Tuesday, July 19, 2011 | 2:01 a.m.
Republican leaders in Congress should take note: The public is unhappy with the way things are going in Washington, and they’re certainly not thrilled with the GOP.
According to a new CBS News poll, 71 percent of people disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are handling the negotiations over the federal debt ceiling, the amount of money the government can borrow, and just 21 percent of people approve. And only half of those who say they are Republicans approve of their party’s leadership in Congress.
The Democrats’ poll numbers aren’t good, but that’s not surprising — everyone in Washington is tarnished by the standoff in the debt-ceiling talks. The poll found that 48 percent of people disapprove of President Barack Obama’s handling of the situation and 43 percent approve. And 58 percent of people disapprove of the way Democrats in Congress are doing things and just 31 percent approve.
However, the GOP’s poll numbers are remarkable given that — since the 2010 election — Republican leaders in Congress have claimed they have a mandate from the voters.
As we have noted before, they fail to understand what people were saying in the election: People want government to work.
Democrats have tried to move the nation forward, but Republicans have repeatedly obstructed progress. They have refused to compromise or give ground. Some Republicans have even tried to downplay the immensity of the situation in Washington, saying there will be little consequence if the country fails to raise the debt ceiling by the Aug. 2 deadline. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has been clear in his warnings: There would be disastrous effects if the country defaults on its debt.
In a speech Monday on the floor of the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid said Geithner told Senate Democrats that a default would make the 2008 financial meltdown look like a “quaint little crisis.”
Reid said that the 2008 crisis caused a loss of 5 million jobs and $34 trillion in wealth was destroyed in less than two years. He said the average American family lost $100,000 in home equity and investments, and 400,000 families were pushed into poverty.
Nevadans certainly understand the pain of the 2008 economic crisis — the state was hit particularly hard. Nevada has had the highest unemployment rate in the nation and been at the center of the foreclosure crisis.
No one wants to see a repeat of that. Yet, as Reid put it, Republicans are “playing a game of political chicken with the entire global economy.”
They’ve used the nation’s economic problems to pursue their own narrow ideology to try to gut government and cut programs people depend on like Social Security. While Americans have struggled to make ends meet, the Republicans have been tone deaf, championing tax cuts for the rich and major corporations.
Republicans should understand they don’t have a populist mantle, and their pursuit of their ideology has put the country on a dangerous course.