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Looking Back on the Bailout
Sheila Bair, who served as the chairperson of the FDIC during the economic collapse and subsequent bailout of 2008, sees clearly in hindsight.
"The theory is that you help the big banks and you help the broader economy," Bair said, "and it just didn't work out that way." Bair's new book, Bull by the Horns, recounts the process of the bailout and the struggle for reform. She spoke with Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large at The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live, Thursday at the Washington Ideas Forum.
"At the end of 2008 we didn't have good information and so the instinct is just to throw a lot of money at it," Bair said. "Because if you do less, the consequences could be quite severe. If you do more, you could regret it, as I do."
Bair was frank on the shortcomings of the bailout and said there was not enough focus on homeowners. The programs implemented for homeowners, Bair said, "were too limited, too complicated, and not enough of a priority. And it affects the economy now." The seriously delinquent loans aren't going to get better, she said, and refusing to deal with them will only make losses more pronounced.
Clemons asked if Bair thought her gender had played a role in how she was perceived during the bailout process, and what challenges she faced.
Bair said that during the contentious bailout process, she was told she wasn't a team player and to get on board. "There were times, and I feel this tends to happen more with women leaders," Bair said, "when we voice a disagreement, or when we have a different view of what may be the group think, we're (called) difficult."
But Bair also warned against falling into the cliché that women don't receive equal footing because of their gender. "You can't get hung up on whether it's because you're a woman or not," she said. "I mean there are a lot of reasons why people may approach you differently, or want to exclude you, and I think you just need to keep coming back at them with good arguments."