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Debt Ceiling Crisis Poses Threat in Fairfield

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Security patrols at the nation's borders could be dramatically reduced, airports and post offices shuttered, and interest rates on credit cards, mortgages, car payments and student loans may skyrocket. And Social Security checks for the elderly and disabled could stop.

In Connecticut, the financial services industry in Fairfield County and insurance industry in Hartford could collapse, creating a "catastrophic domino effect" that could ruin the state's top credit rating and send unemployment numbers soaring even higher.

Those are just some of the possible scenarios if President Obama and Congress fail to make a deal on the federal debt ceiling by the Aug. 2 deadline, say state officials and the Connecticut Congressional delegation.

Fairfield’s David Sands admits he hasn’t followed the situation too closely. Nevertheless, he’s worried about another possible outcome — people losing their jobs. A close friend works with the state Department of Public Works. Without federal funds to keep projects going around the state, his friend might be out of work for the next few months.

“It would suck for people who make a decent living wage with government jobs,” Sands said. “That’s not good. I don’t think anyone wants more desperate people looking for work.”

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, says Congress must find a way to avert a first-ever U.S. financial default, which would impact the global, national, state and local economies.

"Most people don't realize the kind of devastating impact this could have on them," Himes said in a telephone interview Wednesday from Washington, D.C.

"Since it's never happened before, who knows what the federal government would be able to pay for," Himes said. "But if we go past Aug. 2 without a deal, there is a real possibility of a credit rating downgrade in the United States, which is like a nuclear bomb going off in the financial system."

Himes said the crisis has been brought about by politics. "The right wing of the Republican Party has driven us to this in its anti-tax fervor," he said. "With the state of our economy, this would be the worst possible moment imaginable for the Unites States to default."

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., agreed. "Raising the debt ceiling is essential, because defaulting would be catastrophic for job growth and our fragile economic recovery, and would dramatically raise interest rates," Blumenthal said.

Himes and Blumenthal say they have been inundated with calls and emails from constituents since Obama appealed to citizens to respond to the crisis in a national address Monday night. "Since then we have received about 900 calls and emails from constituents," said Elizabeth Kerr, communications director for Himes. "All but about 35 support the president's stance."

Fairfield resident Cate Leach is one of the many residents upset about the situation in Washington. As she sat on a bench along the Post Road checking the latest news on her phone, she called the behavior in Congress “dysfunctional.”

“I’ve been following this pretty carefully,” Leach said. “I just think that with the Republicans, there’s an element in there that’s just so radical. They’re beyond reason.”

Obama supports Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's plan, which would trim $2.7 trillion of government spending over 10 years.

State officials say the crisis could cost the state more to borrow money. Ben Barnes, secretary of the state's Office of Policy and Management, said Connecticut could be hurt even if there is a deal avoiding default.

"Defaulting would be a disaster, but I am also deeply concerned about some of the deals being considered," Barnes said. "It could have a terrible impact on Connecticut if there are cuts to much needed upgrades in transportation, education and the environment."

Himes said he expects a deal to be worked out between the president and Congress as the two sides "work feverishly over the weekend."

Are you worried by the failure of President Obama and Congress to reach a deal on the debt ceiling? Leave a comment below.

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