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Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History Paperback – September 6, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Taibbi eviscerates Wall Street for what he considers frauds perpetrated on the American people over the last ten years. Deftly delving deeply into complicated financial history and lingo, Taibbi deftly lays the subject bare, rendering heretofore-dense subject matter simple without being simplistic. Blame for the recent mortgage collapse, commodities bubble, and tech bubble are laid at the feet of a relatively small number of bankers and traders who, in the author's opinion, act without fear of reciprocity from a U.S. government no longer representative of the American people. He begins by awarding the title "Biggest Asshole In The Universe" to former-Fed Chief Alan Greenspan, taking him to task for willfully or stupidly disemboweling what little regulation the financial markets may have had before his tenure. This theme resounds throughout, and Taibbi asserts that the collusion between Wall Street and the White House has effectively turned the United States into a massive casino, in which working Americans are regularly bilked out of their savings and homes while the wealthy are repeatedly rewarded for their graft. It's an important and worthy read, but not for the Randian disciple or Goldman-Sachs alum. (Nov.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* Rolling Stone contributing editor Taibbi delivers a blistering examination of the upheaval that has roiled the American economic system over the past several years. At the heart of the upheaval, he says, is a vein of greed running up and down the real-estate industry, from mortgage brokers who falsified customer loan applications to banks that parceled out mortgages to second and third parties to rating agencies that signed off on highly suspect loans. Taibbi saves a good deal of venom for former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, arguing that Greenspan’s philosophy of easy cash, limited government oversight of markets, and bailing out “too big to fail” financial institutions all fueled the recent economic meltdown. And Taibbi profiles a recently passed health-care bill severely compromised by an all-powerful insurance lobby. As critical as he is of the process—a process not likely to get fixed any time soon—he doesn’t seem to carry an agenda; instead, like any good investigative reporter, he mostly follows his nose. --Alan Moores --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The narrative, which begins in St. Paul, Minnesota, ends up circling the globe with yellow crime scene tape, wrapped around the earth many times over. The crimes are hatched in the secret boardrooms of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful banks and in the offices of stockbrokers, speculators, commodity traders and insurance salesmen. The bodies are buried in the entitlement-vacation giveaways belonging to politicians (who are “made guys”), mob lawyers, bureaucrats and wise-guy lobbyists. Matt Taibbi takes the reader behind-the-scenes to the casino floor of the secret government, the REAL power in the United States where “crime” itself is the best description of government money can buy.
Now, there are plenty of victims in Taibbi’s crime novel, but there’s one aspect of political racketeering and organized financial crime that is glaringly missing in the story: Law and Order -- like the TV show. In “Griftopia” there are no arrests, no prosecutions, no convictions and no jail time. You won’t find that in THIS story! In many respects, Taibbi’s book is an anatomy of the “perfect crime” in which criminal masterminds repeat the same crime over and over again, with slight variations. Occasionally there will be a monetary fine here, an economic sanction there, a slap on the wrist and a promise of reform; but it doesn’t matter, because the stiffest penalties are simply the cost of doing business in America.
He had a lot justified criticism of the media for the tendency to make a mountain out of a molehill while there are actual mountains that need to be dealt with.
My favorite quote: "We no longer have the attention span to deal with any twenty-first century crisis. We live in an economy that is immensely complex and we are completely at the mercy of the small group of people who understand it - who incidentally often happen to be the same people who built these wildly complex economic systems. We have to trust these people to do the right thing, but we can't, because, well, they're scum. Which is kind of a big problem, when you think about it."
Additionally I think this book serves as a reminder that investigative journalism is a gift to society and that people who do it well deserve to be supported. "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them" (Ephesians 5:11).
I did have a couple of bones to pick:
I thought that Mr. Taibbi picks an unnecessary fight with conservatives of the Tea Party persuasion (I believe he used the sophmoric term "teabaggers" twice). I know plenty of conservative, Christian "teabaggers" and I think he keeps a potential ally at arms length with the immature digs. Along those lines he insists that Tea Pary principles (like taking the U.S. Constitution seriously) are too out of date to deal with 21st century problems. However, I think any Tea Partier would admit that the commerce clause certainly gives the federal government the right and responsiblilty of regulating the financial services industry.
He excoriates Ayn Rand (and seemingly anyone who has appreciated anything she ever wrote) by concentrating on superficial aspects of her work (her characters give long monologues, she was a weirdo, the novels are unrealistic, etc.) while ignoring her valuable insight into the pitfalls of collectivism.
(copied from my Goodreads review)