Amid the chatter about a possible national financial crisis if the debt ceiling isn't raised, Bergen County residents called on Congress to cut spending while also not raising taxes.
“The problem with the debt ceiling is, why do you have a ceiling if you’re going to keep raising it?” Ridgewood resident Frank LaRosa asked. “Everybody in this country who works is on a budget. I don’t understand why the government can’t be on one.”
The U.S. hit the debt ceiling, or the cap set by Congress on the amount of debt the federal government can legally borrow, on May 16.
In order to give the government enough room to continue borrowing, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told Congress that he would have to suspend investments in federal retirement funds until Aug. 2.
He promised, however, that the funds would be made whole again once the debt limit is increased, and urged Congress to raise the debt ceiling soon to "to protect the full faith and credit of the United States and avoid catastrophic economic consequences for citizens."
If the debt ceiling is not raised by Aug. 2, the Treasury will no longer have the authority to borrow money. Without borrowed money, the government will be forced to either cut spending or raise taxes by several hundred billion dollars, or acknowledge the country is unable to pay what it owes in full and default on some of its obligations. Both options have serious consequences.
Barbara Harriman, who lives in Mahwah, said the debt ceiling should not be raised and the government should curtail spending. The economic situation has caused to her to lose confidence in the government.
“I have no faith in either party at this time,” Harriman said.
But the debt ceiling doesn’t worry Ridgewood's Frank Gillen, because raising it is “inevitable.”
“It’s just a matter of getting it done in a timely fashion,” Gillen said.
Yet a solution will not be reached unless Republicans and Democrats come to a compromise.
“Compromise is always the answer,” Gillen said. “But it’s politics as usual. ... Politics get in the way of good government.”
Ridgewood resident Stephen Robinson has been following the debt debate closely because, he says, the government has been spending recklessly without intentions to stop.
“The government is spending exponentially and very few people want to cut spending,” Robinson said. “The administration’s only way out of the current nightmare that we have is by raising taxes, and that is counter-intuitive, to be spending nonstop without any break or reigning in your expenses.”
Robinson said he believes the Republican party is acting responsibly by trying to reign in spending, and thinks a refusal to raise taxes is responsible because Americans are already overtaxed.
“This portion of New Jersey, and in Ridgewood, has a lot of high-income owners that would be very affected if they do raise taxes,” Robinson said. “If they keep raising taxes on the rich, who are paying more and more of the entire revenues we take in, at a point we run out of money.
LaRosa, of Ridgewood, said there are areas in which to cut spending, such as the amount of money sent overseas. Social Security, he said, is not one of those areas.
“You pay into [social security] your whole life, and the government keeps playing with the money,” he said.
The budget debate could affect small businesses the most, because if people do not have money they will not longer be going out to eat or spend, LaRosa said.
Kathleen LePage, an Oakland resident, is unsure of what’s to come.
“I’m not sure what it would mean for the country to go broke and not be able to pay its bills,” she said.
It is neither responsible for Democrats to refuse to consider a deal that raises taxes, nor for Democrats to refuse a deal without raising taxes, she said.
“I don’t think either side should refuse to do anything in the first place,” LePage said. “That’s how we’ve gotten in this problem to begin with."
Though some are sure upper-class or lower-class residents will be hit hardest by the outcome of the budget debate, LePage disagrees.
Said LePage: “Probably, as usual, it's just the good old middle-class who will have the most trouble.”