Paul Ryan and Cousin Eddie in the Villages

    In case you've never heard of a retirement community in Florida called The Villages, it's a destination plot for Midwesterners who want to sit back and enjoy life, and on most weekends, act like teenagers. Some of my friends from high school live there, including my cousin, Eddie, whose wife died several years ago from a massive stroke. Eddie describes his life now in what could be termed a steroidal wish fulfillment of those Saturday nights when we wrestled with our dates at the drive-in movies back home. 

    The Villages is one of the strangest environments I have ever encountered. It eerily resembles the totalitarian and idyllic setting of the Patrick McGoohan T.V. series, "The Prisoner"---which was based in a fictional town/resort known as---you guessed it---The Village. Words have failed to describe the Villages in Florida until the recent appearance of an article by Michael Van Sickler in the Sunday Tampa Bay Times. (link in comment below) It is delicious reading. The writer describes the very much in control Republican owner of the Villages and his attendant bastion of forty thousand reliable Republican voter/residents. As goes cousin Eddie and the Villages so goes the Ryan/Romney ticket in Florida.

    I want to call cousin Eddie, a Baptist, and needle him with, "So Eddie, how is the Mormon, Catholic, Medicare Voucher Republican ticket working out for you?". I won't ask of course but I do wonder how the Ryan Medicare Voucher might raise doubt about the election in Eddie's mind, and possibly in the minds of some Republicans as well.

    Contrary to perceptions the vast number of folks at the Villages cannot swing a $1 million house. And to say that Medicare and Social Security play a huge role in the retirement economics of most residents in the Villages is a serious understatement. Cousin Eddie is decidedly middle class and he is the walking definition of a Reagan Democrat. I'd say his digs cost him around $200 K, which is a step up from entry level--well designed pre-manufactured homes on small lots. In 2009, median income was $50K and median home price was $260 K, with property taxes at $2000 a year. Overall, the houses are terriffic and so are the people---individually, that is, and without their political party uniforms. But then there is the owner guy with his Cayman Island registered yacht and his absolute control of everything outside the houses themselves. It's a company owned town which in effect, elected George Bush in 2000.  

    If you take a median income of $50 K and figure up what you have left after paying Federal taxes, plus normal household expenses of food, car maintenance, utilities and insurance, property taxes, the annual summer trip back up North and possibly a fishing trip or two, there is not much money left over. Don't forget that most of the folks will also be paying supplemental Medicare insurance in the range of $2K a year. Did I mention trips to the Dentist?

    I think it's clear that any tinkering around with either Social Security or Medicare, or for that matter letting the Bush tax cuts expire, could have an enormous effect on a $50 K a year budget. Obviously Social Security payments make up a large chunk of the $50 K income. And it's not just the residents. A great deal of the infrastructure around Florida relates to medical services.

    Of course, the Ryan voucher plan is supposed to affect only those under 55. And also, Romney will be running away from the Ryan voucher plan as fast as Obama will be hanging it around his neck. So presumably, cousin Eddie and most of the Villagers would be protected from any changes Romney and Ryan might have in store for those under 55.  But you have to wonder how far a far right economic team would really go if given a blank check. Will the Reagan Democrats see a long term risk to their way of life?

    I remember one of my visits to the Villages when cousin Eddie was seriously trying to interest me in buying a house. We had an appointment on Saturday morning with a single, perky real estate agent named Sarah who was scheduled to show me around the place, organized around mini-communities, golf courses and the famous "town squares". Loud speakers continuously flood the town squares with music, punctuated with Fox News updates, and in this particular case, a full half hour Paul Harvey show. I was trying to kid around with the agent and I asked if Democrats were allowed to buy houses there. Without a smile Sarah told me, "This is Bush country". Well, I wasn't ever going to buy a house there anyway and I already had the creeps from the prison yard loud speakers. Thus ended a quick tour of a couple of condos at the Villages.

    Romney will no doubt visit the Villages again, the site of his recent famous singing debut. I wonder if Romney will be able to placate the kind folks of the Villages about that whipper-snapper Ryan's youthful exuberance about a voucher plan---and I promise it's not going to happen (gee, that sounds familiar). I wonder if the residents there, sitting in the golf course club houses watching Fox News over a hamburger and fries, will give a single thought to any threats to their incomes and medical benefits based on a Ryan/Romney election win. Probably not, life is too good there.  

    And will Paul Ryan himself go to the villages? I doubt it, but if he does I'm going to go back there and visit Eddie because it would be real theater. And I could check out the new, post crash, housing prices and maybe take in happy hour with my old friends or even go to a sock hop in the town square under the company's flood lights and ubiquitous loud speakers.






    Comments Request help on this link. Article is titled, "The Villages: Florida Retirement community provides foundation for Republican candidate".Thanks.

    This might help Oxy.

    Quite interesting that is for sure.

    Much obliged.

    Friends of ours have relatives at The Villages, too. (Cousin Eddie?)  They said pretty much the same thing, though not nearly as interesting or insightful as you did.  They said there was plenty of money there but not a lot of happy faces.  "It's kinda eery," my friend said, "you have to see it to believe it."   She thought it might be because everything is so brand new, it didn't even seem real.  More like an entire community of model homes.

    I didn't know that about the guy who owns it.  Could be a real story there. 

    The owner is a part of the original development firm which started the place. No doubt an enormous success, financially. They started with trailer parks, etc., and found their appeal with the golf course theme. But the family owns all the infrastructure, particularly the "towns", which gives everything a kind of Disney World, company owned flavor.  

    Interesting that the owner is from Michigan.  Wonder if he crossed paths with Tom Monaghan, former owner of Domino's Pizza (he sold it to Bain Capital), former owner of Detroit Tigers, Frank Lloyd Wright aficionado, and all-around Right Wing Catholic nutjob?

    He sold off everything and founded Ave Maria University, Ave Maria Law School, and Ave Maria, Florida--which sounds a lot like The Villages, only creepier.


    Do you suppose there is a cabal which funds and promotes such people? Unbelievable.

    BTW, what I learned is that about a third of the residents are registered Democrats. I can tell you that they must keep a really low profile, because I never met one when I was there. Apparently they went about 2/3 for McCain. I was under the impression that Bush was much higher than that.

    I thought one of the funnier things was that "townies"--single old guys from the "outside" would continuously show up at the dances in the town squares, presumably looking for more well heeled women. The single women had them cataloged, and passed the information around---don 't bother with him, he's a townie. Well, I said it was like high school.

    Is this the equivalent to the 'Stepford' scenario for seniors?

    Right.  Even scarier, since it's not fiction.

    Speaking of fiction, Romney is already running from his bold choice Veep by saying he's not going to follow Ryan's Medicare prescription. Today he canceled an appearance in Orlando because he was "exhausted". So much for the Ryan "injects new energy into the campaign" meme.

    But, what's the real reason he canceled?  Any thoughts, clues, conjectures? 

    **Maybe he's not feeling well and will have to drop out - thus the 'Freudian' slip when introducing Ryan as 'the next President.....'?!?  Ah well, just kidding(?).**wink

    Aunt Sam, what's your take on whether Seniors will be bought off by the over 55 ploy---in other words, they themselves shouldn't worry, it only affects younger folks.

    The sad truth is that with age does not always bring wisdom or caring about others well being.  I think that some will shrug as in it's 'not their problem', but those with families and/or consideration for what's 'fair and in the best interests' of those who have paid into this program for decades and constructed their retirement planning with the coverage of medicare as promised, won't (or should not) be duped.

    If indeed, the majority of the seniors who are not of the 1% have come to realize how this coverage has delivered the benefit of not only financial help but also a sense of security to their healthcare needs and quality of life, they should - if they understand the basics of the Romney/Ryan 'plan' to dismantle current program, express their outrage loud and clear.

    My concern is that unless Obama and others are able to put forth, loud and clear, the factual specific message in a cohesive, simplistic manner, the truth will get lost in the noise.



    Thanks, Aunt Sam. The three phrases seem to be:

    ending Medicare as we know it.

    a voucher system

    privatizing medicare.

    Really don't know the best convention or how they conflict or reinforce one another.

    But the essential message is that Republicans don't like any government programs. So why trust them on any thing they say now.


    with property taxes at $2000 a year

    Though it doesn't apply to federal races, I think this is a salient point, this is a low rate compared to many other areas. In my experience rates like that are worth a vote or two or three to many retirees who don't wanna hafta pay for edujmaction of the children anymore. It's almost like many retired snowbirds consider Florida an inappropriate environment for children? Where their own precious grand and great-grand children are being raised back in another state where still-working people pay the higher property taxes for good schools? (Who gives a damn about Florida kids, the brats don't belong here anyways? cheeky)

    Yeah I know, the dirth of snowblowers, snow shovels and icy roads is probably the bigger draw, but for the ones I know, the property tax rates seem to be a strong second. Enough to pay for the visits back to torture the kids' spouses and then some.

    Also it comes to mind that crashing of real estate values is a negative only in less dough for the kids to inherit, but a positive in that it also means lower taxes, as Florida Property Tax is based on market value as of January 1st that year.

    Thanks, Artsy. Many of the homes have probably been "homesteaded" and I don't remember the details but seems that the annual increases are capped. Some of them may go back a few years.

    Down there they need name tags which say, "I promise not to talk about my grand kids if you don't".

    The Villages is the destination for rich, white Midwesterners whose retirement comes from the stock market. They are snotty, snooty and sanctimonious.  And more than a few are major racists.

    I know..I used to live in Central Fl. and this is one on the things that drove me away.

    I lived south of Sarasota for a number of years. Yes, strong Midwestern stock there in the Villages. Not only well heeled, but lots of retired public servants, etc., who were suddenly non-Democrats. But in truth, if you lived there, you would never mention your affiliation with the Democratic party.

    Megan, thanks for the tip. I'd say more but I've got to call Eddie, and then Southwest Airlines. But let me ask you, which club has the best happy hour these days?

    I'm sure people here know this but just as a reminder. There are many retirement villages in Florida and not all are like the Village. My parents retired to a gated community in St. Petersburg. Dad was a union steel worker who voted democrat in the vast majority of elections. Most of the people in his retirement community were blue collar workers from the time when people got decent pay, excellent health care benefits, and good pensions for their work. They made massive profits on their home when they sold it to retire in Florida.

    I know my dad is still mostly democrat because we talk politics when we visit. What I find interesting is that people who live there never talk politics with each other. Its a taboo subject. The only politics discussed on the community are internal politics, the rules and  regulations of how this community is run. And the elections of board members.

    I wonder if anyone in the Villages will ask Paul Ryan why he keeps championing himself as someone who is serious about reducing the deficit when, since 2001, according to this detailed, sourced Center for American Progress piece, he "voted for at least 65 separate pieces of deficit- and debt-increasing legislation, with the total tab for all those votes a whopping $6.8 trillion in cumulative deficits."?

    Paul Linden, "Paul Ryan's Undeserved Reputation for Fiscal Responsibility", Center for American Progress website at:



    Thanks, Dreamer. Great reference.

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