Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showsthat 44% of Americans don’t believe that Congress should raise the debt ceiling — a troubling sign that suggests a large chunk of Americans don’t understand the consequences that would come from that decision.
Almost no one says that the U.S. shouldn’t raise the debt ceiling, from House Speaker John Boehner to President Barack Obama.
Boehner and other Republicans want to use the mid-October deadline to extract some concessions from the administration — a delay in implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or more long-term spending cuts. Obama and Democrats want a “clean hike,” and he says that he won’t negotiate over the debt limit like he did in 2011.
Hitting the debt ceiling isn’t a realistic option — save for a small caucus of Republicans who think that “prioritizing” payments is an option. But really, Boehner is just looking for the White House to blink — and trying to get a deal that satisfies enough of his conservative base. He has promised a “whale of a fight” — but first, Republicans need to figure out their strategy for passing a bill to avert a government shutdown by Sept. 30.
Economists agree that failure to raise the debt ceiling would be a catastrophe, and cost of even a temporary delay are estimated at a whopping $US20 billion. The debt-ceiling fight in 2011 cost the U.S. a downgrade in its credit rating.
But Friday’s poll suggests that public ignorance over the issue could be a boon for Republicans in any negotiations. Only 22% think that Congress should raise the debt ceiling, and opponents outnumber supporters by a 2-to-1 margin.
If the 2011 negotiations are any indication, public awareness could grow as the debt ceiling gains more attention and as the consequences become clearer. In a June 2011 NBC/WSJ poll, Americans opposed raising the debt ceiling by a 39-28 margin. A month later, Americans supported it by a 38-31 margin.
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