By SAM SCOTT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
For Jo Acker of Santa Rosa, news that Congress finally passed a bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling came with a mix of emotions.
She felt relief at the prospect of an end to the ceaseless news, conversation and bickering about the topic. And disgust at how long it took politicians to avert the crisis.
A Republican, Acker’s strongest criticism was for President Barack Obama, although like many Americans, her scorn was bipartisan.
“I’m just relieved they shut up and did something,” said Acker, 73, eating an ice cream Tuesday at the Sonoma County Fair. “I’m glad that’s there going to be something else to talk about or hear.”
According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Tuesday, 77 percent of voters believe leaders in Washington behaved mostly like spoiled children during the ordeal, while just 17 percent say that most behavior from the nation’s capital resembled that of “responsible adults.”
Few politicians came out of the rancorous, weeks-long saga looking good, said David McCuan, an associate professor of political science at Sonoma State University.
The result has been a “dog’s breakfast of deal” that underscores the dysfunction in Washington hindering politicians from accomplishing anything of substance, he said.
“It’s cost the president in public opinion poll after public opinion poll,” he said. “It’s cost leaders in Washington and many in Congress and that works to the detriment of everyone.”
The bill raises no new revenues, a victory for Republicans adamantly opposed to new taxes, while proposing to reduce deficits by at least $2.1 trillion in the next 10 years.
But identifying where to make the cuts necessary and how to carry them out will be battles unto themselves, McCuan said, saying the bill postpones the most painful decisions.
Stephen Gale, chairman of the Sonoma County Democratic Party, called it the best deal possible, protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from cuts.
But still he wasn’t happy with the result, particularly spending cuts made without any increases to taxes or closing of corporate tax loopholes.
“We’re still in a recession,” Gale said, standing by his party’s booth at the fair. “This is not the time to be cutting government spending. This is the time for another economic stimulus from the federal government.”
One aisle over at the fair at the Republican booth, Phil Lanterman, second vice chairman of the Republican Party of Sonoma County, couldn’t have been more opposed to that point of view.
He said he was delighted to see Washington’s focus finally on reducing spending.
He said that as a businessman, he couldn’t survive operating above his means so, neither should the government.
“I call this a wake-up call,” he said. “They are going to have to get our fiscal house in order if the United State is going to sustain itself in the future.”
He also had criticism for his own party, namely why only now it pushed back on raising the debt ceiling, a decision granted previous presidents of either party without question.
“Why has this all of a sudden surfaced as such a huge issue?” he said. “Why the hell wasn’t this fixed a long time ago?”
Even with a deal reached, Kris Palo, Acker’s partner, said the country had exposed its dirty laundry to the world, losing credibility with many.
“The world has lost respect for the U.S.,” he said.
Jete Imwall, a bank teller visiting the fair with her 18-month-old daughter and her husband, said there was blame to spread around. The lack of cooperation in Washington is dismaying, she said.
“It’s shouldn’t be that hard,” she said. “We should be working together. It seems like it’s worse now than it’s ever been.”