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Frustration growing as debt deadline looms

July 27, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
As the debt ceiling debate stretches into another day, the government says two plans to address it would save less than promised.

While both Democrats and Republicans are pointing fingers, it appears both plans have a flaw when it comes to savings. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's plan saves $500 billion less than proposed, while House Speaker John Boehner's plan falls short in savings by $350 billion.

Boehner is tweaking the Republican plan in preparation for a House vote Thursday. But some tea party conservatives say it doesn't do enough and Senate Democrats say it won't get any of their votes.

"I can't do this job unless you're behind me," Boehner bluntly told his fractious rank and file as he pleaded for the votes to pass the bill.

The White House disparaged the measure. Reid called it "a big wet kiss for the right wing," and all 51 Senate Democrats and two independents pledged to scuttle it if it cleared the House.

Unless an agreement on raising the debt ceiling is reached by Aug. 2, the U.S. will no longer be able to borrow money.

For all the bluster, there were hints that a compromise might be near.

"Magic things can happen here in Congress in a very short period of time under the right circumstances," said Reid, the Senate majority leader.

The White House said the speaker's measure would reopen crucial debt discussions to unending political pressure during next year's campaigns and risk more uncertainty in the markets.

Anxiety about a deadline to raise the nation's debt ceiling swept across Wall Street on Wednesday and drove the Dow Jones industrial average down almost 200 points. With Washington showing no sign it will find a solution, financial planners around the country said their clients were increasingly worried.

Americans express frustration with Washington

The American public has a lot to say about the ongoing stalemate. They're flooding members of Congress with phone calls expressing their anger.

"I think it's a lot of posturing, and I think it's unnecessary," said William Jennings of Pasadena. "I think the representatives should do what they're elected to do and get this thing over with."

The offices belonging to Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) received 500 calls Tuesday.

"They're worried that their Social Security, Medicare and veteran's benefits are going to be cutoff. They're stalled and that's their lifeline," said Sylvia Castillo, Bass' district director.

Los Angeles Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters said people are frightened and want action.

"Many of them were very specific about, don't cut Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid," Waters said. "A few just said solve the problem."

Some have started online campaigns urging people to put pressure on their elected officials. They say Democrats and Republicans share responsibility, and they're frustrated with the partisan bickering.

"I'm disgusted by both parties. I don't want to describe which party I belong to, so I'm more disgusted with the other one, but I can't believe what's going on," said Fritzie Culick of Altadena.

An ABC News poll indicates 80 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with Washington.

In an Eyewitness News poll conducted by SurveyUSA, respondents were asked whether they thought the U.S. will go into default on Aug. 2. Twenty-seven percent said yes, 56 percent said it will be prevented and 17 percent said they were not sure.

How a default could affect you

According to experts, if the country's credit rating is downgraded from a perfect AAA rating to an AA rating, it could mean a spike in interest rates and have other effects.

  • For someone with a $300,000 adjustable rate mortgage, that means they might pay $300 to $600 more per year in house payments.
  • For a new car, a $20,000, five-year loan could mean more than $500 extra if interest rates spike just 1 percent.
  • For someone with a 401k retirement plan with about $140,000 in it, they could lose nearly $9,000 almost immediately if the stock market goes down.
  • A downgrade could force businesses to cut jobs, causing national unemployment to rise from 9.2 percent to 9.6 percent.
  • Anything produced overseas could cost more money. Gas could rise if the dollar loses value with a downgrade.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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