Bailout Czar (Age: 35)
Presiding over hundreds of billions of dollars in investment capital is a job generally reserved for people like Saudi princes and Warren Buffett. But thanks to the near collapse of our financial system, a 35-year-old recent M.B.A. from Akron has been thrust into the unprecedented position of having to dole out more than 700 billion of our tax dollars. As head of the Treasury Department's Office of Financial Stability, Neel Kashkari has been charged by Congress with snapping up all the faltering assets that money can buy. The meticulous former Goldman Sachs banker didn't even enter the world of high finance until 2002, having spent most of his twenties as an aerospace engineer, but he has clearly impressed the right people. Former Goldman CEO Henry Paulson brought Kashkari with him when he became treasury secretary in 2006, and has kept him at his side throughout the crisis. Now Kashkari, who once helped to build a solar-powered car that traveled from Indianapolis to Colorado Springs, gets to decide which U.S. firms receive government life support and which do not, at least until the new administration takes over. To a rocket scientist, this might sound far-fetched. But to a big AC/DC fan like Kashkari, it makes perfect sense: It's called trying to get us back in the black.