Bailout Criticized Across The Political Spectrum Around the country people are talking about the Wall Street bailout. Rallies are planned in some cities against the proposal, as John McCain and Barack Obama meet in Washington with President Bush to help work out a solution.
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Bailout Criticized Across The Political Spectrum

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan. We're in Tempe today, broadcasting from the Arizona Historical Society Museum, and the word we hear across the country today is "prairie fire." As leaders in Congress prepare for a meeting on the Wall Street bailout, the White House later today, people are emailing their representatives, the newspapers, writing on their blogs, scanning Web sites for news, searching for information about their investments, talking with friends and family, and today, at least, there seems to be only one topic. A deal condemned on the left is a handout to the rich. On the right it's un-American, and across much of the middle, as well.

We want you to be our reporters today. What are your friends, your family, your co-workers saying about the bailout? As always, our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also file your reports on our blog, that's at npr.org/blogofthenation, and we want to hear from people in the audience here at the Arizona Historical Society Museum, as well. And by the way, thank you all for coming. Appreciate it.

(Soundbite of audience applause)

CONAN: Later in the hour, we'll continue our series of conversations on This American Moment with civil rights activist Raul Yzaguirre, but first, what you're hearing about the bailout. And frankly, I have to say, this is not the show we planned for today. We flew Bill Tancer here to Phoenix to talk about his new book, "Click," but as it happens, Bill Tancer's job gives him a unique way to look at what millions of Americans are doing on the Web, what questions they're asking and what subjects they're searching. It's intelligence that lets him drive often counter-instinctual information about business and life, everything from why he visits (unintelligible) to why the big spike in searches for prom dresses comes not in spring, as you might think, but in January.

He also gets a lot of information about politics in the economy, so we've asked Bill Tancer to tell us what he's been hearing. He is the general manager of global research at an online competitive intelligence company called Hitwise. His new book is "Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why it Matters." And Bill Tancer, thanks very much for being with us today.

Mr. BILL TANCER (General Manager, Hitwise; Author, "Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why it Matters"): Thanks for having me, Neal.

CONAN: So what are you hearing? What are people looking for? What kind of information are they searching for?

Mr. TANCER: Well, you know, I just went into our database this morning just to check to see what's happened and how people are searching online, and you know, in my book, I report on fears and what people are afraid of, and what we had done in the past is look at all of the searches that contain "fear of." We've identified 1,300 unique fears that people search on from things like fear of heights and fear of clowns, top fears to bizarre fears, like fear of elbows and bellybutton length. What we found is that - and you might guess this, is people aren't searching with terms "fear of" when it comes to the economy and what's been happening over these last few days and last week with Wall Street. Looking into the data, though, we do know a couple of things from the past. When there are concerns about the economy, when there's problems with consumer sentiment, people search on gold. In fact, searches for gold up about 130 percent in our database, which covers about 10 million Internet users in the U.S.

CONAN: Gold seen by many as to be a safe investment in troubled times.

Mr. TANCER: Exactly. And you can bet that when there's trouble in the economy, some people are going to search on gold. The other thing that we found is that there's an increase search on FDIC.

CONAN: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which insures our deposits in savings banks.

Mr. TANCER: Correct, and those searches are up about 147 percent from the previous week. Not an all-time high, though. The high for searches on FDIC actually occurred in July, rather, on the bailout of Indy Mac.

CONAN: Are they searching for terms that are related to this crisis in terms of any of the companies involved?

Mr. TANCER: They are. You find searches - some of the top searches, our fastest-moving searches in our database were terms like Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, as you might imagine. AIG.

CONAN: And does it vary in terms of demographics, or are rich people searching for different data than poorer people?

Mr. TANCER: Well, this is a really interesting fact. One of the exercises we've been looking at is we've looked at the most affluent segment that we can track. We can segment our sample of 10 million by 66 different segments in today's society. The most affluent is one that's called the upper crust. It's a (unintelligible) prism segment. We looked at what that segment was doing about a year ago. The top sites they visited were their brokerage accounts. There were visits to Schwab, to Merrill Lynch, to all of the well-known brokerage accounts.

It's interesting. About a month ago, we checked back with that data and visits to those brokerage accounts were down at the bottom. And it's almost as if a lot of affluent Americans were in denial, didn't want to go and check out their portfolio.

And the interesting thing we found in our search term data, just as of last week, if you look at search terms to the category, people were searching for how to log into my brokerage accounts, how to find my password. They'd been away from their brokerage accounts so long that they needed to find some help to get in. And it looks like we're actually out of denial, at least in terms of this most affluent segment.

CONAN: Where were they going when they were in denial?

Mr. TANCER: They were...

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

Mr. TANCER: It's very interesting. They have been going to a lot of celebrity blogs, parishilton.com was top of the list. They were going to online gaming sites. A lot of diversionary sites, and I think it really paints an interesting picture of how this economy has affected affluent Americans.

CONAN: Well, we want to hear from our listeners and our members of the audience here in Tempe and from emailers, as well. Tell us what your friends and your co-workers and your family - what they're saying about this bailout on Wall Street and what terms they're searching for. 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And let's start with David. David is calling us from Columbus, Ohio.

DAVID (Caller): Yes. First of all, peace to the world. What most of the people I speak to are saying is they don't understand exactly what's going on, and I could say rightfully so because the way the American public is fed information by the media really doesn't give us a chance to really talk about the true issues. And what I mean by that is this. Most people don't understand that when the United States says they're going to bail someone out, or they're going to give $700 billion to someone, we don't have that $700 billion in the Treasury. We have to go out and we have to borrow that money, and we essentially, right now particularly, have to borrow that money from the Federal Reserve Bank. When we borrow money from the Federal Reserve Bank, that we have to pay interest to the Federal Reserve Bank and the Federal Reserve is not an entity of the U.S. government. It is a privately held bank. And the more we continue to create money, the more we're going to have inflation.

Inflation is eventually going to come back because we've created so much money. Even to the point right now that our - all of our trading partners, they don't want to take on anymore U.S. debt because there's too much debt out there. And so when I start to talk to people about this, they really don't understand it. Many people still believe that the dollar is backed by gold.

CONAN: Well, it's been a long time since it hasn't been dated but as opposed to what you've been telling us, what are your friends telling you?

DAVID: Well, what they're basically telling me is they think - they really think that they should - that we should do it, which is unfortunate because Alan - you know, and I explained, when I tell them that Alan Greenspan didn't want to...

CONAN: Yeah, again, not your explanation. What did they tell you?

DAVID: What did they tell me?

CONAN: Yeah.

DAVID: They feel - most people feel that we shouldn't do it.

CONAN: All right. Thanks very much for the call, David. Appreciate it. Let's see if we can go now to Maya. Maya is with us from Lindenwold in New Jersey, not far from Wall Street, all that much.

MAYA (Caller): No, it's not. In fact, my husband used to work on Wall Street many years ago.

CONAN: And what are people...

MAYA: And - sorry?

CONAN: What are your friends and your family telling you about this?

MAYA: Well, everybody I know is absolutely appalled by what's being proposed, but I wanted to relate an interesting story. My husband - like I said, he used to work on Wall Street - and when the housing bubble was growing, he kind of asked his friends, you know, hey, what's going to happen when this bubble bursts? And they said, oh, don't worry. The government will bail us out.

CONAN: Ah, so they sort of knew that there was a moral hazard involved here, to use the phrase of the month.

MAYA: Absolutely. And they weren't worried about it because they knew that what's starting to happen was going to happen. And that's reason enough as far as I'm concerned not to do it.

CONAN: Not to do it. All right. And so, did you listen to the president last night?

MAYA: You know, no. I couldn't. I was at my daughter's softball game.

CONAN: Well, at least, you had your priorities straight.

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

MAYA: Yeah. Thank you very much.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call. And I want to get back to Bill Tancer. In terms of searches, this is obviously a political issue, as well. What are people looking for over the past few days, over the past week and a half or so in terms of politics?

Mr. TANCER: So yeah, very interesting. But I want to go back to something that David said that I think is actually really interesting. He said people just don't understand.

CONAN: Oh, yeah.

Mr. TANCER: And one of the indications that actually - I think proves out that point that people don't understand what this bailout is all about is that if we look at the search term, "bailout," the different variations, the number one destination that people are going to after searching on the term on Google, Yahoo! Search, MSN Search, they're going to Wikipedia, which tells us a lot. We see that activity - when people don't understand something, they're going to, in this case, a social encyclopedia to figure out what's it about, get some background before they dive into the news.

In terms of politics, Sarah Palin continues to dominate searches in terms of our political category. Traffic of the category overall up about 38 percent prior to when she was named to the Republican ticket. The interesting thing about Sarah Palin, I write a weekly column for Time Magazine, an online column called the Science of Search. And I pulled searches for Sarah Palin right after she was named to the ticket and there was a massive increase in searches on her. And my hypothesis was since she was kind of an unknown, I expected a lot of visits to Wikipedia, people trying to figure out who she is. I expected searches on biography, what her stance is on on issues. Well, that's not what I found.

What I found, actually, top searches over the 13,000 different searches we captured on Sarah Palin over the last four weeks, searches for photos of Sarah Palin. And more specifically, searches for beauty pageant pictures Sarah Palin, searches for hot photos Sarah Palin. It's really quite interesting, and this just isn't isolated to her. If you go through all of the candidates, the VP candidates, presidential candidates, there's a lot of searches that seemed somewhat superficial.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. TANCER: You know, people are looking for things like how tall is Barack Obama in the top 10 of searches on Barack Obama. On McCain, they're looking for information about his family. For Biden, about his gaffs is one of the top searches. You have to get below the top thousand searches to really get those queries where people are searching for where does this candidates stand on this specific issue.

CONAN: On an issue and something like that. It does indicate that maybe people are still thinking about this with their gut rather than with their mind so much.

Mr. TANCER: And that seems to be what search terms tell us. And search terms are so valuable because they tell us what may not appear on the survey, you know. For answering a survey, because of cognitive dissonance, because we don't want to appear in a negative light, we may answer things the way we want a surveyor to...

CONAN: Yeah, I care about this position on the environment or something like that, when really you want to know how to tall Barack Obama is.

Mr. TANCER: Exactly. When you look at search terms, you see observed behavior, and it might tell you something a little bit different than how you might answer a survey.

CONAN: Here's an email we have from Dan in Bloomington, Indiana. The water cooler conversation in my office has been about who's responsible for our financial debacle. The politicians have been blaming greedy Wall Street executives, but I heard a lot of anger directed toward Washington politicians themselves. Wasn't Senator McCain for deregulation of investment banking before he was for it? And why was the SCC asleep at the wheel under eight years of the Bush administration?

And this from David in Ann Arbor, in Michigan. What am I doing online? I used to post my illustrations and write book reviews in my blog. Now, every day I've been writing news editorials. The political climate has written to - risen to a fever pace that I cannot help but put up my two cents worth in. That again from David in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

And let's see if we can continue this conversation after we take a short break. 800-989-8255, if you'd like to join us. Email us, talk@npr.org. We're also going to check in on Washington and see what the news is and find out how people are reacting here in Tempe in the Phoenix area. I'm Neal Conan. Stay with us. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan broadcasting from Tempe in the Arizona Historical Society Museum. Last night the president made his case for the country for his $700 billion bailout plan. Judging by some of the polls taken before he spoke, it may be a tough sell. Fifty-five percent in one poll do not believe the government should be responsible for bailing out Wall Street.

Today, we want you to be our reporters. What are your friends, your family and your co-workers saying about the bailout? 800-989-8255. Email, talk@npr.org. You can also get in on the conversation on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation. We're going to hear from members of our audience here in Tempe, as well.

And one of our resources on reaction to this plan is Bill Tancer. He studies what we look for and talk about online. He's the author of "Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why it Matters." We have an excerpt from that book posted on our Web site at npr.org/talk. And joining us now is NPR Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving from Studio 3A back in Washington. Hey, Ron.

RON ELVING: Good to be with you, Neal.

CONAN: And what's going on in Washington today with the bailout? Is the meeting at the White House - has that happened yet?

ELVING: No, the meeting at the White House does not happen for another hour and a half, and then it will go on for some period of time. But the meeting at the White House looks more and more like gathering all the members of the family for a family picture. I think the real negotiations have been going on for some days now on Capitol Hill between Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate, dealing with the staffs of the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve and from the White House. And they are actually hammering out something of an agreement.

In fact, just about - well, roughly an hour and a half ago, some of the lead negotiators came out and said they do have a fundamental agreement in principle and that they think they're going to be able to work out a deal. It was a happy piece of news. It was well received in the markets. And it was also well received, at least for the moment, by John McCain, who had just arrived on Capitol Hill within that same noon hour coming from campaign - well, a somewhat campaign-related event with Bill Clinton this morning up in New York City. And John McCain said he welcomed the news. He thought that was great but he didn't know if it was a deal yet and so he's still not willing to commit to tomorrow night's debate.

CONAN: And as this - as this discussion goes on, surely the members of the Congress and surely the White House is aware of how unpopular all this seems to be.

ELVING: Yes, they are, and many of these members are actually wondering if this is going to be the shovel that digs their political grave. At the same time, they're not really sure which way their vote would be sealing their fate. In other words, they don't want to be voting for something that becomes hideously unpopular and easily parodied as a bailout for wealthy executives of failed financial institutions on Wall Street. That would hurt them badly, and depending on how precarious they are in their district, it might cost them their jobs. Maybe not this November, but down the road in 2010, as people saw more of the effects of the bailout.

On the other hand, if there is no agreement and if the president is correct in warning, as so many others have warned, both within Congress and in the various agencies and in the financial community, that without some kind of way of addressing of this rather large problem, we're going to see the credit markets cease up in the next few days. And indeed, they had been doing that yesterday and this morning. And there will not be the usual commerce between banks and other institutions by which the normal, everyday American economy runs.

Set aside the Dow Jones Average. Forget about the stock market for the moment. We're just talking about the normal transactions between normal banks and businesses by which we do business in America everyday. And that could affect people a lot faster that they may think.

CONAN: And now this situation has been far from normal. It's been a crisis of immense proportions, and of course, the $700 billion is an immense price tag. But as we've been going through this election, change has been the rallying cry adopted by both campaigns at this point. As you look at the politics of this over the past 24 hours, any change here, or is this politics as usual?

ELVING: There is change here. We are seeing things throughout this electoral cycle going back to the beginning of 2007 that we haven't seen before, things that hadn't happened, even things that we didn't think could happen. And we have seen the most prominent woman candidate for president get closer than any woman before. We have seen the first African-American candidate for president to get anywhere near this far, to be nominated by a major party. We have seen John McCain, the Republican nominee, break a lot of rules, and we've seen him come from absolutely behind the pack, not even in the pack, to win the Republican nomination and do it very quickly. And we have seen him shake things up now several times with the Palin pick and now with his stated desire to suspend his campaign, although it's not clear yet what exactly has not happened in his campaign that otherwise normally would have or what has actually been suspended. He didn't go on David Letterman last night, but apart from that he's pretty much kept his schedule and done the things he was expected to do.

They are apparently pulling down some of their ads around the country, although ads in the pipeline continue to air. And there really isn't any fundraising that is being done by the McCain campaign since the convention because he's on public financing now. He can't raise money.

CONAN: And in terms of this debate ploy, that I won't go to the debate, it's too urgent to work on the deal in Washington, does it look as if a deal is going to be reached before the debate tomorrow night?

ELVING: It looks as though an agreement that will lead to a deal will be reached, and that while of course the final language will not be finished, it doesn't get done overnight, it looks like the essence of the thing might very well be in place before tomorrow night. In fact, perhaps even before tonight. It should be clear for him to decide whether - clear enough so that he could decide, do I just not want to have this debate in this current atmosphere because it's going to be too much focused on the financial and not foreign policy where I was told it was going to be focused? Or would it look bad for me to back off on this debate at this junction? There will be enough information for him to make the determination based on that, as opposed to based on whether or not there is going to be a deal for a bailout.

CONAN: Ron Elving, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

ELVING: My pleasure, Neal.

CONAN: NPR's Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving with us from Studio 3A back in Washington. Well, let's get back here to Tempe. Mark Moran is with us. He's news director for member station KJZZ here in Phoenix, Arizona, right next door. And he's with us here at the Arizona Historical Society Museum at Tempe. And Mark, how are people in this area responding to the proposal of - the proposition of this bill?

Mr. MARK MORAN: It's not a lot different than you hear around the rest of the country. I think one of things that makes it a little bit more poignant here is that real estate was so undervalued here 10, 15 years ago that people came in here and bought up houses and couldn't believe what they could get for their money. And so when the real estate bubble finally did burst here, I think the pain may have been a little bit more intense just because there was - there were people buying things they couldn't afford.

I mean, again, this is the story all over the country. But here I think we really saw it because people couldn't believe what they were going to get, way more than they ever could afford in interest-only loans and suddenly they're upside down in mortgages are can't quite figure out what to do.

And so the sentiment of people I've talked to here just this morning and the last few days is, wait a minute, I took a 30-year mortgage, and now I've got a guy next to me that took a three-year, you know, a 24-hour arm so he could get a - you know, a point zero percent interest rate or whatever it is and now I've got to bail him out. And there's really a lot of anger, and I think it comes back to the point that so much real estate happened so quickly here.

CONAN: Anger, not just at Wall Street but anger at...

MORAN: Your neighbor. Literally, you know. Street to street you're seeing foreclosures happening and people...

CONAN: As soon you see foreclosure signs, everybody's value goes down.

MORAN: That's right.

CONAN: And there must be anger to Wall Street, as well, though.

MORGAN: Well, of course. I mean, there is, obviously, but again, just echoing the national sentiment, I think people also realize - just the financial people that I've talked to this morning, it's the lesser of two evils. If we don't do something, we're going to have to, you know, things are going to cease up and there's not going to be any credit, there's not going to be any lending, there's not going to be business as we know it. So while it's a painful pill to swallow, I think people here do realize that something does have to be done, at least that's what I'm hearing.

CONAN: We have a question from the audience here in Tempe.

JULIE (Audience Member): Hi, I'm Julie from Tempe. And my question is for Bill. Do you find job searches are up right now during these difficult times?

CONAN: Bill Tancer, of course, the author of "Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why it Matters," here with us also in Tempe.

Mr. TANCER: So yeah, we track a couple of different things. One is we do track job searches and visits to employment sites, as well as unemployment visits. We've definitely seen unemployment go up, visits to employment sites go up. But no real change in visits to job sites. We think people are probably sitting back and waiting to see what happens with the economy before making a switch. And you have to understand, when we see visits to employment sites, it's just as much switchers that are visiting these sites as people that are looking for a job that might be unemployed. So, yeah, unemployment up, yet visits to job sites about flat.

CONAN: Mark, let me just follow up on just what Bill was talking about. It's hard to see this crisis other than the number of foreclosure signs. It's - you know, when credit gets tight it's kind of like a traffic jam. And how are people experiencing this? Is there a sense of disbelief you're encountering, too?

MORAN: I think it's some I told you so. Could you - you know, did you really think you were going to get that and not have to pay for it eventually? I mean - and I want to go back to what you said earlier, because I had not, should have, but being this close to it, it really is happening street to street. I mean, you can drive down streets in neighborhoods and say, I knew that was going to happen to that guy, I know what he does for a living. I know he can't afford that mortgage. And that people are literally doing that. So I don't think it's a sense of disbelief as much as it's kind of - you know, did you really think you were going to pull that off? It's more incredulous, I think.

CONAN: Mark, thanks so much for being with us. Mark Moran, who's the news director from member station KJZZ in Phoenix, Arizona. Let's see if we can get another on the line, and this is Rianon(ph), Rianon with us from Charlotte in North Carolina.

RIANON (Caller): Hi, how are you?

CONAN: I'm well, thank you.

RIANON: Yeah, I'm a student in USD Charlotte. I'm a mass media student so my classmates and I are paying really close attention to this election. And a lot of what we're talking about is how we think McCain, his whole reason to run back to Washington is so maybe he avoid the election - I mean, I'm sorry, the debate. We think that the Republicans are not being honest about how they helped to create the problem that we're in right now. And we would like to hear more. We would like to see our legislators take some time to review, you know, this information before just voting on it and passing it and cutting a check.

CONAN: So they're not convinced about the urgency that some people are talking about, including the president.

RIANON: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, his speech last night was fear mongering, just like it was right before the - we went to Iraq. And you know, so we're concerned as students, I mean, students who are trying to find jobs and students who are, you know, about to step into the world and take over these problems.

CONAN: Thanks very much for that call, Rianon. Appreciate it.

RIANON: Sure.

CONAN: And we have another question from the audience here in Tempe.

MARY (Audience Member): Hi, my name is Mary. I'm from Phoenix and I have a question for Bill. How do you know the financial and social class of your online searchers?

Mr. TANCER: So the way we gather that information, we are again looking at a sample of about ten million Internet users registered in the U.S. A subset of that, about two and half million, are coming from opt-in panels, and these individuals have supplied survey information, as well as allowed us to track their movements in aggregate. One of things that our data partners get is a zip plus four, which is what Claire Toss(ph), which is a partner of ours, uses to come up with the segments. And that zip plus four is your zip code plus those four extra digits.

When you use that, it get you down to a household grouping of about four houses in the suburban area than using a lot fancy statistical analysis, segmentation and clustering. They figured out that there are 66 like segments. So we can then take those segments - we don't see the zip codes, we just see the segment information - and then go back into our database and see where are these segments going? Where is the upper crust going on any given day?

CONAN: And what are some of the other groups of the 66 of them?

Mr. TANCER: They are - my group, which is The Young Digerrati(ph) - I'm not that young anymore but I still belong to that group. They range from the lowest, which is low-rise living to one of the ones that I study a lot is shotguns and pickups, segment number 51, in terms of where they're going online. It's really interesting to look at all these different segments and see which different sites they're visiting and how the economy might affect us, segment by segment.

CONAN: Let's - here's an email we got from Johanna in Keene, New Hampshire. My co-workers, my family and I are saying this bailout is misguided. We're living in a system that doesn't work and rather than cover up the great flaws of our system, we should be trying to fix it. If the banks are going to fail, then let them fail and let us see what damage our current system has brought upon us.

We're talking about how you and your friends and your family and your co-workers are reacting to the proposition of a $700 billion bailout that is being discussed in Washington, D.C. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. And a question here from the microphone in Tempe.

Unidentified Man (Audience Member): Yeah, this is for Bill. The feeling, the helplessness that that context of individuals' ability to affect this crisis is concerning a lot of my friends, and I hear the tone of their voices. What indices are going to be revealed when people start to give up?

Mr. TANCER: Yeah, it's a great question. I don't know if I know the answer to that. The way this data works, I only see it manifest when our data updates and we see how people search. I think what we're going to see is increase searches around things like gold, and we might see some searches that are maybe more indicative of a fear, what's going to happen with my investments. And that will probably show up in terms of searches driving traffic to both the financial portals like a Yahoo! finance or a Google finance, as well as visits to brokerage accounts. We can see people searching, you know, increasingly on insurance, FDIC insurance, and questions that might indicate more on concern about my investments and whether not that money will be there when I go back to withdraw it.

CONAN: Thanks for the question. Let's get another caller on the line, and this is Debbie, Debbie with us from Akron, Ohio.

DEBBIE (Caller): Hi there. Yeah, I have an interesting perspective. I'm a server in a five-star restaurant and so I work with both the servers on the street and we hear a lot from our customers. And it's universal. People are mad. This credit crisis has been going on for those of us on the server and for many years, and the people who are visiting the establishment just say we're bailing out the superrich and we need to let people take responsibility for their actions. So it's interesting that there is no kind of economic divide on this issue where I'm working.

CONAN: And I wonder, how's business to that five-star restaurant?

DEBBIE: It's down a little bit, but it's one of the better restaurants in the area, so we are seeing some, but it's not like it used to be.

CONAN: OK, Debbie. Thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.

DEBBIE: Thank you.

CONAN: And let's see if we have time for another question from here in the audience at Tempe.

REBECCA (Audience Member): Hi, I'm Rebecca and I'm from Phoenix, and my friends and I think we are not against helping out Wall Street so much as we're just concerned that the bailout plans seems to give so much power to the administration and the administrative branch. We heard about this, in fact, yesterday on NPR in the car - everyday, all day, NPR.

(Soundbite of laughter)

And it just feels like we're being rushed into this, like the caller from North Carolina said, like we were rushed into the Iraq War, sort of like, oh, we have to fix it, and we're like, wait. Can we have some more information? So any comments about administrative power and all this and the plan of the bailout would be appreciated.

CONAN: Oh, thanks very much. So in other words you're concerned - well, I guess partly as a constitution of the transfer of authority to the Secretary of the Treasury and his request that none of this be reviewable...

REBECCA: Yes, the reviewable part.

CONAN: The reviewable part. Have you seen anything like that, Bill Tancer?

Mr. TANCER: No, great question. It hasn't manifested itself from the data yet, though I expect when our search data updates next week that we're going to start see some more questions, and I think probably more visits to sites like Wikipedia, as people try and figure out, exactly how do I navigate this is very complex issue and how do I figure out what the issues are that I should be concerned about?

CONAN: I wonder, do you still think something needs to happen?

REBECCA: Everybody says it needs to, but I'm not sure that Bush's plan is what needs to happen.

CONAN: So the president last night didn't convince you and all the talk you've been hearing.

REBECCA: No.

CONAN: No.

REBECCA: No, not a bit.

CONAN: Thank you very much. Here's another email, this is from Brad from Denver. People I talk with feel split between anger over the bailout and understanding that it's necessary. They are also worried with that what might happen if it doesn't work.

And this, Cherry from Cleveland in Ohio: I stepped away from my desk, but if this was not mentioned yet, I go to www.snopes.com a lot. I like proving people wrong.

Is that one of the sites you look at?

Mr. TANCER: You know, snopes just came up in a recent column. My previous column on Obama, one of the search terms we found around Obama - number six term of about 10,000 was "Obama anti-Christ," which has been this urban legend that's been circulating on the Internet, and that's where people were going after searching.

CONAN: That's one of these debunking sites.

Mr. TANCER: Exactly, and they debunked it as false, so just in case you're wondering.

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

CONAN: Thanks very much for that, Bill Tancer, and for the last piece information, as well. Bill Tancer is the author of "Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why it Matters," and we thank him very much also for his up-to-date intelligence on what people are doing online right now.

Coming up, we'll be talking to civil rights activist Raul Yzagirre on the next in our series of conversations on This American Moment. Stay with us. It's Talk of the Nation from NPR news.

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