What’s So Great About Grownups, Anyway?

Look out, Tweens. You may have thought you had the newsweekly demographic trend story market cornered, but the time of the Twixter has arrived. A Twixter, Time informs us, is a twentysomething who won’t settle down, or get a career, or get married, or grow up. (Apparently, reality bites.) Twixter cultural touchstones, says Time, include the movie Garden State, the musical Avenue Q, and Britney Spears’ song “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.” (Seriously.) The piece does delve into some serious issues, chief among them the often overwhelming debt load facing recent college graduates, who now on average owe 85 percent more than those who graduated a decade ago, and the relative decrease in the value of a college degree.

Time is also wondering if there really is a Social Security crisis — and deciding there’s not. After tidily debunking the White House’s rhetoric, Time spends most of the story trying to figure out why the president has the program in his sights. There’s no easy answer, but it may have something to do with the fact that true believers think successful Social Security privatization “could redefine politics itself, putting Republican principles in a position to dominate for the next half-century, as Democrats were able to do after F.D.R. created the program that was the signature of his New Deal,” as Time puts it. But even Newt Gingrich is a skeptic: “Any effort to change the benefit pattern just virtually guarantees you can’t get anything done. The Democrats and labor are putting together a massive campaign. If you give them a weapon that big, they’re going to succeed.”

According to Newsweek’s Richard Wolffe, the president has “big plans” for his second term, and is “a more complex and engaged character than his popular image suggests.” He even reads, we learn! As for those “big plans,” the article doesn’t much discuss them — though social conservatives won’t be pleased to learn that, in private, Bush isn’t too worked up about either abortion or gay marriage. “He doesn’t even carry his family on abortion,” according to a family friend. “He’d probably lose a vote 3-to-1. And I bet he doesn’t make one phone call on the constitutional [gay marriage] amendment.”

US News also deconstructs Dubya, and notes that though he’s going to have a tough time winning the Social Security fight, his plan to let illegal immigrants work in the U.S. might be even harder to push through. The magazine’s “Special Report” is an examination of how “the United Nations’ oil-for-food program was transformed into a piggy bank for Saddam Hussein and the biggest financial scandal in the world body’s 60-year history.” The problem? Fraud, compounded by some really, really bad management. Eighty-seven percent of food contracts were padded by overpricing. Some contracts featured significant “after sales service charges,” which Saddam used to siphon money from the program. Even though UN audits and some UN member countries identified some of the problems, little was done. Though it looks like U.S. performance was “pretty good” — one Senate investigator blames the Russians, French and Chinese — it’s still too early to tell who was asleep at the switch.

Finally, Seymour Hersh, in The New Yorker, argues that an invasion of Iran in the next four years is a foregone conclusion. The administration sees Bush’s re-election as vindication for its Iraq policy, and many believe that Iran is just three to five years away from producing nuclear warheads. The Europeans are negotiating, but the U.S. thinks that’s a foolish strategy, since “the only thing the Iranians understand is pressure … they also need to be whacked,” according to a senior official at the International Atomic Energy Agency. Many neoconservatives believe that an American attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities will prompt a popular uprising against the ruling mullahs, though one scholar characterizes that view as “extremely ill-informed,” suggesting instead that Iranians will rally around the regime, resulting in an anti-American backlash.

Now, can we go back to talking about Twixters? Please? We’ll sleep better.

Brian Montopoli

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Brian Montopoli is a writer at CJR Daily.