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Lawmakers, president get low marks

Rochester Business Journal
October 25, 2013

Most of this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll respondents gave low approval ratings to President Barack Obama and members of Congress for how they handled the recent showdown over approving stopgap funding for the federal government and raising the debt ceiling.

And the majority says it’s unlikely that Congress and the president will reach agreement on a long-term budget plan in time to avert another budget and debt-ceiling showdown in early 2014.

At 34 percent, Obama’s approval rating was highest when compared with those of Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Nearly 30 percent approved of congressional Democrats’ performance, and less than 20 percent approved of congressional Republicans’ handling of negotiations.

On the night of Oct. 16, Congress approved legislation to fund the federal government through Jan. 15 and raise the nation's debt ceiling through Feb. 7. The measure, which Obama signed after midnight, ended a 16-day government shutdown and averted an unprecedented default on federal debt.

The government shutdown, which furloughed more than a half-million federal workers, began Oct. 1, after the Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved a stopgap bill to fund the government only if all money for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was cut off. The Democratic-controlled Senate and Obama insisted on a bill without strings attached. And the president refused to negotiate with GOP congressional leaders on raising the federal debt limit, saying the U.S. Constitution obligates Congress to pay for spending it has approved.

Under the agreement reached last week, a new House-Senate budget committee—led by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.—has a Dec. 13 deadline to deliver an accord on tax and spending policies for the next decade. Failure to do so would result in another round of sequestration—across-the-board domestic and military spending cuts—and could cause a replay of the funding and debt-limit crisis.

Readers are not optimistic that the Dec. 13 deadline will be met. Half of respondents said it is not very likely, and 28 percent said it is not at all likely. Just 3 percent think it is very likely.

More than 900 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted Oct. 21 and 22.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way President Barack Obama and Republicans and Democrats in Congress handled the recent showdown over approving stopgap funding for the federal government and raising the debt ceiling?

Democrats in Congress
Approve: 29%
Disapprove: 71%

Republicans in Congress
Approve: 19%
Disapprove: 81%

President Barack Obama
Approve: 34%
Disapprove: 66%

In your view, how likely is it Congress and the president will reach agreement on a long-term budget plan in time to avert another budget and debt-ceiling showdown in early 2014?
Very likely: 3%
Somewhat likely: 18%
Not very likely: 50%
Not at all likely: 28%

What is your political affiliation?
Democrat: 19%
Republican: 35%
Non-affiliated: 39%
Other: 7%


Democrats, Republicans and the president all did a terrible job. The only benefactors were the government employees who got an extra paid vacation plus unemployment benefits. I think most blame goes to the president, who refused to negotiate. That is not what a leader does. I think he wanted a shutdown so he can use that against the Republicans in the 2014 elections.
—Joseph Camar

You mean the crisis that Congress and the president created?
—Doug Lyon, Lyon Capital Management

I hear more and more Democrats questioning what our party is doing. I see fewer and fewer Republicans who can explain what their party is doing. I see a president who says he is willing to talk, just not negotiate. We voted for these clowns; we deserve this mess.
—Bill Lanigan

The president needs a new team of advisers.
—Bill Brice

Those who say that Obama was unwilling to compromise are disingenuous. He clearly said that he was willing to compromise, but not be blackmailed. The extreme congressional conservatives (a minority) were trying, by extraordinary means, to reverse already passed legislation that had been judged constitutional. That is the democratic process, and they simply didn’t like it!
—David Perlman

My Republicans fell for the trap and really blew it. Why send money all over the world to help people when we need so much help ourselves? Brilliant move, Obama, close the WWII Memorial because the Republicans and Bush made you.
—Daniel Mossien, architect 
The House Republicans’ behavior was unreasonable (to be candid, bat-crap crazy). The president and the Democratic leadership did the best they could, considering who they were negotiating with; it is quite challenging negotiating with unreasonable people. Kudos to President Obama for not negotiating with the House Republicans when they truly were not ready to do what was in the best interest of the American people: approve the debt ceiling and open the government. The House Republicans once again proved they do not care about middle-class and poor people—they only care about rich people.
—R. Austin

Our government, something I used to respect, has become a worldwide joke. No leadership in our government anywhere. Once a leader in the world, here we are a laughingstock.
—Eric Rule

The lack of respect for the rule of law was frightening. The scorched-earth approach to governing serves no one.
—Sheila Gaddis

We hired these people to do a job. It is not getting done. I would gladly accept the resignation of every member of Congress. Congress needs to live by the same values we do. We need term limits.
—Gary McIntyre

I think the whole pack of them should be thrown out of office. If the government was a private company, we the shareholders would be screaming for changes at the upper management level. But on a positive note, with the passing of the stopgap bill we will have the money to turn back the clocks in November.
—Mike Gooding, president, Good Vibrations Inc.

If I were a betting man, I would bet that one of these two things will happen. One, a deal that would raise the debt ceiling again due to the “urgent” need while funding a whole slew of pork barrel legislation for Republicans and Democrats alike. (Remember that they now have to make their constituents like them again.) Or two: Another fight over the same issues, but only better organized and with better public relations on both sides.
—John Halewski, CSNY Inc.

Public officials should act for the common good, and the president should create a consensus that achieves that goal.
—Jeff Hoffman

A congressional election this week would prove to be very interesting.
—Ed Rosen, Fairport

First, as I have said for years and years, we need an amendment to the Constitution to enact term limits for Congress. Second, it is appalling how completely dysfunctional our elected representatives have become. It is embarrassing as a citizen. Third, the bills that are being put together are always strewn with “extras” so that someone’s vote can be bought. This needs to stop. One straightforward bill to address one issue for critical issues. Fourth, fiscal responsibility needs to be a part of all spending—you cannot spend more than you take in. When spending is approved, it must be backed up with how the money will be available. If the monies have been approved, you cannot hijack approved legislation just because you are feeling retaliatory. Duh! (That is how a child acts, and nobody in Congress is a child.) Shame on them!
—Kathy Keady

Approve? Only a fool would approve of the actions and behavior of either side. The far right demanded to subvert democracy by finding an excuse to refuse a law that passed both houses, was signed by the president, and was confirmed by the Supreme Court. The Democrats said that they won the last two elections, which gave them the right to say “my way or the highway.” You want me to approve of that foolishness?
—Jay Birnbaum

Everyone had their own agenda! They all proved they are out for themselves first! They are forgetting the people who vote for them. We can start by making changes with Congress. Term limits! Do away with lifetime full pay after they retire! This would not change the standard of living for too many members of Congress. How many have other sources of incomes other than congressional pay? I believe it is about 96 percent! The majority (of) members of Congress increase their net worth many times over during serving their terms. Why can they not be on the same health care system we all have to live with! The president and Congress have a very hard job. I would not (want) either one. I do believe this great country can find a few good people that can work this budget situation out. Let us find them and vote them in!
—Harold Ley

It is surprising that Republicans inflicted the kind of economic damage to the country by trying to kill the Affordable Care Act. They hurt many of their primary business constituents with their actions. Democrats didn’t help much, either. The president showed absolutely no leadership in this showdown. It was all politics on both sides, with the American people from all walks of life coming out the losers. I’m predicting that we’ll see something similar in December and January, where no real agreement will be reached and they’ll kick the can down the road once more.
—David J. Laluk

Congress and President Obama just kicked the can down the road for another three months. President Obama didn't learn what President Clinton and President Reagan and Tip O'Neill learned about how to get things done in Washington. The checks and balances are there for a purpose, so that the government moves intentionally gradually. The majority of Americans don't like Obamacare, so it's up to the majority in the House of Representatives to fight Obamacare where ever and whenever they can.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D., Vanguard Psychiatric Services

We have had no budget for the past five years. They need to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and the now 10,000-plus regulations. Defunding it should have been taken to the end game. We have no leadership. The government did not shut down; they gave them a vacation that those 830,000 non-essentials got paid and they were able to sign up for two weeks of food stamps before they got unemployment. The only good thing was they could not screw with taxpayers and implementing more regulations and laws. “Washington, the national 10-Ring Shrine Circus.”
—Greg Palis

The Republican effort to change legislation (that they have repeatedly failed to do by shutting down most of the government at a devastating cost to the economy and the health and welfare of the people) is childish and despicable. They need to stick to the rules and not try to get their own way by bad playground tactics.
—Ken Maher

Obama, the Democrats and the establishment Republicans seem blissfully unconcerned to the absolutely massive federal, state and local debt we have created and are only making bigger. The media makes the fiscal conservatives, who are trying to slow down the bankrupting of America, look like extremists and radicals. When historians look back at the past 50 years, they will wonder how when driving off the debt cliff there were so many politicians and editorial writers only too willing to push down harder on the gas pedal. Our own Louise Slaughter, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are among the worst offenders.
—Bob Sarbane

Economists estimate we lost between $12 billion and $24 billion during the shutdown and standoff on the debt ceiling. That is an outrage. Reasonable, long-term solutions can be found, with the work of the Bowles-Simpson Commission and the Senate's bipartisan Gang of Six providing useful starting points.
—Carolyn Phinney Rankin, Phinney Rankin Inc.

Tea party represents about 20 percent of us. Legislation is enacted by debate and comprise. Affordable Care Act can be modified by legislative process, not by endangering our economy. I suggest that Republican Party spin off tea party and let them stand on their own merits.
—Wayne Donner, Rush

Very simply stated, the kings and queens in Washington need to go. They don't and will never get it. They are above all—make the rules don't live by them. They clearly are not working "for the people.” They’re not working at all on our very large dime. We need term limits. A bill should be introduced where if you have been in your seat over eight years, the upcoming election you are out. Yeah, right, I forgot they make the laws. They are so busy making sure they know where every penny of the hardworking Americans money is so they it can be taken, all have lost sight of the jobs they were elected to do. It is too far gone, and big change is needed. I personally am sick over the way this great country has changed over the past five years with nothing in the way of stopping it.
—D. Topian, president, Westminster Real Estate Advisors

How can anyone approve how our politicians handled the debt crisis? Why did we have to come down to the wire on this issue to begin with? There was plenty of time to resolve all of this prior to the deadline. I cannot support anyone in this latest of charades pulled off by the American government. If we thought we were not being regarded very well by the rest of the world in the past, this latest folly has degraded out reputation to an even lower level. We are no longer a leader in Democracy, and all we are doing is showing the rest of the world that our form of government doesn't work. As far as I'm concerned, every member of our government should all be ashamed of themselves but it is inconceivable to me that there are those that still think they did the right thing. I have yet to see Congress really get to work in a bipartisan way to effectively reduce our spending and put us on a path to reducing/eliminating our debt. Stop playing party politics, and do the job you were elected by the people to do!
—Grant Osman

There isn't enough time or space for me to articulate all that is wrong with this administration. There still is a budget and debt crisis. Incompetence and rank amateurism are coupled with socialist agendas that permeate the Obama administration. Blah, blah, blah; blame the Republicans; blame the tea party. The master stroke of this effort is the culling of the media to fan the flames of propaganda. It is becoming clear that the lack of a budget is because of the ineptness of this administration to be able to create one. History will show that the scourge of this era will be the result of a socialist/communist invasion of the White House. Read the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. If you reflect on the inception, the reason, the people, the sacrifices, it will make you wonder how we got to where we are. The only responsibilities of the government are public safety, infrastructure and defense. Don't forget to vote.
—Lou Romano

Since Lee Atwater, the Republican Party strategy has evolved into a "win-at-all-costs" plan. This attitude excludes the rest of the citizens of this country. It is a narrow view that is disenfranchising not only a large percentage of the Republican Party, but the balance of the country, as well. This divisive behavior does not serve our country well. It is evolving into a similar way that the Nazi Party in Germany bullied its way into power, again with little regard for the balance of their citizens.
—Garry Geer

Interesting question! We have president who has not prepared a budget in five years, a Senate run by someone I did not vote for and a House that is naive at best. Together they have run the debt up to more than $17 trillion and came to an agreement that adds no less than another trillion to that number. Real unemployment has never been higher for a longer period of time. I could on but will only mention that we are now facing the most expensive government program of all time and one that may also be its biggest failure. What is going on and why is this happening with so little concern and almost no outrage?
—Bob Miglioratti

It is hard for me to believe that Reps. Reed and Collins were willing to see the U.S. default on its debt because of their latest twisted rationale that the president wouldn't negotiate on the budget and reducing debt. Who are they kidding? Do they think we are stupid? Clearly, the president and Democrats in Congress have stated and are acting upon seeking a budget and debt reduction deal, but are not holding the economy hostage to their negotiating position. Whether they are able to reach a deal may depend on these Congressional Republicans ability to understand the idea of compromise. Based on their recent behavior, I'm concerned that they will be willing to nix a deal, simply to deny the president, Democrats and reasonable Republicans any credit for reaching a bipartisan agreement. They are too concerned about the "tea party" and the possibility of a primary opponent to do the right thing for the Upstate New York economy.
—Michael L. Harf

The recent government shutdown was the worst example of politicians "picking up their marbles" and going home. As usual, the American public suffered the consequences at the hands of political infighting and special interest concerns of those who were elected to represent their constituents. The word bipartisan should be struck from the dictionary as it does not exist. Washington is broken, the cronies are ruling the roost, and very little is being accomplished to benefit the American public. As a hardworking, tax-paying American, I am outraged that this happened, and I absolutely see it happening again. Just remember who is in office now and be sure to vote them out. A group of "newbies" could do no worse than what we recently saw from our government at is recent finest moment. (Are you catching the sarcasm here?) If the government had to run their business budget like the rest of the country has to do; they would be out of business and liquidating what was left. Needless to say, we are stuck with those we elected for now. I hope things will get better; I don't necessarily believe they will though.
—L.S. Decker, MVP Health Care

Nothing of any value will be contributed by any of these participants until we replace all of them. It is obvious they cannot separate their own selfish agendas from what is best for the country. It is a real travesty of justice to continue on with these frauds!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

In the game of Scrabble, when you get a really bad combination of letters you have to pass and draw all new letters, even though each taken individually is a perfectly good letter. I think it's time to draw a new set of "letters" for Congress. We need to remember this in 2014!
—Duane Piede

This president campaigned on fiscal responsibility and ending the acrimony in Washington, D.C. He has ratcheted up both and has been a leader only in putting more burdens on a system that can no longer bear it. It once seemed unthinkable that great Rochester companies would be a shadow of their former selves. Without real leadership in Washington—and the courage to make tough choices, we may find ourselves handing a different country to our children.
—D. Kennedy

There are too many half-hearted Republicans. Like the president, they talk tough but fail to act that way!
—John L. Sackett Jr.

It's a shame that too many people watch only the “big three” news outlets and newspapers who all follow a liberal agenda and have spent millions of dollars and all of their credibility to support our esteemed socialist leader, Barack Hussein Obama. Only a very few news outlets reported the facts; Obama, his sycophantic Democrats in the Senate and a few cowardly Republicans refused to negotiate a budget deal with the House of Representatives, whose constitutional duty is to prepare budgets and represent the will of we the people. Closure of the government would not have hurt anyone. True Wall 'Streeters' were panicked, but they do not represent the will of the people and only assisted the democrats and Obama in their failure to abide by the United States Constitution. The so-called Tea Party Republicans who were and are being condemned by the “lame stream” media deserve the respect of the people—but the people failed to understand the facts because of how they were misled by news organizations intent upon supporting a socialist, utopian agenda right out of the pages of Ayn Rand's “Atlas Shrugged.” Wake up people! The real villains were those the media purposely ignored and failed to report upon. Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell and John McCain, to name a few, shame upon you. But shame upon the vast number of Americans who failed to stick to their principles.
—Michael F. Kloppel, chairman, Ontario County Conservative Party

It's just another example of kicking the can down the road. No progress has been made on reducing out-of-control government spending and until that happens, we will continue to have manmade funding and debt ceiling crisis on a regular recurring basis. It is too bad the media won't cover the real issues surrounding these events!
—Keith B. Robinson, Diamond Packaging

The debt-to-equity ratio of the U.S. is about 107 percent and rising. If the U.S. was a business, it would already be bankrupt. The ratio for Portugal is 116 percent, and for Greece it is 161 percent, and both countries are on the verge of bankruptcy. The average voter doesn't know about fiscal responsibility and doesn't care, they only want to know what the government can do for them. The average politician’s only concern is how much will he or she have to increase social welfare spending to get reelected; again and again and again.
—Nelson Blish

The recent "crisis" is just the latest chapter in the five-year saga of liberal Democrat control in Washington. Do people even realize that there has been no federal budget in place for over five years? Just an unending string of "continuing resolutions," otherwise known as extensions (budget "Band-Aids"). Try running a household or business like that! Democrats run the show. They haven't the nerve to propose a budget, because it would include a massive deficit which they don't want to "own." Republican membership is not large enough to do anything to fix it. They can't let the U.S.A. default on its debt, so they have to go along. Republicans face a no-win situation. They are the minority, have no power, and yet are "blamed" by Democrats for everything. Do Democrats really think we are that stupid? And President Obama offers neither leadership nor even a willingness to address the problems he and his party have created. Big changes are needed in Washington!
—George Thomas, Ogden

The media is the real villain for brainwashing America. The conservative Republicans got trashed by the mainstream media who acts like the propaganda machine for Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Schumer, Gillibrand, Slaughter, Maffei, Republican McCain, etc. Obamacare is a disaster and should be defunded. The House of Representatives holds the purse strings for spending according to the Constitution. If you remember Obamacare was passed with not one Republican vote. The Democrats were able to avoid the Republican filibuster in the Senate because of a political maneuver. Thus, the Democrats relegated Obamacare to a budget item. That’s because through reconciliation they were able to avoid the 60 votes to break the filibuster in 2010 and needed only 51 votes to pass it in the Senate. The Supreme Court also classified Obamacare insurance as a tax. In addition, there were more than at least 15 changes made to Obamacare after the Supreme Court ruling without Congressional approval. Thus, Obamacare is subject to funding approval by the House of Representatives and has the power to defund it. The national debt now is officially over $17 trillion and Obamacare is adding to it. Also, 83 percent of the government was in operation during the shutdown and the U.S. was never in danger of default. Our debt service is $20 billion monthly and the treasury has an average monthly inflow of $220-plus billion. The media, including the Democrat & Chronicle, should ashamed for not reporting this. At the same time, the media trashed the conservative Republicans like Ted Cruz, Tom Reed and Chris Collins who are trying to bring fiscal sanity back to America. They put forth numerous individual spending bills which would have avoided the shutdown. The real extremists and villains are the media for covering up the left wing radical policies of Obama and his band of socialists in Washington who are putting America into bankruptcy. The biased media has lost its credibility because of their constant propaganda of untruths.
—John Rynne, president Rynne, Murphy & Associates Inc.

The Republicans need to get the Tea Party radicals under control, even if it means that some will be challenged in a primary. If Republicans hope to have any success next year and in 2016, they need to demonstrate discipline and a long term plan and focus on the most important goals for our country, not just opposing anything that President Obama has accomplished. As far as reducing federal spending and lowering the debit it's like dieting or changing a bad habit, make a plan and implement it slowly and steadily. Don't go on a crash diet, it won't work. Spending on defense is a large percentage of the budget, with the wars winding down makes significant and steady reduction in military spending. The same with entitlements, weed out fraud and waste slowly and surely. I'm confident the right and left can find common ground for reasoned reductions if we stop lurching from crisis to crisis. Also it wouldn't hurt to implement some reasonable increases in revenue, again in incremental steps.
—Frank Orienter, Rochester

The Republicans have greatly overplayed their hand. Many of their claims that the Affordable Care Act is destroying our country are at best great exaggerations, if not downright lies. No one ever seems to ask the far right if not Obamacare then what? The fact is they could give a hoot about 45 million people without health insurance that's the bottom line. They just don't care. I happen to believe that in the long run Obamacare will save individuals ,families and the country billions of dollars.
—Peter Bonenfant, Fairport

10/25/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email


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