Waterville resident Bill Gordon, 84, watched President Barack Obama speak Wednesday about a proposal to trim federal borrowing by $4 trillion during the next 12 years.

Obama outlined cuts in military and domestic spending and higher taxes on the wealthy, while a competing House Republican plan would cut deficits by about $4.4 trillion over a decade and fundamentally reshape Medicare and Medicaid.

Thursday afternoon, as Gordon ate lunch with his wife, Kathy, at the Spectrum Generations Muskie Center on Gold Street, he worried about where the all budget-cutting proposals may lead and how that could affect the poor and elderly.

“We’re lifelong registered Republicans, but we’ve become very disillusioned the last two to three years with them,” Gordon said. “I think Obama’s plan was good, more sensitive than what (Republicans) have to offer. Obama is not going to disrupt Medicare; I think benefits ought to stay as close to what they are now.”

Gordon hopes some plan is approved to tackle the deficit, because “we can’t continue spending money we don’t have.”

Not many other central Mainers queried on Thursday had seen Obama’s speech and few were interested in talking about what’s become the hot button issue in Washington: the deficit.

Mary Turbyne, 73, of Skowhegan, was reading the day’s paper at Jorgensen’s Cafe in downtown Waterville Thursday morning, catching up on Obama’s proposal.

Turbyne was torn: She thinks the deficit is a real problem and solutions are needed, but she’s worried about whether any of the proposals, from Democrats or Republicans, will make a difference.

“I think he (Obama) has made some valid proposals to change it, but in the long run, he makes a lot of proposals and doesn’t always follow up,” Turbyne said. “I think it’s a huge issue.”

Echoing other people, Turbyne said she’s also concerned because average people don’t know what’s included in the complex deficit proposals.

Around noon Thursday, none of the dozen or so people in the American Legion on Main Street in Fairfield knew much about the deficit proposals, though several expressed general frustration with the problem and disenchantment with any solutions.

“It’s aggravating,” said Kevin Dumont, 28, of Fairfield. “They need to shut the printers off making more money.”

Dumont’s mother, 56-year-old Debbie Reynolds, of Fairfield, who was tending bar, said she doesn’t pay attention to the issue. “It depresses me,” she said.

Over at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield, business major Mark Welch, 51, said, “It’s such a mess.”

“I’m not for either side,” he said, “but I think they need to grow up and think about people. They’re killing us; there’s a better way.”

In Farmington, two college students and a social activist talked about how politicians in Washington should handle the country’s budget crisis. They all said spending on programs like Medicare and food stamps is not the problem, but rather tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

“We could easily fix the budget if we did away with (tax) exemption mandates for major corporations,” said Ada Webb, at the Wicked Gelato coffee shop in Farmington.

Webb, 27, of Madison, said she is about to graduate from University of Maine at Farmington to become a geochemist. She said she wants politicians to balance the budget by taking away subsidies for oil companies and doing away with tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

A sociology student at University of Southern Maine, Justin Williams, 30, of Kingfield, said political “stonewalling” in Washington is replacing honest debate.

“The Republicans are like people who would scuttle a ship because they didn’t like the captain,” he said.

An activist from New Sharon, Aimee Cecile, 58, said her biggest concerns are about cuts to programs that help the poor. She said she has worked for sexual assault survivor groups and other social groups.

Cecile said doing away with tax cuts for the wealthy passed when George W. Bush was president would help cut into the mounting deficit.

Walking on the UMF campus, Kathy Kemp, 49, said she is a “social liberal” and “fiscal conservative” who is unhappy with both sides of the budget debate.

There needs to be a “more reasonable approach to cutting programs,” according to Kemp, a social worker and associate professor of rehabilitation services at UMF. She said she is open to cutting funding for government programs to close the deficit, but lawmakers also have to look at raising taxes for certain groups.

“There is too much partisan politics; it’s like 2-year-olds,’ Kemp said of budget proposals from Republicans and Democrats. “I don’t think the people are being heard.”

In downtown Farmington, Jamie Phelps, 35, said he is angry that lawmakers failed to put a plan in place last year. The problems with oil prices and spending have been building up over time, according to Phelps, a beer distributor from New Portland.

“Just having these emergency spending plans is hurting the country,” he said. The president “needs to be a lot more bipartisan and come up with a plan.”

Also at the Muskie Center in Waterville on Thursday, Larry Walters, 64, of Waterville, said he’s frustrated by suggestions for deep budget cuts.

“If they’re cutting Social Security and Medicare, I just as soon they get thrown out of office,” Walters said. “They could do away with stupid programs instead, get out of the Middle East, and let’s take care of our own people.”

Scott Monroe — 861-9239

[email protected]

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