By Andrew Stern
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Americans already concerned about their jobs Wednesday begged Washington politicians to stop dithering, cut the budget and resolve a debt crisis they fear could lead to higher interest rates, or worse.
"When you have a $14.3 trillion debt, I think everybody's in trouble. There's too many people who blow it off and don't really see what is going to happen down the road if it doesn't get under control," said high school math teacher Mark Torgerson, 35, of Independence, Iowa.
Americans struggling to right themselves after the collapse in real estate values were concerned that a threatened downgrade of top-rated U.S. debt would raise interest rates.
"I am in the real estate business and you better believe it's going to have an effect. It's already having an effect on a climate that is delicate already," said Michael Ostermeyer, a 49-year-old real estate attorney in Milwaukee.
By turns exasperated and scornful, Americans questioned at random were unsure whether Congress and President Barack Obama will avoid a default on the nation's debt before an imposed August 2 deadline -- or what a default might mean.
"People will probably lose more jobs and stuff like that, and Social Security will be affected," said Nicole Kelly, a 21-year-old graphic designer in Miami.
"Hopefully they'll come to a compromise," Kelly said. "They're pretty stubborn."
PERSONAL DEBT CRISES
"If interest rates on credit cards go up that will have a huge impact on my finances," said Ronald Brandt, 49, a school teacher in Milwaukee.
Brandt and others blamed the stalemate in Washington in part on political positioning ahead of the 2012 elections.
"I hate the partisan posturing. It is obvious from polls that people are upset and worried about what will happen, and the GOP (Republican Party) and Tea Party don't seem to want to listen to the people and would rather make a political score instead of doing what is right for the country," Brandt said.
Many of the people who were asked to comment said they felt too uninformed or could not understand the arcane issues involved.
Brooklyn, New York, business executive Nancy Settegren said she believed a default would make a financial difference to her but added, "I haven't figured out all of the implications."
"Am I personally concerned?" said Gary Feldman, a technical services worker in New York. "No, I don't get any federal payouts, and I don't have any investments to speak of. And by the time I'm eligible for anything like Social Security I'm expecting it may be out of business anyway."
"The adversity is too much," said Jason Bryan, 40, who works for a Miami insurer, when asked to comment on the tenor of the debate. "It's just pulling the American people apart."
Torgerson, the math teacher and self-described conservative, said the debt ceiling fears were "over-hyped" and believed the money was there to pay the nation's bills. He favored a "cut, cap and balance" approach to resolving the impasse.
"We need a balanced budget amendment in the Constitution so we don't run a deficit year after year after year. They've proven that they can't control themselves," he said.
Fabian Bedne, 51, an Argentine immigrant who runs a home design business in Nashville, worried about far-reaching effects given that people around the world often keep an emergency stash of U.S. currency in a drawer.
"They figure that whatever happens in the local economy, they can always rely on the good old U.S.A. to save them from unforeseen problems. What happens when the dollar becomes unwanted currency?" he said.
(Additional reporting by Tom Brown in Miami, Tim Ghianni in Nashville, Chris Michaud in New York, and John Rondy in Milwaukee; Editing by Vicki Allen)