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Poll shows strong opposition in the private business community to raising U.S. debt ceiling

January 7, 2011 |  9:11 am

As the fight heats up over extending the U.S. debt ceiling, 60% of private businesses and their lenders don't want to see an increase out of fear it will hurt the economy, according to a new poll from Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management.

The school surveyed 915 privately held businesses, capital suppliers, intermediaries and service providers as part of its Private Capital Markets Project. Just 22% said they supported raising the fast-approaching $14.29-trillion debt ceiling.

"Small businesses and lenders who serve small businesses have had to deal with the economic reality of limited borrowing and lending for the last three years," said John Paglia, an associate professor of finance at Pepperdine. "They may feel that a similar reality has eluded the federal government and it is time to start owning up.”

The poll found that 31% said raising the ceiling would be detrimental to the economy over the next year, with 29% saying it would be somewhat detrimental. On the other side, 7% said an increase in the debt ceiling would be beneficial to the economy, and 15% said it would be somewhat beneficial. The rest of the respondents were neutral on the issue.

On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner warned Congress of what he called "catastrophic economic consequences" of not raising the debt ceiling, which he projected would be reached as early as March 31.

The Treasury would default on its bonds, severely damaging the nation's creditworthiness, and would be unable to borrow, forcing a partial shutdown of the government. Treasury officials stressed that the debt ceiling applies to spending the nation has already done and that it has always been raised when approached in the past.

But House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and many other congressional Republicans want to tie any increase in the debt ceiling to deep spending cuts. A showdown looms in Congress over the issue.

In another poll (though this one was not scientific), about 69% of respondents to an online survey by the conservative GOPUSA website wanted congressional Republicans to oppose a debt ceiling increase. About 29% said Republicans should vote to increase it, but only if spending cuts are included.

-- Jim Puzzanghera