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The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street Paperback – September 7, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Following Ronald Reagan' s obsession with the radical deregulation of financial markets through its apotheosis under the Clinton administration to Obama' s reform efforts--which rely, oddly enough, on Clinton cronies to clean up (and profit from) the mess they made--Scheer (The Pornography of Power) proves that, when it comes to the ruling sway of money power, Democrats and Republicans, Wall Street and Washington make very agreeable bedfellows. Scheer names names (Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers, Alan Greenspan), while praising those who sounded the alarm and underscoring the foreseeable results of putting Wall Street in the driver' s seat. What grew in this regulatory vacuum, Scheer shows, was a global casino, a mind-bendingly enormous and arcane system of gambling on new financial products worth hundreds of trillions of dollars. By 2007, when the house of cards collapsed, Wall Street alone understood what it had wrought while its government partners remained clueless.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Coziness between Wall Street and Washington, D.C., from as far back as the Reagan administration, set up the nation for a deliberate swindle that nearly brought down the U.S. economy, argues Scheer, a veteran journalist and editor of Drawing from investigative reporting, memoirs, and news accounts, Scheer traces the building crisis through the Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and even Obama administrations, taking aim at three myths: that the financial markets are logical and self-correcting, that excesses only hurt speculators and not the general public, and that government regulation stands in the way of effective free enterprise. Instead, he presents a portrait of financial and political skulduggery by several influential players, notably Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, and Phil Gramm, and heroic efforts by a few regulators to stop it. Scheer explains in accessible detail the expanding derivatives markets, loosening of regulations on financial activities, and the subprime mortgage market, with much of the abuse aided and abetted by a handful of influential men. He highlights Rubin’s machinations within government to grant expanded powers to Enron and Citigroup, then later joining Citigroup to benefit from the changes that he helped to engineer. Scheer is also critical of the business press that championed deregulation and asked few questions as iconic figures sat atop failure after failure, many of them now engaged in “reforming” the system. A scathing, penetrating look at the unsavory links between American finance and politics. --Vanessa Bush

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books (September 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568584342
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568584348
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #367,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Scheer has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist. His columns appear in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He conducted the famous Playboy magazine interview in which Jimmy Carter confessed to the lust in his heart and he went on to do many interviews for the Los Angeles Times with Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and many other prominent political and cultural figures.

Between 1964 and 1969 he was Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor in chief of Ramparts magazine. From 1976 to 1993 he served as a national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, writing on diverse topics such as the Soviet Union, arms control, national politics and the military. In 1993 he launched a nationally syndicated column based at the Los Angeles Times, where he was named a contributing editor. That column ran weekly for the next 12 years and is now based at

Scheer can be heard on his new podcast "Scheer Intelligence" and the radio program "Left, Right and Center" on KCRW, the National Public Radio affiliate in Santa Monica, Calif. He is currently a clinical professor of communication at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Scheer has written ten books, including "Thinking Tuna Fish, Talking Death: Essays on the Pornography of Power"; "With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush and Nuclear War"; "America After Nixon: The Age of Multinationals"; "The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us about Iraq" (with Christopher Scheer and Lakshmi Chaudhry); "Playing President: My Close Encounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I and Clinton--and How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush"; "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America"; "The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street"; "How the United States Got Involved in Vietnam"; and "Cuba: An American Tragedy". Scheer's latest book is "They Know Everything About You: How Data Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies are Destroying Democracy" (Nation Books, February 2015).

Scheer was raised in the Bronx, where he attended public schools and graduated from City College of New York. He was Maxwell Fellow at Syracuse University and a fellow at the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, where he did graduate work in economics. Scheer is a contributing editor for The Nation as well as a Nation Fellow. He has also been a Poynter Fellow at Yale and was fellow in Stanford's arms control and disarmament program.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

183 of 192 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L Calhoun on September 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
In this book, "deregulation" is a four-letter word: a synonym for leaving the U.S. taxpayer, U.S. markets and the U.S. reputation wide open to greedy mindless homegrown plutocrats. In short, it is a synonym for leaving the nation vulnerable to conscienceless unpatriotic Wall Street thieves.

Here in easy to understand language, Robert Scheer has pealed back the layers that cover up the whole stinking mess that has become "stripped-down vulnerable deregulated America." The method of robbery is basically a five-step political process: (1) "demagog" FDR and all existing regulations relentlessly as the enemy of free enterprise; (2) use paid lobbyist to help justify, tear-down and then rewrite new regulations; (3) use lobbyists' contributions to buy off the votes of key politicians in both parties to open up the laws for the impending thievery; (4) once legislation is passed, oversee the Wall Street financial casino with watchdogs that do not watch; and then (5) appoint members of the plutocracy who stand to gain the most, as facilitators and the palace guards of policy.

The present system of "high-level state sanctioned grand larceny" was designed and implemented, not by Ronald Reagan, or GW Bush, but by William Jefferson Clinton with the help of none other than the gang of four -- Timothy Geitner, Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan, and Lawrence Summers. However, the unsung hero of the grand heist, was Windy Lee Gramm, senator Phil Gramm's paramour and then wife, (who as a grad student was first his lover and then very quickly his wife). It was this "devious duo" that engineered the plans for the ultimate robbery of the American economic system.
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78 of 80 people found the following review helpful By James Mamer on September 22, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Steal a little and they throw you in jail - Steal a lot and they make you king" - Bob Dylan

Imagine, for a moment, that a burly stranger takes your wallet, removes $20, and walks away. It stands to reason that, at the very least, you would want the culprit caught. You might even take the time to file a police report and describe the thief to a sketch artist. Now imagine instead, a very well dressed thief, with a dozen or so well dressed associates, who manage to take your house, your job, and even to diminish the value of your 401K, would you want this group caught just as badly? And if it turns out that this second heist was the work of identifiable thieves, would you spend the time necessary to learn who they were and how the deed was done? Or would you rather squeal and scream at whoever and whatever is directly in front of you?

That is the choice you face when deciding whether or not to read "The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street". In it, veteran journalist and Truthdig editor, Robert Scheer does exactly what the subtitle implies. He describes in detail how we got into the economic mess we are in.

Of course, everyone knows some of what happened. Most, probably suspect that both bankers and brokers had a hand in creating the real estate mess. Most have heard something about derivatives, CDOs, Alt-A loans, and subprime loans. And those government sponsored bank bailouts are, by now, infamous - even if there seems to be widespread confusion about which administration (Bush or Obama) did what. But when did this all start and what are the political, economic, and ideological connections? More simply, what is the answer to a question posed by a bewildered George W.
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83 of 89 people found the following review helpful By nicole on August 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
The Great American Stickup is an excellent read! Mr. Scheer does an outstanding job analyzing how we got into the financial crisis and, in doing so, sheds light on what is needed to avoid a repeat. The book is full of fascinating and important anecdotes, exposing key actors and clear details of actions they took that sewed the seeds of our financial meltdown. His style is highly engaging -- given his journalistic credentials, this isn't a surprise. I have never read an account that so clearly lays out the relationship between Washington and Big Business and its impact on Main Street. His case isn't a partisan one and that makes this book particularly powerful.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Book Shark TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 27, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street by Robert Scheer

"The Great American Stickup" is an even-handed book about the conflict of interests of American finances and politicians from Reagan's presidency to this day. This insightful 304-page book is composed of the following nine chapters: 1. It Was the Economy, Stupid, 2. The High Priestess of the Reagan Revolution, 3. The Clinton Bubble, 4. The Valiant Stand of Brooksley Born, 5. They Have No Shame, 6. Robert Rubin Rakes It In at Citigroup, 7. Poverty Pimps, 8. Goldman Cleans Up, 9. Sucking Up to the Bankers: Crisis Handoff from Bush to Obama.

1. Well-written, well-researched book that is accessible to the masses.
2. This is the most even-handed book I've read about the causes of the economic disasters of the past 30 years or so. Mr. Scheer does not hold back in placing blame where blame is due.
3. Does not waste time laying out the foundation of this book, "For it was this Wall Street and Democratic Party darling, along with this clique of economist super-friends: - Alan Greenspan, Lawrence Summers, and a few others - who inflated a giant real estate bubble by purposely not regulating the derivatives market, resulting in oceans of money that was poured into bad loans sold as safe investments."
4. A very good explanation of the financial instruments that became the downfall of the economy: swaps, derivatives, and collaterized debt obligations to name a few.
5. The infuriating scapegoating of borrowers for the economic collapse caused by the lenders.
6. The wisdom of FDR's New Deal reforms that helped preserve capitalism from its own excesses.
7. The importance of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.
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