Cover Story: Who's getting the message?

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Telephones on Capitol Hill are ringing off the hook.  The switchboards are lighting up.

President Obama told Americans on Monday night to call their Congressmen. And they sure did.

But are any of our elected leaders actually getting the message?  They sure are!

The U-S debt clock is ticking up to a financial D-Day.  The deadline is next Tuesday, August 2nd.  If Congress doesn't compromise the whole thing could come crumbling down.

If lawmakers can't come up with a plan, the U-S could default on loans - lose its good credit rating.

Which is why, Monday night, President Obama told Americans to call their lawmakers and tell them to get their act together.

Lawmakers are getting the message, but are they listening?  They're definitely getting an earful - Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

One staffer told us the volume is about three-times what they normally experience.  And the comments are running the gamut.

"I'm just tired of listening to them," said one worker in Uptown Charlotte on Tuesday. "They need to do something about it instead of talking about it."

But instead this is what they're saying:

"The American people may have voted for divided government, but they didn't vote for a dysfunctional government," said President Obama.

"The sad truth is that the president wanted a blank check six months ago, and he wants a blank check today," said House Speaker John Boehner.

And so when the President urged people to get on the phones and call Congress.  Or go to their websites to e-mail and make their voices heard it wasn't a hard sell.

But instead this is what people got:  Server too busy.  Server error.  Or the website wouldn't load at all.

Carolinas' Congressional offices told us their websites have crashed along with most of those on the Hill.

It's affected phone lines.

The calls that have gotten through, offices have logged about three-times the normal volume.

Donnie Cooke would have been on the phone Tuesday, but he was trying a business - a food vendor on Tryon Street for the last 22 years.

"Before they put a debt ceiling they've just got to stop spending first," said Cooke, "and then work at it from there."

But what Congress is getting is an earful, both sides are digging in their heels.

Republicans don't want to raise taxes.  Democrats don't want to touch Medicare and Social Security.

They can't agree on whether to raise the debt ceiling now and revisit it in six months or not again until 2013.

Meanwhile the country comes closer to when it can no longer borrow.

"There's just general dysfunction and gridlock in our government and that's I think hurting America," said Duke University professor David Schanzer, who once worked in Congress.

Schanzer says things like the internet are helping contribute to a divisiveness which has translated to Congress.

"Over the past decade our government's really become increasingly incapable of dealing with any of the large scale challenges that are facing America," said Schanzer.

Because neither can see the other's side and that's being reflected in the calls right now to Congress.

"If you ask people to call.. you'll see the same division that you're seeing which is the representation of the United States in Washington right now. But it's time to work through that division," said former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory.

And the clock is ticking.

Congress is getting the message - the question is are they listening.

What are people saying is not just one point of view.  Some are saying compromise, others say stand your ground.  Many say raise the ceiling and stop spending.

And while the comments are all over the board so are the opinions about what will happen if we don't.

Some say it'll be catastrophic.  Others say the U.S. will not default on its debt if there is no deal to raise the debt ceiling.

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