Americans from across the country express their frustration with lawmakers in Washington who have yet to reach an agreement on averting looming tax increases.
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker said Friday that “the American people should be disgusted” the nation’s leaders haven’t been able to avert the fiscal cliff.
Well, mission accomplished.
John Makely / NBC News
Abigail Holt, 17, (right), of Hartford, Conn., says Washington's inability to avert the fiscal cliff is "annoying."
Across the country, people are shaking their heads about negotiations that go nowhere and fingers that point everywhere while the nation hurtles toward the precipice of a new economic crisis.
“They should make a plan, make up their minds and do something!” Abigail Holt of Hartford, Conn., told NBC News.
She’s 17 years old and admits she’s just learning about the federal government and the fiscal cliff. But she knows this much: “It’s annoying.”
And that's being polite.
Writing in the Daily Beast, Howard Kurtz called the nation's capital "the country’s biggest day-care center." The famous sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer hit below the belt, noting on Twitter that "Members of Congress who can't compromise probably aren't good lovers."
Californian Pat Marshall said the politicians "appear to be very self-centered on making sure that they’re taken care of and the American public comes second."
After an hourlong meeting Friday with congressional leaders that he described as "constructive," President Obama acknowledged that people outside Washington were bewildered by D.C. "dysfunction" and that time -- and patience -- were running out.
Lawmakers have 'lost touch'
Indeed, with higher taxes and deep spending cuts looming without a deal, Americans’ faith in Washington is dissipating by the day.
A Dec. 9 Gallup poll found that 59 percent thought it was likely the White House and Congress could hammer out a deal to avoid a slide down the cliff; by this week, that had sunk to 50 percent.
Skeptics were gaining ground, meanwhile: 48 percent think an agreement before the year-end deadline is unlikely, up 10 points from two weeks earlier.
John Makely / NBC News
Rich Dodds, 49, of Houston, Texas, says the elected officials in Washington have "lost touch" with Americans who will be affected by the fiscal cliff.
“It doesn’t feel like they’re doing much,” said Rich Dodds, 49, an energy product manager from Houston, Texas. “I think they’ve lost touch with who the American people are. It’s a pretty elite group in Washington.”
The fact that both houses of Congress went into recess -- the Senate took a nearly week-long break, and the House is still on vacation until Sunday -- bothered some.
“This is one of the most important issues and they are not even working,” said Bill Prosser, 49, a telecommunications salesman from Clifton, Va. “I’m very disappointed in them.”
Nicole Hayward, 28, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was so angered by the congressional recess that she posted a petition on Change.org demanding lawmakers get back to business.
“I turn on the news every day while I’m getting ready for work and I saw coverage about how Congress was going to break for the holidays and we might not have a resolution,” the marketing director said. “I thought, who cares about their holiday vacation? It really got me going.”
Hayward got only 101 signatures on her petition. She attributed the lack of interest to cynicism.
“The reason why the average American doesn’t pay attention to this issue and the details is they think Congress will come together and pass something that just kicks the can down the road and things won’t change in [their] life,” she said.
John Makely / NBC News
Bill Prosser, 49, of Clifton, Va., says members of Congress should be locked in a room until they can make a deal.
Inside the Beltway, Democrats are condemning Republicans and vice versa for the stalemate. But the nation’s voters are more bipartisan in their blame, with neither Republicans nor Democrats obtaining majority support.
“Essentially, right now, 25 percent of the public approves of the job the GOP congressional leaders are doing and 40 percent approves of the job the Democratic leaders are doing,” said Jocelyn Kiley, a senior researcher for the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
Prosser thinks there’s a time-tested way to bring the two sides together before Jan. 1 -- something akin to the old papal conclaves in which cardinals were locked in a room until they chose a new pontiff.
“Just say you’re not going to leave until you have a deal,” Prosser said. “Get in a room -- and get it done!”