Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why Are So Many Baby Boomers Divorced?

Why Are So Many Baby Boomers Divorced?
"Senior Moment:" From "I Do," to "I Won't," Baby Boom Generation Makes up Majority of all Divorced People in America

Baby Boomers and Marriage

As part of "Senior Moment," Richard Schlesinger reports on the image of marriage among baby bombers, the generation that makes up the majority of all divorced people in America.

First Boomer Reminisces

Retired teacher Kathy Casey-Kirschling, who is thought to be the first baby boomer, reminisces with Harry Smith about her care-free, drug-free and premarital sex-free teen years in Philadelphia.

Alzheimer's and Money Problems

Discounts Abound for Boomers Turning Seniors

(CBS) Love and marriage don't go together as often as they used to. In a recent study, 39 percent of Americans said marriage is becoming obsolete. That's up from 28 percent who thought so back in the 1970s. That's about the time the oldest of the baby boomers - now in their sixties - were getting hitched. But many wound up splitting.

CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger continues a series of reports by CBS News and USA TODAY called "Senior Moment," exploring the aging of an iconic generation and the impact on the nation.

Wendy Sales was married for 25 years, and divorced for seven years. Looking at a picture of her wedding day, she said, "I actually cried when I looked at the picture because it reminded me of a time when I was really happy and hopeful about the future and thinking that this was going to be my husband forever."

Like millions of other baby boomers Sales grew up in the era of "Leave It To Beaver," but real life ended up more like "Kramer Vs. Kramer."

By 1979, when that film came out, the divorce rate had hit its all time high - 5.3 divorces per 1,000 people.

"My wife at the time used to say I was happy being miserable," said Scott Lorber. Lorber was married for five years, and divorced for 15 years. "I thought I was happy on the outside maybe I wasn't."

Now 35 percent of all baby boomers have been divorced and that generation makes up the majority of all divorced people in America. So what happened?

"Life happened," Sales said. "Um, we were busy."

"There's no question that a lot of women woke up during the women's movement and said, 'Who needs this,'" Nora Ephron said.

Ephron has written extensively about divorce, most notably her own. She's just written a new book about her life and edits a blog on the Huffington Post all about the D-word that once dared not speak its name.

"When I was growing up, the word divorce was practically whispered," Ephron said.

The traditional wife and mother image of June Cleaver went out with black-and-white TV. During the sexual revolution women who had said "I do" claimed their right to say, "I'd rather not.

"I was engaged at 20 married at 21 and I had my children very soon after that," said Marianne. She was married for 30 years, and divorced for seven. "Our generation was the first, at least women, that were college grads and career options were open to us that the generation previous to us didn't."

"I think marriage is much harder than it looks," Ephron said.

That may be why the children and grandchildren of baby boomers are waiting longer to marry - about 4 years longer. Since 1979 the average age of grooms has risen from 24 to 28, and from 22 to 26 for brides. Nobody wants to inherit what turned out to be a troubling trait of an older generation.

"Nobody gets married and wants it fail, and anyway you look at it a divorce is the loss of a dream," Sales said.

Washington Post-ABC poll: Public is not yet sold on GOP

Republicans may have made major gains in the November elections, but they have yet to win the hearts and minds of the American people, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The midterm elections - in which Republicans gained 63 seats to take control of the House and added six seats to their Senate minority - were widely seen as a rebuke to President Obama. Still, the public trusts Obama marginally more than they do congressional Republicans to deal with the country's main problems in the coming years, 43 percent to 38 percent.

The poll suggests that the election, while perhaps a vote against the status quo, was not a broad mandate for Republicans and their plans. The survey also underscores the degree to which Americans are conflicted about who they think is setting the agenda in Washington.

The president's narrow advantage is a striking contrast to the public's mood at this time in 1994 and 2006, the last two midterm election years when one or both chambers of Congress changed hands.

After Democrats won back the House and the Senate four years ago, they had a large, double-digit lead over President George W. Bush when it came to big issues. Similarly, after the GOP's 1994 landslide, people expressed far more confidence in congressional Republicans than they did in President Bill Clinton.

In the new poll, just 41 percent of respondents say the GOP takeover of the House is a "good thing." About 27 percent say it is a "bad thing," and 30 percent say it won't make any difference. Most continue to say that the Republicans in Congress are not doing enough to compromise with Obama on important issues.

At this time in 1994, six in 10 Americans said the GOP had taken a stronger leadership role in Washington, while just one in four said Clinton was firmly in charge. In the new poll, Americans are about evenly split between Obama and the Republicans in Congress on this question.

The public is also divided down the middle when it comes to the top issue: About 45 percent say they trust the GOP when it comes to the economy; 44 percent side with Obama. In the wake of the 1994 elections, Republicans held a sizable, 23-point advantage over Clinton on the economy. The new poll also has even splits between Obama and the GOP on taxes and dealing with the threat of terrorism.

That may be grounds for the kind of negotiations that resulted in the compromise over taxes and unemployment benefits that is now making its way through the lame-duck session of Congress.

A red flag for the GOP

Even as Republicans are determined to fulfill their campaign promises to reduce spending, repeal the new health-care law and in other ways block the president's agenda, the public's ambivalence serves as a warning that the GOP will not have a free hand in the new Congress.

Obama maintains double-digit leads over Republicans in two big areas - helping the middle class and health-care reform. The GOP has a significant edge on only one issue tested in the poll: When it comes to dealing with the federal budget deficit, Republicans in Congress are up eight points.

But while Republicans are more trusted on the issue, Americans believe that the president is more genuine in wanting to reduce the deficit. More than two in three say Obama is sincere in his commitment to deficit reduction, while only a bare majority say the same for congressional Republicans.

Even so, 55 percent of all Americans say they disapprove of the job Obama is doing on the deficit, and he has not had majority approval on the issue since the 100-day mark of his presidency in late April 2009. Most - 54 percent - disapprove of Obama's work on the economy. But in terms of his overall job performance, it's a nearly even divide: 49 percent approval, 47 percent disapproval.

Independents, who played a major role in delivering the House to the Republicans, also split about evenly on the president's performance, and they give Obama a narrow edge over the GOP when it comes to dealing with major issues. Nearly one-fifth of independents do not trust either the president or the Republicans, a sign that both sides remain on trial in the eyes of this crucial part of the population.

Most independents say the Republicans are not doing enough to make deals with Obama, and more than four in 10 say the president is not doing enough to reach out to the other side.

Obama's tax compromise with Republicans on Capitol Hill sparked vocal protests from liberal elected officials and leaders of some progressive groups. But the poll shows no notable erosion in his support among liberal Democrats in the population at large. His approval rating among liberal Democrats stands at a lofty 87 percent, almost identical to where it was in an early October poll and down marginally from a survey later that month.

Persistent pessimism

More broadly, the poll found that the widespread public pessimism that shaped election-year attitudes has not been alleviated by the vote's outcome. Two-thirds of all Americans say the country is heading in the wrong direction, the same number that said so a month into Obama's term.

It's the nation's puttering economy that continues to drive the negative views. Nearly six in 10 Americans - 57 percent - say that, in personal terms, the recession has not ended, regardless of what economists say. More than a third say that someone in their household has lost a job in the past year, nearly double the proportion saying so when Obama took office. Nearly three-quarters now say they have close friends or immediate family members who have been hit with job loss.

During the fall campaign, most Republican candidates pledged to cut federal spending and attack the deficit. Both congressional Republicans and the president now say they hope to make deficit reduction a high priority in 2011. But it is a tricky issue, even though most of those polled want the government to make efforts to reduce the imbalance now, not wait for the economy to recover.

Of the nine ways proposed in the poll to close to budget deficit - including some outlined in the report recently released by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform - not a single one gets majority support. Seven are opposed by 51 percent or more.

Nearly eight in 10 poll respondents oppose raising federal gasoline taxes, and about two-thirds are against cutting yearly Social Security benefit increases or eliminating the tax deduction that parents can take for children younger than 18. Most also oppose raising the capital gains tax, reducing federal aid to agriculture, cutting defense spending or gradually bumping up the qualifying age for Social Security payouts.

The poll was conducted Dec. 9 to 12 among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. Interviews were conducted on conventional and cellular telephones. Results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Zach Thomas says Jets formed wall ( New York JETS are cheaters!)

On Day 3 of TripGate, former Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas accused the New York Jets of deliberately forming a human wall on their sideline to influence the Dolphins' gunner, Nolan Carroll.

The unfortunate episode became a national story because Carroll was purposely tripped by Sal Alosi, the Jets' strength and conditioning coach, but Thomas is part of a growing faction that believes Alosi wasn't acting alone.

"They had to be ordered to stand there because they're foot to foot," Thomas said Tuesday on Miami radio station WQAM. "There's four of them, side to side -- five of them, I mean -- on the edge of the coach's zone. They're only out there to restrict the space of the gunner.

"But there's more to it because I'm telling you, the only thing [Alosi] did wrong was intentionally put that knee out there. If he just stood there, there would never have been a problem, even if the guy got tripped. But there's more to this. He was ordered to stand there. No one is foot to foot on the sideline in the coach's box."

Actually, it was a six-man line, starting with Alosi and defensive lineman Marcus Dixon (inactive). It's believed the other four also were inactive players. They were in a tight formation, almost like soccer players preparing to defend a direct kick. Their toes were right up against the boundary, with Alosi positioned in the corner of the coaches' box.

Coincidence? When Carroll approached at full speed, not one of them flinched, suggesting it was a show of force that appeared to be orchestrated. Alosi and Jets officials denied that, claiming they don't coach that tactic -- an unsavory technique that is semi-prevalent around the league.

Everybody knows what happened next: Alosi infamously extended his left knee as Carroll ran by on a punt, causing the Miami rookie to fall on his face -- an "irresponsible" act (Alosi's word) that resulted in him being suspended without pay for the rest of the season and fined $25,000 by the Jets.

A close examination of the TV replay shows that Dixon was leaning in with his left shoulder, perhaps preparing for contact as well.

"Something is fishy," said an opposing personnel executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The executive said the Jets have shown a penchant in recent weeks for using sideline personnel as a deterrent to gunners -- players sprinting the sideline in an attempt to get to the returner quickly -- adding that the Jets' sideline is conspicuously clear when their team is doing the punting.

One punt before the Carroll trip, Alosi and four others were lined up in a similar fashion. On that play, Dolphins gunner Reshad Jones came barreling into the sideline area. Because he didn't return immediately to the field, he was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. Even though they benefited from the penalty, the Jets responded as if their turf had been invaded.

"It was kind of curious," said a former longtime NFL special teams coach. "I mean, they had a bunch of guys lined up. It was unusual to say the least. If somebody ordered that, I'd be [ticked] off if I were Sal."

Former Buffalo Bill Steve Tasker, one of the greatest special teams players in history, said the Jets' tactic -- if intentional -- didn't bother him at all. He didn't condone Alosi's trip, but he has no problem with a team trying to defend its sideline to prevent a gunner from gaining field position.

"No question, you're not supposed to trip someone, but I think this is an overreaction," he said in a phone interview. "This isn't stealing signs or illegal taping or somebody sabotaging something. It was just a guy, reacting."

Tasker said he made a living out of running out of bounds as a gunner, using the sideline to escape blockers. One time, in a game against the Jets, he was so far out of bounds that he ran through the bench area to break free. Another time, he said he was tripped by former Giants punter Sean Landeta while running on the boundary.

"You think this is the first time [a trip] ever happened? Come on," Tasker said. "Guys were always giving me extra shoves. You don't want to see someone get hurt, but it's not a big deal. Why wouldn't you give a guy a forearm shiver? Everyone on the sideline is part of a team and they all want to win. Shoot, even the doctors are competitive.

"If [the Jets] are coached to do that, so what? Call a penalty on them. If a gunner is going to use the sideline as a weapon, like I did, why wouldn't you want to form a road block? There's nothing wrong with that as long as it's within the rules."

Because of Tasker, the league changed the rules, restricting the gunner -- aka the Steve Tasker Rule. On Monday, ESPN Senior NFL Analyst Chris Mortensen reported the NFL will send a memo to all 32 clubs as a reminder that they should adhere to league rules that require players, coaches and other personnel to remain the proper distance from the sidelines.

Jets coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum, while not defending Alosi's action, insisted their players aren't coached to crowd the sideline.

"Number one, I did not instruct anyone," special teams coach Mike Westhoff said in a statement issued by the team. "Number two, I was not aware. With all of the people on the sidelines, it would be inconsequential and I would not be involved in any way, shape or form."

Westhoff used to coach the Dolphins' special teams, and spent five seasons with Thomas. The former Pro Bowl linebacker said he couldn't recall anything like that happening in Miami, but said there's no doubt in his mind that Alosi was simply following orders

"Oh, sure, that's the reason the guy didn't get fired," Thomas told a FoxSports Radio in South Florida. "... There was somebody that ordered that for the sideline."

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.

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Bellagio robber flees with $1.5 million in chips ( Will have a problem redeeming for cash!)

Las Vegas police are seeking a man who robbed a Bellagio craps table at gunpoint Tuesday morning and got away with more than $1.5 million in chips.

Police said a man parked his late-model black sport motorcycle at the north valet entrance of the casino about 3:50 a.m. He entered the casino wearing a white, full-face motorcycle helmet and a leather jacket, police said.

The man approached a nearby craps table and demanded money, which he received, and then left the casino. He fled west on Flamingo Road on the motorcycle, police said.

No one was hurt and no shots were fired, according to Lt. Clint Nichols. The man did not take money from casino patrons and was in the casino for only 2 to 3 minutes.

"He parked, walked in, committed the robbery and left," he said.

Security officers did not attempt to stop the man, who was carrying a handgun, Nichols said.

A casino employee dialed 911 even before the man had left the casino, he said.

"They had a full staff, and they were on it quick," he said.

Nichols said the man took chips from $25,000 to $100 in value. He said the chips will be difficult to exchange for money because of industry safeguards, which he could not disclose.

The suspect, who was described as a white man about 5 feet 10 inches tall and 220 pounds, is also suspected of robbing the Suncoast last week in a similar manner.

About 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, a man wearing a full-face motorcycle helmet held up the cashier cage in the poker room of the Suncoast, taking $20,000, Nichols said.

Although the man committed the robberies alone, Nichols said it's common for criminals to have a "layoff guy" to alert them when there's a large amount of money coming into a casino.

Police are reviewing surveillance footage from the robberies, but said the photos reveal little about the man's identity.

Nichols said $1.5 million was large for a casino robbery, but not the largest he's seen in the last three years.

Casino robberies are infrequent, but not rare, he said. In 2009, there were nine casino robberies in the Las Vegas Police jurisdiction. Tuesday's robbery makes 10 for 2010, he said.

"We're not seeing an epidemic or anything," he said.


Doctor Exposed as Fraud

To anyone that met him, Dr. William Hamman was
undoubtedly impressive. Not only was he a
commercial airline pilot, but also one of the nation's
top cardiologists.

When not zipping over America while flying the
friendly skies for United Airlines, Hamman was
lecturing at medical conferences, holding prestigious
hospital posts and working with millions in research

There was only one problem: Dr. William Hamman is
not actually a doctor.

After years of duping some of the smartest doctors
around and even the American Medical Assocation, an
investigation by The Associated Press found that
Hamman had no medical residency, no fellowship, no
doctoral degree or the 15 years of clinical experience
he claimed to have. Hamman did apparently go to
medical school for a few years, but dropped out
before he graduated, the AP reported.

"When he wanted to seek this grant, they discovered
that he did not have an M.D. degree," Marilynn
Marchione, a medical writer for the AP told "Good
Morning America." "And when they checked further, it
appeared he did not have a PhD degree either."

Hamman is actually a pilot, according to a Federal
Aviation Administration spokeswoman, though United
Airlines has grounded him after the revelations about
his deception.

Hamman apparently never treated a patient, but his
colleagues said they were stunned by the man who
was able to talk the talk.

He was an educator and researcher at William
Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., but resigned
after the credentials check revealed discrepancies, a
hospital spokeswoman told the AP.

"I was shocked to hear the news," Dr. W. Douglas
Weaver, who was president of a cardiology group
when it gave Hamman a training contract for up to
$250,000 plus travel a few years ago, told the AP. "He
was totally dedicated to what he was doing, and there
is a real need for team-based education in medicine."

Hamman did not comment on the report, but his
lawyer, David Nacht, confirmed that he did not have
the medical or doctoral degrees he claimed.

"It's Mr. Hamman's desire that he clear up any
misconceptions about his background that he has
caused. He wants to be completely straightforward
about it," Nacht told the AP.

Richard Holbrooke, RIP By NICHOLAS KRISTOF

I’ve never met an abler diplomat, or a smarter one, than Richard Holbrooke. He was inevitably the brightest guy in the room, and usually the most pragmatic and hardest-working – and he was also a friend whom I admired hugely. His death today is a tremendous loss for all of us who knew him, and for the country as well.
Richard never achieved his dream of becoming secretary of state, but he leaves a legacy around the world – from Bosnia to East Timor, from AIDS clinics in South Africa to his legions of followers in the United States – that exceeds that of many Secretaries of State. He was simply a legendary public servant, and an inspiration.

I met Richard two decades ago when I was a China correspondent for the New York Times, and he came through Beijing on his way to Tibet. In the intervening years I learned an immense amount from him, and I came to have vast admiration for his combination of public service ideals and gritty can-do pragmatism.

It’s well-known that he could be abrasive, and he rubbed some people the wrong way. But what’s sometimes missed is that abrasiveness was usually serving some cause; it wasn’t just him trying to get his way. Quite regularly when I would write about AIDS, I would get a reproachful call from Richard. “So, why didn’t you mention testing?” he would ask. As chairman of the Global Business Coalition against AIDS, he was among the first to appreciate the importance of widespread testing for HIV, on the theory that you couldn’t constrain the epidemic until you knew who had it. And so once he understood that, he pushed and persuaded and bullied to get more testing. For my part, persuaded and bullied by Richard, I began to mention testing more often – and my readers and the public were better off for it.

There are lots of people who manage to get one big thing right in their careers, but Richard managed to be right and ahead of his time about any number of topics. He was certainly right about AIDS testing, even though initially the AIDS advocacy community resisted testing for fear of stigmatizing people; eventually, people came around to Richard’s side.

Likewise, Richard was most famously right about the Balkans. The Dayton peace accord couldn’t have been achieved without Richard’s combination of intellectual brilliance, strategic and tactical mastery, and indefatigability, and countless lives were saved as a consequence. That was diplomacy at its finest.

And he was right about Tibet, China and the need to empower women, among many other topics. Many people perhaps didn’t realize what a tireless advocate he was of educating girls and bringing women out of the margins of society into the mainstream. Some of that was the influence of his wife, Kati Marton, who for a time was chair of the International Women’s Health Coalition, but much was also Richard’s own idealism – a huge part of his soul, which people didn’t always perceive through his gruff exterior.

Richard succeeded as a diplomat, as a banker, as a journalist (he wrote excellent columns for The Washington Post during the Bush administration) and as a mentor for so many younger people. He particularly liked journalists, and some of that was no doubt a desire to be quoted– but he also shared the journalistic sensibility, the desire to go out and kick tires and talk to people directly rather than just read briefings. Even in his latest Af-Pak job, he managed to go and talk to real people, whereas many diplomats remained prisoners of our embassies.

Af-Pak was his toughest mission ever, and he assembled a fabulous team. As far as I could tell he had all the right instincts, and he certainly believed deeply in promoting economic development as well as just military operations. But he worked his tail off, and I wonder if the stress of the Af-Pak job, and his constant travel and jet-lag, wasn’t one of the underlying reasons for his final heart problem.

Richard also cared deeply about his family and was immensely proud of Kati – a superb author – and his children. He would brag about his kids to me, swelling with pride. And he cared about his huge circle of friends on many continents – and now all of us feel a certain emptiness. The news reports say that his aorta gave out, but don’t believe that. His heart couldn’t possibly have failed him. This was a man, larger than life, with brain and energy and vast ability, yes, but above all this was a man of heart. And we all feel the loss of that powerful heart, and send our deepest condolences to Kati, his children, and the extended family.

Adding Fairness to the Tip

BESIDES being major names in the culinary world, what do Lidia Bastianich, Mario Batali, Tom Colicchio, Bobby Flay, Danny Meyer, Keith McNally, Drew Nieporent, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Michael White have in common? In recent years, their restaurants have been caught up in a wave of lawsuits — almost all class action — alleging violations of labor laws regarding wages and overtime. And new suits are being filed almost daily. What’s behind this onslaught?

Lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that many of the city’s restaurants are routinely cheating their workers by confiscating waiters’ and busboys’ tips to share with managers and other ineligible employees, among other charges. Restaurateurs, in turn, point to a confusing hodgepodge of outdated wage and hour laws and opinion letters from the State Department of Labor that have made it hard to know whether they’re in compliance.

Whom should diners believe? There’s likely some truth to both versions. As in all industries, it’s probable that some restaurateurs are unscrupulous. They deserve to be held accountable. But it defies common sense to think that so many of the city’s most respected restaurateurs have intentionally cheated their waiters — and continue to do so despite the threat of costly lawsuits that could drive them out of business.

Regardless, almost all restaurateurs settle these cases, even while denying wrongdoing, rather than go to trial. That’s because a loss in court would bring a number of draconian penalties. In fact, thanks to the Wage Theft Protection Act signed into law by Gov. David Paterson on Monday, employers will soon have to pay plaintiffs not only back pay owed, interest and lawyers’ fees, but also damages equivalent to 100 percent of the wages due — up from 25 percent under the old law. (Under federal law the same penalties apply.)

The biggest worry for restaurateurs, though, is that one error — for example, just one ineligible employee found sharing in tips — could cost a restaurant its “tip credit,” which permits restaurants to pay their waiters less than the full minimum wage because the state assumes that they get $2.60 an hour in tips. If a restaurant’s tip credit is yanked, it has to repay that much for every hour worked by every tipped employee for up to three years.

Though no two cases are exactly alike, many center on these seemingly simple but surprisingly arcane issues: tip sharing and pooling arrangements; miscalculation of overtime pay; and service charges for banquets and private parties.

This last issue was the subject of an important 2008 New York State Court of Appeals decision. In a case in which the employees of the dining fleet World Yacht claimed that the company had not shared the mandatory service charges with them, the court ruled that if “a reasonable patron” would believe that a service charge was a gratuity, then the entire amount must go to the members of the service staff (who may already earn an average of $20 or more an hour at private events). The decision unleashed a new wave of lawsuits.

The regulations governing these issues came under review by the State Department of Labor in 2009. But it wasn’t until October that a proposed new hospitality wage order was published for comment, and if all goes well, it should take effect by early next year. Though both sides believe that this revised order would help clarify confusing areas in the law, neither side believes it would stop the lawsuits. Indeed, it should be only the first step in a much-needed overhaul of the current system of laws and regulations.

Here are some next steps that could protect workers while preventing crippling lawsuits from putting restaurants out of business:

The Department of Labor should enact the proposed wage order without further delay — and make arrangements to educate both employers and employees about its requirements.

The State Legislature should grant the industry amnesty from the retroactive application of the 2008 State Court of Appeals decision.

The Legislature should reduce from six years to three the statute of limitations for which restaurants might be liable for back wages, which is more in line with federal wage and hour laws and those of most other states.

A special judicial board, versed in the relevant regulations, should be appointed to hear all pending and future cases, on an expedited basis. This would cut down on legal costs for both sides, promote early settlements and give plaintiffs with legitimate claims a chance to be heard quickly.

One way or another, New York City and State have an interest in clearing up this mess — before it cuts into all of our diets.

Tim and Nina Zagat are the co-founders of Zagat Survey.

What Ike Got Right

LAST week the National Archives released a trove of drafts and notes that shed new light on President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address, in which he warned America about the “military-industrial complex.”

The release comes just in time for the speech’s 50th anniversary next month. And so while scholars and historians use these documents to scrutinize the evolution of the speech’s famous phrase, it’s worth asking a broader question: does America still have a military-industrial complex, and should we be as worried about it as Eisenhower was?

By one measure, the answer to the first question is yes. Over the past 50 years there have been very few years in which the United States has spent less on the military than it did the year before.

This has remained true whether the country is actively fighting a war, whether it has an obvious and well-armed enemy or whether Democrats or Republicans run the White House and Congress. Despite regular expectations that the United States will enjoy a peace dividend, we continue to spend more on the military than the countries with the next 15 largest military budgets combined.

Such perpetual growth seems to confirm Eisenhower’s concern about the size and influence of the military. It used to be, he said, that armies should grow and shrink as needed; in the Biblical metaphor of the speech, he observed that “American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well.”

But World War II and the early cold war changed that dynamic, creating what Eisenhower called “a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.” It is not a stretch to believe that this armaments industry — which profits not only from domestic sales but also from tens of billions of dollars in annual exports — manipulates public policy to perpetuate itself.

But Eisenhower was concerned about more than just the military’s size; he also worried about its relationship to the American economy and society, and that the economy risked becoming a subsidiary of the military. His alarm was understandable: at the time the military represented over half of all government spending and more than 10 percent of America’s gross domestic product.

Today those figures are not quite as troubling. While military spending as a percentage of gross domestic product has been going up as a result of 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the overall trend since 1961 is substantially down, thanks to the tremendous growth in America’s nonmilitary economy and the shift in government spending to nonmilitary expenditures.

Yet spending numbers do not tell the whole story. Eisenhower warned that the influence of the military-industrial complex was “economic, political, even spiritual” and that it was “felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government.” He exhorted Americans to break away from our reliance on military might as a guarantor of liberty and “use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.”

On this score, Eisenhower may well have seen today’s America as losing the battle against the darker aspects of the military-industrial complex. He was no pacifist, but he was a lifelong opponent of what he called a “garrison state,” in which policy and rights are defined by the shadowy needs of an all-powerful military elite.

The United States isn’t quite a garrison state today. But Eisenhower would likely have been deeply troubled, in the past decade, by the torture at Abu Ghraib, the use of martial authority to wiretap Americans without warrants and the multiyear detention of suspects at Guantánamo Bay without due process.

Finally, even if the economy can bear the immediate costs of the military, Eisenhower would be shocked at its mounting long-term costs. Most of the Iraq war expenses were paid for by borrowing, and Americans will shoulder those costs, plus interest, for many years to come.

A strong believer in a balanced budget, Eisenhower in his farewell address also told Americans to “avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow.” Too many of today’s so-called fiscal conservatives conveniently overlook the budgetary consequences of military spending.

Eisenhower’s worst fears have not yet come to pass. But his warning against the “unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex” is as urgent today as ever.

James Ledbetter is the author of the forthcoming “Unwarranted Influence: Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Military-Industrial Complex.”