Winners & Losers 2009

CNBC's Winners & Losers of 2009

More than most years, 2009 has been about winners and losers.

For many, it was the winter of our discontent, as stocks sank to multi-year lows, jobs disappeared by the hundreds of thousands and a new administration struggled for traction. The reputation of the U.S. took yet more hits. Losers were omnipresent.

Spring brought the seeds of hope and those tired green shoots of revival, as the market began to climb higher. By summer the worst of the financial crisis seemed behind us. A return to our winning ways seemed possible, if not certain.

As we head into the final months of 2009, we thought it would be interesting to identify the big winners and losers in what has been an extraordinary year.

In some cases, the difference between a winner and loser is slight, subtle and often in the eye of the beholder—who can be a victim or a beneficiary.

That’s why we want readers to weigh in and vote on a variety of people and concepts. We will not ask you to vote on the obvious (President Obama), as you already had that chance in 2008 and will possibly have another one in 2012.

Beyond the national political figures and big-name corporate bosses, there are companies, concepts and entities that qualify for consideration.

We've tried to offer a selection that is truly debatable; and in many cases, the vote could go either way.

We’ll give you a week to vote on the winners and losers of 2009 and then report back with results and rankings on Dec. 1.

So, here’s our cast of characters and some of the story lines that figured into the story of 2009.

Ben Bernanke: Hero or Goat?

Ben Bernanke
Chairman, Federal Reserve Board

Ben Bernanke
Getty Images

Talk about a potential toss up. Bernanke is a hero to some and a goat to others.

Critics say he abused the powers of the Fed in providing liquidity to the markets and companies (AIG , Citigroup ), became overtly political in helping execute administration policies (some say partly in the hope of getting nominated for a second term) and has planted the seeds of inflation, for which we’ll pay dearly down the road.

Fans of Bernanke consider him a genius, whose innovative initiatives saved the economy and the country. They also point to his self-effacing, plain-talking style (compared to Alan Greenspan) and his efforts to demystify the Fed through greater transparency.

Voters of both persuasion may cite the Fed’s enhanced powers in proposals for a new regulatory framework and Bernanke’s role in the policy debate.

Too Big To Fail: Can't Lose For Winning

Too Big To Fail

Three-decade-old government policy about intervening to save big financial firms.