10. Rick Santelli
On February 19, a semi-obscure CNBC commentator expressed his outrage over the Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan while reporting from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Santelli said the plan amounted to $75 billion wasted on “losers” who shouldn’t have purchased new homes in the first place. “We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July,” Santelli said, as a gang of floor traders sharing his live shot on the floor hooted and whistled. “All you capitalists that wanna show up to Lake Michigan, I’m gonna start organizing it.” The “Santelli rant” kicked off days of arguments about whether the stock-picking commentator represented the voice of the American people. In the first of several such missteps, liberals from the blogosphere to the White House attacked Santelli directly as either a know-nothing or an agent of fiendish libertarian strategists. (The latter charge was immediately found to be bogus.) That only increased his hero status among activists who launched their own “Tea Party” protests of the Democratic agenda. On the day of Santelli’s rant, the Dow Jones index closed at 7,466. At the end of Barack Obama’s first year in office, it’s around 3,000 points higher — a 40-percent increase that has quieted criticisms of the president from many traders. Still, Santelli’s accidental movement lives on.