by Rachel Monroe
Last week Mary Jo White was confirmed as the first female chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the federal agency that regulates the nation's stock exchanges and securities markets. White spent more than a decade as United States attorney in Manhattan (she was the first woman to hold that job, too); the general consensus is that by nominating a former prosecutor for the top SEC job, Obama was sending the message that he plans on holding Wall Street accountable for financial misdeeds.
Bair, who shared the JFK Profiles in Courage Award with Born, became an unlikely (Republican!) hero to the anti-banker crowd during the financial crisis. The former head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Bair was outspoken in her objection to "too big to fail" rhertoric and bank bailouts. In 2008, Bair came in first on the Wall Street Journal's "women to watch" list, and was ranked as the second-most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. She is currently leading a crusade against what she sees as our current "bond bubble," and is serving as a senior advisor to the Pew Charitable Trusts.
In a move that may have surprised her Republican colleagues, Bair endorsed the staunch liberal Elizabeth Warren in her race for the Massachusetts Senate last year. The two women worked together often during the financial crisis, when Warren served as the chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, which was created to oversee the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP). The video of Warren challenging the "too big to fail" principle at the Senate Banking Committee has been viewed nearly a million times, possibly a record for a Congressional video clip. Warren is currently the senior U.S. senator from Massachusetts -- the first female senator from that state.
Obama's former top economic adviser co-authored the administration's plan for recovery from the financial crisis -- for which her personal area of expertise, the Great Depression, certainly came in handy. She calculated that the nation needed a $1.8 trillion stimulus package to spur economic recovery, but Larry Summers (head of the president's National Economic Council) didn't include her proposal in the official memo, fearing that a package with the word "trillion" on it would never make it through Congress. (Congress eventually passed a $800 billion stimulus package.) After stepping down from her position with the administration in 2010 (for reasons having to do with her disagreements with Summers, some believe), Romer returned to her job as a tenured professor of economics at Berkeley.