Updated: 8/15/2012 3:30 PM ET|
Amid affluence, an uncertain future
"We have a serious brain drain here," said Mike D'Abramo, 34, a political campaign worker. "There really aren't a lot of people my age -- everybody left.
"The social and economic dislocation is creating a shift in the demographics of this area," he said. "This will become a retirement home."
D'Abramo grew up here. A third-generation local, his grandfather immigrated from Argentina and, after serving in the U.S. military, raised a family and became active in politics. The family was uniformly Republican, as was D'Abramo, who headed to Washington, D.C., after college to work for a Republican congressman and, later, a foreign policy think tank.
But the son is hardly recognizable at the family dinner table today.
After witnessing firsthand the social, environmental and human consequences of "U.S. strategic interests abroad -- oil," he had a change of heart. D'Abramo spent years in Nigeria, Iraq and Jordan working for U.S. international development organizations.
"Living in Nigeria, when I saw the utter devastation, crushing poverty, kids with flies begging me for money. That was a real eye-opener," D'Abramo said. "It was a real sad thing to experience, and it made me realize that I frankly didn't give a s--- what Wall Street made."
D'Abramo returned to Port Jefferson Village recently with his wife to help his family here. He is currently working on a New York Assembly campaign.
"The Republican Party that I worked for, the values that it stood for, doesn't exist anymore," he said. "It's been completely overtaken by this Tea Party movement, which is a frightening thing."
D'Abramo, who has a master's degree in international relations, has also seen too many educated people his age struggle to find work. He looked hard -- sending out résumés and networking daily, he said -- on Capitol Hill for a year and a half during the recession. His cousin, an architect who is now 41, was out of work for three years.
"And he went to Harvard. There's no reason he should be out of a job," D'Abramo said.
D'Abramo is working now, but he can't afford health insurance, at least not a plan that would offer coverage he considers worthwhile. When he lived in Romania, his wife's native country, he received inexpensive national health care, even as a resident.
"Why is it that I can get health coverage in Romania but not here?" he asked.
"No one in this country wants to use the S-word -- socialism," he said, adding that this negative connotation is a misplaced holdover from the Cold War. "The things that got us back on our feet after World War II, these are socialist policies."
Such programs -- Medicare, Social Security, the G.I. Bill -- are popular among voters. But today's young people face the dismal prospect of possibly being worse off than their parents and grandparents because of rising college costs and long-stagnant wages.
D'Abramo remains optimistic on the whole and continues to campaign, but he is utterly frustrated by the intransigence of Congress. And he now sees the effect not only abroad but in his backyard.
"Can people my age afford to live here? No way. There's a real social dislocation," he said. "I feel like this country is in a state of political paralysis, which is only exacerbating the economic paralysis."
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