You'd think a soft-spoken, straight-shooting woman who grew up in a small town on the Great Plains would not want anything to do with a thankless high-profile government position overseeing the $700 billion taxpayer bailout of the U.S. financial industry. If you were like me and grew up in Independence, Kans., 200 miles from Elizabeth's Norman, Okla., you'd understand why she did.
It helps to know that someone with Elizabeth's Midwestern roots is watching the store. When it comes to holding people to account, Elizabeth, 60, takes the prize. She's unusually polite. But her words can be sharp as a tiger's tooth, as many a witness has learned coming before her congressional committee.
Elizabeth is at her best when she deploys that razor-sharp eloquence in defense of the American consumer. Some of her ideas are controversial, but we always listen because her powerful intellect and plainspoken articulation prove to be an irresistible combination. Of all the victims of the damage done in the past two years by the financial meltdown and the ensuing economic downturn, consumers have suffered the most. But that may soon come to an end if Elizabeth has her way and Congress establishes a new and independent consumer watchdog for financial products. I say high time.
Bair is chair of the FDIC