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The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap Paperback – October 21, 2014
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“Ambitious . . . deeply reported, highly compelling . . . impossible to put down.”—The New York Times Book Review
“These are the stories that will keep you up at night. . . . The Divide is not just a report from the new America; it is advocacy journalism at its finest.”—Los Angeles Times
“[Matt] Taibbi is a relentless investigative reporter. He takes readers inside not only investment banks, hedge funds and the blood sport of short-sellers, but into the lives of the needy, minorities, street drifters and illegal immigrants, to juxtapose justice for the poor and the powerful. . . . The Divide is an important book. Its documentation is powerful and shocking.”—The Washington Post
“Captivating . . . The Divide enshrines its author’s position as one of the most important voices in contemporary American journalism.”—The Independent (UK)
“Taibbi [is] perhaps the greatest reporter on Wall Street’s crimes in the modern era.”—Salon
“[Taibbi’s] warning is all about moral hazard. . . . When swindlers know that their risks will be subsidized . . . they will surely commit more crimes. And when most of the population either does not know or does not care that the lowest socioeconomic classes live in something akin to a police state, we should be greatly concerned for the moral health of our society.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Trenchant . . . a scathing, accessible, and often riveting look at the U.S. finance industry and justice system.”—Publishers Weekly
“Readers with high blood pressure should make sure they’ve taken their medication before reading this devastating account of inequality in our justice, immigration, and social service systems. Taibbi’s chapters are high-definition photographs contrasting the ways we pursue small-time corruption and essentially reward high-level versions of the same thing.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Matt Taibbi has been a contributing editor for Rolling Stone and the author of five previous books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Great Derangement and Griftopia. He lives in New Jersey.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Remember: this is the guy that went to the Florida "rocket docket" court, recording how thousands of people were stripped of their homes under the flimsiest pretexts, often with outright fabricated evidence. In "Divide" he goes again where the stories are: to Bed-Sty, the outer NYC boroughs, and the courts. And documents how miserably the system treats the disadvantaged. What you think you know from "Law And Order", believe it: you don't. Kafka himself couldn't improve on some of this. At one point Taibbi refers to all this as a "descent into madness." And after reading it, it's hard to argue with that.
The "Divide" of course is cash. But this is no screed against "the rich." If that's what you think you've not read the book, or completely missed the point. To wit: if you commit a massive, white-collar crime, but you've got enough (i.e. near-infinite) cash, you're now too much trouble and risk to even indict, let alone prosecute. And if -- like me - you've wondered why none of the people who committed these global frauds on a massive scale have ever been prosecuted for any of it, this book gives you a detailed, compelling, and depressing answer.
Taibbi points out most of us will never see any of this. Out of sight, out of mind. The poor are segregated away. And the corrupt wealthy never have to interact with any of the people who are so profoundly impacted by their frauds. These are the guys who ripped off us off, burned down our 401Ks, rigged Libor rates to line their own pockets with our mortgages. And then moved on to other cushy positions, presumably doing much the same.
One review here (by someone who claims to have read all of 3 pages) complains about Taibbi's assertion of "a miserable few hundred bucks" collected by welfare cheats in San Diego. But let's be clear: Taibbi never suggests these people should be let off. But he does spend considerable ink contemplating for example, about the corrupt execs at institutions like HSBC. Execs who brazenly laundered money for the Iranians and the Sinaloa cartel. (They actually opened a special teller window to fit the boxes of cash that were brought in!) About how these guys got off scot-free with a fine paid by HSBC. And never even saw the inside of a courtroom. While people who buy those street dime bags that HSBC so thoughtfully enabled can spend years, or a lifetime, in prison. Lose their kids. Their right to vote. And then even if they do get out can't get a job. "A billion dollars or a billion days." Does that seem like "equal justice for all?" Not to me. Not to Taibbi. And it won't to you after you read this.
Taibbi suggests a larger, deeper, and more sinister subtext. About what we claim to profess as a nation: due process, equal justice, simple fairness. Money and power have always had their sway of course. But the inescapable takeaway from this is that we've simply given up on these ideals; they're now just too much trouble. As a nation we no longer give a damn. That's the real divide. And the real outrage.
As opposed to recounting what happened like he did in Griftopia, The Divide explains how the crooks at places like Lehman Brothers got away with what they did, or rather, how they did so in full view of regulators and then dodged prosecution by the Department of Justice. He juxtaposes this with the "other" justice system the opposite end of the wealth spectrum is subject to. Perhaps this isn't a new concept that Taibbi or anyone else just figured out - fans of Chappelle's Show might remember the Law & Order parody where Dave switched the white collar criminal and the drug dealer? - but in any case Taibbi draws this contrast to stark effect. The wealthy are more or less immune to prosecution no matter how egregious their crimes are, especially in the context of their work, due to any combination of the details being too arcane or the government being unable/unwilling to effectively investigate or prosecute. As for the poor, well, poverty is effectively a crime in itself, some people have more rights than others, something that's invisible to many people stuck somewhere between not caring and feeling they deserve it - after all, there must be a good reason all those people are going to prison even though violent crime is actually going down, right? It's easier just to not think about.
Taibbi's greatest talent as a writer is his ability to convey extremely complicated topics into ordinary language just about anyone can understand, this is one of the main reasons I was a big fan of his over at Rolling Stone. I believe him to be the best reporter out there to cover the seas of mud in the finance sector, and make no mistake, Taibbi is definitely an old-school reporter at heart, digging up mundane data, going through dry, dusty documents nobody seems to care about for our benefit. This book doesn't have Taibbi's usual tone, which at times borders on irreverent/bombastic (I mean that affectionately), but understanding these problems are important if we're ever going to get anything done about it.
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