Americans unimpressed, but glad to see debt deal

President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks from White House briefing room, Sunday, July 31, 2011 in Washington, about a deal being reached to raise the debt limit. AP

LOS ANGELES - Americans seem relieved that the wrangling over the debt limit is over. But for the deal itself — not so much.

People around the country had a range of reactions to the agreement hammered out Sunday by the president and top lawmakers, but mild disappointment with an occasional touch of sympathy were about as positive as they got.

"It should have happened a real long time ago," said Phil Waters of Anchorage, Alaska, reflecting a common response.

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"It never should have gotten this far out of hand," Waters, a 60-year-old semiretired helicopter mechanic, said from inside a downtown Anchorage bar.

The self-described "almost Libertarian conservative" said he would have liked to see a lot more cuts than the spending reductions President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner agreed to.

But Kiran Mahto of Portland, Ore., who volunteered for the Obama campaign in 2008, would have preferred no deal at all to the concessions he feels the president made to congressional Republicans.

Mahto, a 35-year-old managing editor who works in health care information technology, said the agreement is the latest in a long string of times Obama has disappointed him, and vowed it would be the last.

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"I'm actively opposed to this president now. That also goes for his party since they've been silent through the whole ordeal," said Mahto, who thinks the debt deal will lead to an Obama defeat in 2012.

But there was also sympathy for the political leaders who worked out the pact.

Donald Price, a grocery store worker from Oxon Hill, Md., said he prays for the two sides in Congress to work together.

"I think they're just doing the best they can do," Price said. "We don't know what they face every day."

The agreement would cut at least $2.4 trillion from federal spending over a decade, but allowed the country to avoid a first-ever debt default and extended the Treasury's authority to borrow beyond the 2012 elections.

Even the outline of the agreement, much less the details, left those without strong feelings confused and frustrated.

Brett Piper, 34, and Matthew Crosby, 30, radiology residents visiting Silver Spring, Md., from Indianapolis for a conference felt that they have probably been paying more attention to the debate than most, but were still unsure how much they could really understand.

"It's hard to know what to trust," said Piper, a Republican. "It's a political game, and in this game, everyone looks bad."

Crosby agreed.

"It just makes me mad," he said. "I'm innately interested, but I just get frustrated."

Relief that the deal was struck came through but so did some skepticism.

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