After the 2008 financial crisis in the United State — the result of Wall Street bundling bad mortgages together and selling them as investments — writer Michael Lewis wrote, The Big Short, a best seller about what happened. Primarily, he focused on the few canny investors who saw the coming tsunami and, instead of sounding an alarm, these men bet big on the disaster. As a result, they are probably sunning themselves on their yachts, as I write.
True, they couldn’t predict the collapse with absolute certainty. But they were positive enough to throw money at the probability. Their coup won them plaudits from their peers and, not doubt, a little envy.
Three woman saw the looming crisis, as well, but they didn’t place bets on the disaster. They sounded an alarm, instead. Brooksley Born (Click) was one. Born is the first woman to head the Stanford Law Review and was the director of a small government agency, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, at the time. Sheila Bair* (Click), head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, was the second woman with clairvoyance. The third was Elizabeth Warren, now a United States Senator. (Click)
These three women are laudable because they didn’t chose to gamble with the fate of the common man and attempted to prevent their ruin, instead. For their efforts, the old boys’ network came after them, men of position and power. We know who they are: Alan Greenspan (Click), Robert Rubin (Click), Larry Summers (Click), Arthur Levitt. (Click) They didn’t stint on their personal attacks, either. Levitt, in a Frontline documentary, described Born as ”irascible, difficult, stubborn and unreasonable.” (“She Called it,” by Monica Potts, The New Republic, March 2018, pg. 33.)
That Born, Bair and Warren were right about the financial crisis probably doesn’t make them sleep better at night. It’s hard to gloat when the lives of ordinary people are at stake. And certainly, they earned nothing but abuse for their effort to avert an American tragedy. Michael Lewis didn’t eulogize them either. Still, these women are owed an apology from men like Greenspan, Rubin, Summers and Levitt. I doubt it will ever come.
*Suggested reading: Bull By The Horns by Sheila Bair. Free Press, 2013