, with little left over to save despite never paying rent.
Ryan had spoken at the library about eradicating a “culture of dependency,” which had made Clarence think about Tim, the son who had never “flown from the nest,” he said. So far in his life — sometimes because of circumstances beyond his control — Tim had often been dependent.
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