Raising Debt Limit Pushes Voters to Frustration Limit

By Gary Palmer

While Republicans and Democrats have thus far accomplished nothing in regard to the debt limit, one thing they have succeeded in doing is raising the frustration limit for millions of Americans.

American voters are accustomed to political drama and gamesmanship in Washington and, for the most part, have largely ignored it at election time. The emergence of the Tea Party movement in April 2009 was the first evidence that voters were fed up enough to organize against the political establishment in both parties. This new level of frustration among voters was displayed by the impact of the Tea Party in the 2010 election.

So while Congress and President Obama have failed to do anything about the debt limit, recent polls indicate they have certainly succeeded in raising the public’s frustration limit to an all-time high. New polling data now indicates that deadlock over the debt limit and the failure to enact sensible cuts in government spending have turned public opinion against Obama, as well as the Democrats and the Republicans in Congress.

The Pew Research Center poll released on July 28th reported that only 41 percent of all registered voters say they want Obama to be re-elected, a ten-point drop since May. Among critical independent voters, there has been a steep drop-off in support for him, with only 31 percent supporting his reelection. In fact, among independent voters, a generic Republican candidate holds an eight-point advantage.

Public frustration is even worse when it comes to Congress.

According to a July 27th Gallup daily tracking poll, 41 percent approve of the way Obama has handled the negotiations to raise the federal debt limit, while only 31 percent approve of the way Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner has handled it and only 23 percent approve of Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s efforts. In fact, the only good news for Republicans is that even at 48 percent, Boehner’s disapproval rate is lower than the 52 percent disapproval rating of the President and Harry Reid. Interestingly, only 36 percent of Democrats approve of Reid’s handling of the debt limit.

For most voters, there are two things on their minds-excessive government spending and jobs. The outcome of the debate over raising the debt limit affects both. If the debt limit is raised without spending cuts, the U.S. could see its AAA bond rating reduced. This will cost the federal government about $100 billion more in interest costs each year, plus it will also increase the interest costs for consumer credit and mortgages and inflict even more stress on our economy.

According to David Beers, Standard & Poor’s government credit ratings expert, there is a 50-50 chance of a downgrade in our bond rating if there is not a serious agreement on cutting spending. But Obama and the Democrats have thus far refused to agree to any debt limit increase that includes major spending cuts without a major tax increase along with the cuts. They want to add over a trillion dollars in taxes which will further undermine the ability of the economy to create new jobs.

In other words, the Democrats are holding the economy and the nation’s credit rating hostage until their demands for a massive tax increase are met. The problem for the Republicans is that they have been outmaneuvered and are in a lose-lose situation. If they don’t raise the debt limit, the economy will take a hit and the U.S. credit rating could be lowered. If they do raise the limit and don’t get substantial spending cuts in the deal, the economy and credit rating could still take a hit, and politically they will get hammered by their conservative base.

Thus, it appears that both parties and the President have put political gain ahead of what is best for the country despite potentially catastrophic consequences for the American people and even for the financial markets and economies of other nations. In the process, the unfavorable ratings for Obama and both the Democrats and Republicans in Congress are climbing higher by the day.

The truth is that this debacle is the fault of both parties. Both parties have recklessly spent not only our money, but borrowed money as well. And now the American people are reacting with a continuously level of frustration that may not reach its ceiling until the 2012 elections.

Politicians in both parties should take note that campaigning on the hope that voters are only slightly less fed up with your party than they are with the other party is not exactly something incumbent congressmen should hang their political hats on.

Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.

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