WASHINGTON – The public is critical of both Republicans and Democrats in Congress for failing to resolve such issues as the national debt while rejecting the sacrifices that may be needed to fix it.

According to a Bloomberg National Poll, Republicans in Congress have an unfavorable rating of 51 percent, and Democrats are only in slightly better shape, with 49 percent of poll respondents viewing them unfavorably.

“Congress hasn’t been able to do anything except name post offices over the past two years,” said Steve Crews, a 29-year-old writer and independent voter from Long Beach, Calif.

With Congress recessing until after the Nov. 6 election, lawmakers left a pile of unresolved issues. Chief among them is a debt-reduction agreement that would address the expiring 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and $1.2 trillion in automatic spending reductions set to begin in January. The deficit is projected this year to reach $1.1 trillion, which would make it the fourth consecutive year the government has huge shortfalls.

The deficit, while important, is second to unemployment and jobs as the most important issue facing the country right now, according to the public’s response in the poll.

“One of their purposes is to take care of our bills, and they somehow thought it was OK to just continue to spend,” said Cedric Puckett, a 43-year-old retired Navy veteran from New Port Richey, Fla.

Even with the public’s frustration with Congress’s inability to address the national debt, there’s little appetite for the type of tax-and-spend measures budget experts say would be necessary to balance the nation’s long-term fiscal demands.

Fifty-four percent aren’t willing to cap Medicare benefits and raise the eligibility age to 67, and 52 percent don’t want to reduce the cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security recipients.

Martha Verrill, a 78-year-old retired education worker from West Minot, Maine, said the wealthy should be taxed at a higher rate as opposed to middle- and lower-income Americans, who also risk losing vital Social Security and Medicare benefits.

“I just don’t think they’re paying their fair share,” said Verrill, who said she’s an independent voter. “If they cut my Social Security, the way everything else is going up, I would have to give up my home,” she said. “I’m not one for politics, but when they start knocking on the door of my existence, I perk my ears up.”

 

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