Municipal bond broker Lucy Nobbe was fed up with Congress and angry over the U.S. credit downgrade, and she wanted the world to know.
So the self-described Midwestern mom hired a plane to fly a banner over New York City with a message blaming federal lawmakers for the downgrade — and making herself something of a populist hero in the process.
"I'm just so overwhelmed," Nobbe, a 51-year-old divorced mother of two, said Wednesday of her new-found celebrity and the largely positive response to her protest. "I had no idea it would make that big of an impact."
Nobbe's anger bubbled over on Friday when Standard & Poor's announced that it was cutting the U.S. credit rating, a move that set off a volatile week for the stock market and escalated concerns that the country could be heading back into a recession.
So she went on the Internet, found a pilot, and hired him to fly a banner over New York at lunchtime Tuesday with a message for Congress stating in large red letters: "THANKS FOR THE DOWNGRADE. YOU SHOULD ALL BE FIRED!"
"My friends and I were ranting and raving ever since we heard about the downgrade," she said in a telephone interview from her home in the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood. "I work in municipal bonds so I know the consequences, and it made me even madder."
The sentiment seemed to connect with many people frustrated by the sour economy, the near-shutdown of the government, the stuttering stock market and increasing debt. Nobbe's banner created an immediate online stir and turned heads on Wall Street.
It also created confusion — some onlookers, bloggers and journalists thought it was aimed at New York-based S&P.
Nobbe said it was strictly meant for Congress — both Democrats and Republicans. She initially wanted the plane to fly over Washington, D.C., but was told it couldn't because of air restrictions.
"I'm very apolitical," Nobbe said. "But the fact that they won't compromise angered me. They're acting like children. They leave the place in a shambles and go on vacation. It causes the market to crash.
"I know they're tough issues, but they have to be dealt with. Get us back in financial shape," Nobbe said.
Less than five minutes after the brief flight over New York, Nobbe received a call from Fortune magazine asking if she was responsible. She had hoped to remain anonymous and wasn't sure how her name was leaked.
By Tuesday evening, she was getting flooded with calls, some from journalists but many from well-wishers.
"I've had individual people calling me going, 'Bravo,' 'thanks,' 'good job,'" Nobbe said.
The praise isn't enough to spur Nobbe into considering her own foray into politics, but she would consider a follow-up banner if Congress helps get the economy back on track.
"I'd be happy to send an applaud message if they make it right," she said.