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3. Elizabeth Warren

Professor and Consumer advocate, Harvard Law and Congressional Oversight Panel

  • 01 /02
  • 02 /02

By calling the likes of Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit on the carpet, jawboning with Jon Stewart, and pushing to create a consumer financial protection agency, Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, 60, has taken what could have been a paper-pushing position as chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel on the bank bailout to the forefront of the public conversation over financial reform. In the process, she's been mentioned as a potential Supreme Court nominee and a Massachusetts Senate candidate. "I'm often described as an advocate," she says. "What I'm really doing is describing what I see from 25 years of research on the economics of the middle class. Whatever that means politically is a secondary concern for me." In D.C., that alone makes her stand out.

It is impossible to buy a toaster that has a one-in-five chance of bursting into flames and burning down your house. But it is possible to refinance an existing home with a mortgage that has the same one-in-five chance of putting the family out on the street and the mortgage won't even carry a disclosure of that fact to the homeowner.

Families understand with crystalline clarity that the rules they have played by are not the same rules that govern Wall Street. They understand that no American family is too big to fail.