U.S. President Barack Obama speaks from the White House briefing room, Sunday in Washington, about a deal reached to raise the debt limit. — Photo by Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press
Americans seem relieved that the wrangling over the debt limit is over. But for the deal itself — not so much.
People around the country had a range of reactions to the agreement hammered out Sunday by the president and top lawmakers, but mild disappointment with an occasional touch of sympathy were about as positive as they got.
“It should have happened a real long time ago,” said Phil Waters of Anchorage, Ala., reflecting a common response.
“It never should have gotten this far out of hand,” Waters, a 60-year-old semiretired helicopter mechanic, said from inside a downtown Anchorage bar.
The self-described “almost Libertarian conservative” said he would have liked to see a lot more cuts than the spending reductions President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner agreed to.
But Kiran Mahto of Portland, Ore., who volunteered for the Obama campaign in 2008, would have preferred no deal at all to the concessions he feels the president made to congressional Republicans.
Mahto, a 35-year-old managing editor who works in health care information technology, said the agreement is the latest in a long string of times Obama has disappointed him, and vowed it would be the last.
“I’m actively opposed to this president now. That also goes for his party since they’ve been silent through the whole ordeal,” said Mahto, who thinks the debt deal will lead to an Obama defeat in 2012.
But there was also sympathy for the political leaders who worked out the pact.
Donald Price, a grocery store worker from Oxon Hill, Md., said he prays for the two sides in Congress to work together.
“I think they’re just doing the best they can do,” Price said. “We don’t know what they face every day.”
The agreement would cut at least $2.4 trillion from federal spending over a decade, but allowed the country to avoid a first-ever debt default and extended the Treasury’s authority to borrow beyond the 2012 elections.
Even the outline of the agreement, much less the details, left those without strong feelings confused and frustrated.
Brett Piper, 34, and Matthew Crosby, 30, radiology residents visiting Silver Spring, Md., from Indianapolis for a conference felt that they have probably been paying more attention to the debate than most, but were still unsure how much they could really understand.
“It’s hard to know what to trust,” said Piper, a Republican. “It’s a political game, and in this game, everyone looks bad.”
“It just makes me mad,” he said. “I’m innately interested, but I just get frustrated.”
Relief that the deal was struck came through but so did some skepticism.
Philip Novak, 37, who tends bar and runs a food truck, said he could not understand why congressional leaders did not take action sooner.
“It just seems like it’s something we should have known about and done something about it without waiting to the last minute,” said Novak, who leans Republican.
“’Oh, the deal is going to be great, just trust us,”’ Novak said, mimicking congressional leaders.
Others felt that they perceived a deeper reality behind the agreement.
“As long as these people let the oil companies and big business do what they do, nothing will change,” said taxi driver Harvey Philpot, 52, of North Philadelphia, Pa. “It’s all about big business.”
And Attorney John Trotman, 42, of Philadelphia, said “I feel like the debt ceiling became an issue because the Republicans turned it into one. It was an issue of creation. It was talking points for them. We’re headed toward an election and the Republicans want to get Obama.”
In Philadelphia, Patrick Lucey, 25, of West Grove, Pa., had to explain the debt ceiling crisis to his friend, Enzo Amara, 25, of Montpellier, France, who just sighed.
Lucey said he thinks the large federal deficit will definitely be a burden to young people like himself who will have to pay for government programs far into the future. But he was philosophical. “It’s something expected,” he said of the government deficit. “It’s not a surprise.”
“I’ll be paying bills, student loans, a mortgage for the next 30 years,” he said. “I’m not going to let this bring me down. It’s one more thing I’ll owe. When you’re born, you start owing.”
Many, including foreign nationals visiting the United States, were happy that worries about a debt default and international financial havoc could be put to rest.
“For us in Europe it’s a good thing,” said Andrew Harris, one of several British tourists who discussed the developments in Times Square. “We were waiting for them to come to an agreement. It was really a scary thing to hear. What happens in the U.S. always has an impact in Europe.”
Ernie Robert, 52, of Deerfield, N.H., was at a Dallas ice rink watching a youth hockey practice when he learned that a debt deal had been reached.
Robert, who considers himself an independent voter, said he would have been far more disappointed had leaders “kicked the can down the road for six months,” but nevertheless said “I’m not impressed” with the long process that led to the deal.
“I don’t think it has to be that way,” Robert said.
But Nancy Curry, 76, a patron at Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta, believed that stretched-out standoffs are simply the norm in the nation’s current political circumstances.
“I think anything nowadays is going to be just like this was,” she said.
Associated Press writers Rachel D’Oro in Anchorage, Sarah Brumfield in Silver Spring, Janet McMillan in Philadelphia, Karen Zraick in New York, Terry Wallace in Dallas and Ray Henry in Atlanta contributed to this story.