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Web Gearing Up to Block "Blank Check" Bailout of Wall Street [UPDATED]

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, September 22 2008

The American web is buzzing with activity around Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's proposed $700 billion bailout bill, a test if there ever was one of the new balance of power in the digital age. On one side, we have the most powerful and well-financed sector of the economy pushing for urgent and sweeping action. On the other side, we have a bunch of disorganized minorities ranging from anti-Big Government and taxpayer groups on the Right, open government advocates in the Center and progressive and labor groups on the Left, each for their own reasons starting to question Paulson's proposal. Will Congress pass a "clean" bill, one that gives Treasury near-dictatorial powers to buy up distressed assets with taxpayer funds, bailing out troubled Wall Street firms and banks, and all with no meaningful oversight or judicial review? Or will the Paulson proposal be stalled, blocked or even killed by emerging and disorganized forces of opposition? This is a fight of gargantuan proportions, one that makes the civil confrontation over a Supreme Court pick seem like a nap in the park.

I have yet to see any online evidence of organic support for the Paulson proposal, but correct me if I'm wrong about that. What I am seeing includes:
-a ton of online petitions aiming to galvanize opposition from groups like MoveOn, CredoAction, TrueMajority, and the National Taxpayers Union. (Newt Gingrich has come out against the bailout but no sign yet of him lighting up his "Drill Here, Drill Now" email list.)
-the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), NTU and a host of related open government groups are spreading the word criticizing the extreme nature of Paulson's proposal to prevent any judicial or legislative review of his bailout moves. My colleagues at the Sunlight Foundation, meanwhile, have posted the full text of Paulson's proposal (all eight pages of it) and Senator Chris Dodd's counter-proposal (which appears to be the de facto Democratic alternative bill), with each paragraph demarcated for easy commenting over on PublicMarkup.org.
UPDATE: NC Senate candidate Kay Hagan is using the PublicMarkup site to offer her suggested improvements on the Dodd bill. Wow. (Thanks to Ian Welsh of Firedoglake and our own Michael Whitney for noticing that.)
-over on Digg, the social news site, the top stories are predominantly attacks on the bailout, ranging from the left (Huffington Post attacking Paulson's power-grab), center (a CNN report on taxpayers who are "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore") to the right (< ahref="http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/09/22/paulson/index.html">Glenn Greenwald documenting growing rightwing opposition to the plan on Salon).
-the satirists are gearing up too, with BuyMyShitPile.com (a play on liberal uber-blogger Duncan Black aka Atrios's term for Wall Street's bad assets) the first insta-site out of the gate. Users are posting hilarious pictures of their junk, with a total asking price of more than $20 billion so far.
-an outage of BankofAmerica's online banking site appears to have spooked people, with that topic trending to the very top of Google Trends search. Obviously this isn't a pro- or anti-bailout indicator but just a sign of how much nervousness there is about the economy.

To be continued...

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