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Away from the Capital, Americans Wary of Debt Deal


Last-minute action by the U.S. Congress has reopened all federal government agencies and averted what could have been a financial calamity, but there are worries that the emergency legislation has only put off the bitter political dispute in Washington until the beginning of the new year. In the eastern state of Pennsylvania, thoughts about the current state of affairs in the nation's capital are mixed.

Two longtime Pennsylvania residents, Charles Kunsman and Leo Keim, together worked for Bethlehem Steel for 80 years. But in 2001, the second largest steel producer in the U.S. went bankrupt, putting thousands out of work. Company managers were blamed for the steel industry's collapse, just as politicians - the nation's managers - are being held responsible for the recent government problems.

“I feel like government isn't doing their job and I don't trust them,” said Keim.

The budget deal in Congress left a bittersweet mood in the capital, much as a local issue does in the Lehigh Valley: the conversion of the seven-kilometer-long steel plant into a music and arts center that not everyone wanted.

“Somewhat. Not everybody can be happy,” commented Kunsman.

All around the area, the impact of the government shutdown can be clearly seen.

Dennis Scholl works at a city park. Instead of spraying pesticide on invasive plants like Japanese knotweed or poison ivy, the city hired goats as an organic solution to the weed problem.

“They eat the leaves and the stems and they take it right down to the ground,” explained Scholl.

Three of these goats are still working hard, but their brothers and sisters were furloughed from national parks all over the country. Larry Cihanek, owner of Green Goats Farm, had to bring 28 other goats home when the parks closed. He said the fear of another shutdown will raise his prices next time.

“It’s like any other business: you know what your costs are. If I truly expected to have to pull [the goats] in and out and whatnot, I’d figure out extra transportation and feed costs," said Cihanek.

Lastly, waitress Laura Marie Kotran is still Laura Marie Buffi - despite getting married two weeks ago.

She's still waiting for a new Social Security card to show the change to her new married name, but that office is now backlogged following the furloughs.

“It's just irritating. It is irritating. I'm not happy about it… what are my other choices?” wondered Kotran.

Congress may have finished its work on the budget and the debt, but many Americans are assessing what they're left with now that the shutdown is over.
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    Carolyn Presutti

    Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters. She has also won numerous Associated Press TV, Radio, and Multimedia awards, as well as a Clarion for her TV coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.

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