24. Elizabeth Warren
for putting the spotlight on America's debt binge.
White House advisor | Washington
In November 2008, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid handed Elizabeth Warren one of the most difficult assignments in Washington: leading an audit of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the $700 billion bank bailout approved the previous month to stem the 2008 global financial panic. The role would have made Warren persona non grata on Wall Street, if she hadn't been already: The plain-spoken Oklahoman bankruptcy expert had already been banging the drum for the creation of an agency that would oversee financial products -- including the exotic instruments that had precipitated the crash -- in the same way that existing federal agencies monitor the safety of pharmaceuticals, food, and home electronics. "The time has come to put scaremongering to rest and to recognize that regulation can often support and advance efficient and more dynamic markets," she wrote in Democracy in 2007.
Now tasked with overseeing the creation of the agency she envisioned -- which was passed by Congress in July -- her target remains largely the same: the predatory financial activities that bankrupt underinformed and low-income consumers. "A model that is designed to keep those families in a revolving door of debt," she said, "is not good for families -- and ultimately not good for the economy," neither America's nor the world's.
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