Five days ago, the Web site nowallstreetbailout.com appeared online and, within hours, organizers had printed out thousands of signatures from angry citizens who opposed the $700 billion bailout of the U.S. financial system and delivered them to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Washington, D.C., office.
Adam Brandon, press secretary for the new site’s sponsor, Freedom Works, a Washington “small government, less taxes” advocacy group, said the site had gathered nearly 30,000 signatures by mid-Tuesday and was preparing another paper drop before the next vote.
“We’re trying to keep the pressure on as best we can,” Brandon said. “But we’re not kidding ourselves, either. This was a short-term victory for the public; we channeled our anger and slowed it down, but this isn’t the endgame. … The good thing is, we sent a message to lawmakers that the public is watching, and you just can’t take these votes quickly.”
In the past few weeks, growing choruses of anti-bailout groups have appeared online, hoping their electronic presence will sway members of Congress who are considering spending taxpayer dollars to solve the economic crisis. Some are petition sites, others offer expert analysis and alternative solutions, but all tap into the citizen rage felt over the bungling of the country’s finances.
The site truemajority.com, for example, which helps online dissenters organize themselves for street protests, advertised a noon gathering Wednesday outside the Federal Building on Golden Gate Avenue as part of a national day of protests at federal buildings.
Patrick Killelea, a Menlo Park computer programmer who has been following the housing bubble and current financial crisis for four years on his site patrick.net, said the number of daily readers has risen this week from an average of 17,000 to 22,000.
Killelea started his site originally to bring attention to what he considered to be inflated Bay Area home values. Despite earning a decent salary and knowing he would qualify for an enormous loan, he decided the risk of ownership was too large. He predicted the mass defaults, and is unconvinced that congressional approval of the bailout will solve the problem this time around.
“Bankers who blew all their money don’t deserve our money now,” Killelea said. “A little less credit is also a good thing for stability, so we don’t get into boom and bust cycles like these.”
Despite his strong public stance against the initial $700 billion package, Killelea said he was genuinely surprised to read Congress had rejected it, and was happy to consider that the popularity of sites like his may have played a role in swaying public opinion.
“Our representative democracy has not been very representative recently,” Killelea said. “Then they were. They listened to the American people who were opposed to it. It was shocking.”
Morgan Ward Doran, a trial attorney in Los Angeles, who also started his site – stopthehousingbailout.com – in the wake of the initial housing market crisis in March, said he’d recently seen a dramatic increase in traffic to 20,000 readers daily.
Ward Doran said he was running the site partly because he was unimpressed with the mainstream media’s coverage of the crisis, which he said too often parroted the concerns of the Bush administration.
“There needs be some critical thinking going on in different places,” Ward Doran said. “Our job was to bring some attention to alternative views, which we did.”
Ward Doran said he works 10 to 16 hours per day on his site, providing links to analysis articles and adding his own commentary. The effort has earned him interviews on CNN, Fox News, BBC and NPR.
“The positive side of the Web site so far is that people seem to be paying attention, including Congress,” he said.
But Ward Doran added that his time commitment has coincided with a three-week paternity leave, which ends today.
“The paternity leave gave me the extra time I had to work on the site, and it just happened to be oddly beneficial, and to the extent it’s had any impact, for the country. Because I couldn’t be spending this kind of time if I was working.”
Anti-bailout Web sites and online petitions: