Union County residents already reeling from a lackluster economy are concerned about the political brinkmanship being played in Washington over whether the to raise the debt ceiling, and they have strong opinions about the burgeoning national debt.
"It's not that the Democrats are doing it or the Republicans, it's Congress -- all of them," said Summit resident John De Socio, 65. "The brinkmanship has nothing to do with keeping the house on order. What part of broke don't they understand? We are getting to the point where the Chinese are going to ask for their money back - in gold."
President Barak Obama's Monday press conference upped the ante with Republicans to cut a deal to raise taxes to fund an increase in the debt ceiling, which stands at $14.294 trillion. The national debt hit that mark on May 16.
The Republicans, however, have refused to agree to a tax increase proposed by President Obama. They have scoffed at raising taxes in a poor economy with a job market that is stuck in neutral and a 9.2 percent unemployment rate. The standoff has set the stage for a political game of chicken as the country's financial fortunes hang in the balance.
De Socio said he believed that President Obama's plan is to increase the debt ceiling and borrow more money in order to infuse more cash into the economy. "That failed two years ago," De Socio said. "Unemployment is still sky high."
Kerry Stubbs, 45, who lives in Kenilworth but works in Westfield, said that he has been watching the debt ceiling debate closely.
"I am absolutely worried about the national debt," Stubbs said. "My children are going to be strangled by this. It's so uncomfortable to be a slave to a lender, especially when we borrowed five trillion in the last five or so years."
Stubbs noted the strong political posturing present in the debate. He said he read several months ago that President Obama said he could not raise taxes because each American family would be taxed an extra $3,000 dollars a year and it would be wrong to do in this economy.
"So why is he so to adamant about it now?," Stubbs asked, incredulously.
Flo Mondelli, a "50-ish", New Providence resident said that she has been following the debt debate. "Our country is in trouble," she said. "We owe $14 trillion dollars and I see our economy not getting better but worse, worse, worse."
Mondelli blames "everyone in Washington," for the financial problems but as a Republican, said, "I think the Democrats have to work harder" to cut a deal," she said. "If the Democrats think that taxes are going to take care of the deficit they are wrong."
Summit resident George Cooper, 66, said he also placed equal blame on the Republicans and Democrats.
"The Democrats want to keep all the projects going by raising taxes and they think they are right," Cooper said. House Speaker John "Boehner is trying to cut deals even with his own party, and they don't want to, so he is caught in the middle. But I still think Obama just doesn't get it - he wants to keep spending money that we don't have."
The residents said that it's apparent that everyone in the nation will be affected by decisions made in Washington.
As part of his posturing, President Obama said that he can't guarantee Social Security and other government checks will go out if the debt ceiling isn't raised by Aug. 2, but remained hopeful of a deal, telling the nation on Monday that "We'll get it done by August 2nd."
In the meantime, local worries are increasing as residents wonder what will happen to their own economic fortunes.
"I think everybody is affected," Stubbs said. "If you are rich, it's harder to hold on to your money and if you are not rich it is harder to get money."
A monetary squeeze would most certainly be felt by small businesses, already reeling from lower foot traffic and fickle spending trends.
"Small businesses will be hurt," De Socio said. "Now when they want to buy more goods it will be too expensive. They cannot afford to raise prices in this economy so they will have less profit to re-invest into their businesses."
When it comes right down to it, DeSocio said that he has lost faith in the government's ability to lead.
"This whole thing reminds me of a woman who the bank calls and says that she is overdrawn and she responds, 'how can you say I am overdrawn when I still have checks in my checkbook?'"