Average American Taxpayers React To Debt

Another week of difficult bargaining lies ahead for the White House and congressional Republicans over the nation's debt ceiling. NPR's Don Gonyea talks to voters in Pennsylvania, to see how average American taxpayers and voters are reacting to the President Obama's remarks about the debt ceiling and the ongoing debt negotiations in Washington, D.C.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host: NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea spent a couple of days in Pennsylvania, talking to voters about the wrangling over the debt ceiling. He found a lot of frustration with Washington. He heard a lot of calls for both sides to work together, but little agreement on how.

DON GONYEA: In this story we'll hear from two of the Pennsylvania voters I talked to this week. They were at Bucks County Community College in the town of Perkasie. It's about an hour north of Philadelphia. One of those I met there - 57-year-old Ken Reynolds saw the factory job he'd had for 26 years eliminated three years ago. He's juggled minimum wage jobs since. Another - 20-year-old Angelia DiValentino who's just started a new job in nursing. They don't know one another. I asked them about the impasse in Washington. First, DiValentino.

ANGELIA DIVALTENTINO: I just watch bits and pieces I can't watch it 'cause it's so annoying. It's just aggravating.

GONYEA: It was much the same from Reynolds.

KEN REYNOLDS: Neither one of them seems to want to give because they're afraid they're going to lose something out of it.

WERTHEIMER: Both talk about what they see as a blame game, where gaining political advantage seems more important than working together. Each also said the federal budget can be cut, that there's far too much wasteful spending and too much money spend for little benefit they can see. Each, on their own, cited foreign aid as a place ripe for deep cutting.

DIVALTENTINO: Why don't we pull out of other countries a little bit? Why are we making all their problems our problems? It's only causing more debt to us and more borrowing that we're doing.

GONYEA: DiValentino is a Republican; Reynolds, a Libertarian.

REYNOLDS: We constantly throw millions upon billions of dollars to outsiders, screaming, hey, come help us. But they're not helping us at all. I don't see it.

GONYEA: On the surface, the two seem pretty much in synch. I ask her about the president's insistence that deficit reduction also include revenue increases, including ending Bush-era tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest Americans. Her response is strong.

DIVALTENTINO: Is that fair to someone who got an education, went to school? Got a good job. Kept their good job. Kept getting raises - and what - now they have to pay more because they worked so hard? Why doesn't everyone get off their lazy butts and go get a job? That's what I'm sick of. I'm sick of the lazy people wanting to live off everyone.

GONYEA: Reynolds looked on as I finished up the interview with DiValentino and as she said goodbye and headed outside. When I continue with him, he said he didn't vote for the president. But on this point, he thinks he's on the right track.

REYNOLDS: This girl's talking like, oh, we shouldn't worry about taxing the rich people. The rich people are bending and using the rules to their use and other people are getting hurt down the line. I'm one of those people. All right? You can't say that I was a bad person when you put in 26 years and now we don't need you no more?

GONYEA: Reynolds said he wants to see the deficit cut but he doesn't want it to come at the expense of people like him, who are victims of a bad economy. And he says he wishes those fighting over the debt ceiling and spending would understand both of those things.

And with that Reynolds heads off, paperwork in hand, to the college's career counseling office.

Don Gonyea, NPR News.

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