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244 of 255 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Robbing what's left, November 4, 2010
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This review is from: Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America (Hardcover)
It was oddly comforting reading Taibbi's book the day after midterm elections. Reading 'Griftopia' convinced me that the Tea party, crazy people in Congress, the President who is doing his esoteric bipartisanship song and dance - nothing really matters. We have all been so profoundly screwed over, and for such a long time, that current political freak show will not make one iota of difference. Taibbi so neatly sums up life through the end of the USA as we know it (or the USA we believe we know) that I thought the outrage is beside the point.
The most devastating passage for me is the one where he explains what this country could have done with $13 trillion spent on bailouts: pay every mortgage in existence, and build house for every American who doesn't have one. He writes: "But we didn't do that, and we didn't spend money on anything else useful, either. Why? For a very good reason. Because we are no good anymore at building bridges and highways or coming up with brilliant innovations in energy or medicine... What are we good at? Robbing what's left." Devastating, and at the same time weirdly liberating. I would, after all, rather know the worst truth, than live in the fantasy USA we are being sold every day through our irresponsible media and callous politicians.
Taibbi's been compared to Michael Lewis, but I find this comparison plain lazy. Lewis writes about financial shenanigans with measured cynicism, and with a sort of appreciation for bankers who destroyed middle class of this country. Unlike him, Taibbi doesn't mince words, or tries to appear coolly above it all. He's, after all, as screwed up as is the rest of us.
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Tracked by 5 customers

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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 11, 2010 8:46:46 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 11, 2010 8:57:52 AM PST
D. Teslik says:
Here's a really important problem, though: Taibbi got the facts wrong on the $13 trillion figure. The total potential cost of the bailouts is 12.8 trillion, true, but the important, actually the crucial word there is "potential."

$12.8T is the potential cost if every dollar the government pledged or loaned were actually paid out and never paid back.

That is not the course of events that occurring in the world in this universe. Much of the money loaned already has been repaid, and on some of the constituent "bailouts" the government actually may make a profit. And likewise much of the money used to guarantee assets will never be tapped. This is a good thing for America.

I agree with Taibbi, at least in spirit, on a number of issues, but if you're going to be caustic and depressing and a brutal buzzkill -- and, to be clear, I'm calling Taibbi a buzzkill and not this reviewer -- I think you have a responsibility to make sure your facts are correct, especially a fact like this that he uses as the crux of at least the chapter it ends and as the basis for one of the central depressing accusations of the entire book. Yes, it's a devastating passage, but it's also fundamentally untrue.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2010 5:58:13 AM PST
Taibbi actually got the figure far more wrong than the other poster indicates. The "cost to the taxpayer" of TARP has probably been the most grossly inflated figure in modern history. Various media and polticians have quoted numbers like $13 trillion, $15 trillion, $23 trillion, etc. But the truth is that those numbers were all based upon a variety of worst case, doomsday scenarios that basically meant that all outstanding liabilities, including those for programs that never even started, would have gone bankrupt and the Federal government with it. The current best figure for the actual cost of TARP is about $50 Billion. Yes, that is Billion with a B. Certainly not chump change, but less than 1% of the grossly exaggerated $13 trillion. (reference below)

I like Taibbi and agree with many of his points, but he completely missed the boat on this one and bought into a modern myth of epic proportions.

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/treasury-total-cost-of-tarp-will-be-50-billion-2010-10-05-164330

Posted on Dec 26, 2010 7:23:52 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 26, 2010 7:26:19 AM PST
"Devastating, and at the same time weirdly liberating. I would, after all, rather know the worst truth, than live in the fantasy USA we are being sold every day through our irresponsible media and callous politicians."

The reviewer puts it very well. After reading Griftopia, I finally know just how astoundingly bad things are in our poor old USA, yet somehow I feel better about politics than I have in a long time.

How can that be? I think it's because of Matt Taibbi's wonderful sense of the absurd. America is finally at the top again! Our "leaders" and their backers are surely the most brazen and successful thieves in history. They are selling off the country and pocketing the cash.

It's really wonderfully funny.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 2, 2011 7:20:17 PM PST
AK says:
even Bloomberg cannot get the Fed to tell them what the actual figure is. Bloomberg filed a suit against the Fed to get the actual number and the fed has appealed to avoid telling what the figure is. Treasury claims it is $50 bil but the Fed won't talk. wtf!

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/economy/the-true-cost-of-the-bank-bailout/3309/

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 6, 2014 6:15:07 PM PDT
How much and what companies paid back the bailouts? ("most of the money loaned has been repaid") and how did the government make a profit on the bailouts and how much was it?
just would like to know the facts. Thanks
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