Monday, May 16, 2011

The Divide and Griftopia by Matt Taibbi

Rolling Stone contributing editor Matt Taibbi denounces party politics as naive in GRIFTOPIA, arguing that in reality we are in an empire endgame of super rich versus everyone else. His case is made by the numbers and the men behind those numbers: particularly Greenspan, Goldman Sachs, the Fed, black hole debt, bailouts, bonuses, and the insurance lobby. Narrator Patrick Egan delivers the pronouncements like Moses reading a scroll to American Idol worshiping revelers, who are too drunk on pop culture to care. As for the numbers themselves, one of the biggest is 13 Trillion Dollars, the ultimate cost of the Wall Street bailouts, which is more than enough to pay off all the bad mortgages, build new highways and roads in all 50 states, and buy a new house for everyone else who needs one. But we are not good at building things anymore, Taibbi says, "what we are good at is robbing what's left." Those low income houses built at Greenspan and Bush's urging were, in fact, built solely to generate upfront fees for banks, and to depress future home prices while passing the risk along "like a hot potato" to the Fed and the taxpayer. With lax regulation, even the ratings agencies played along with the bubble. And so Goldman Sachs gutted AIG, not in the interest of playing fair or even in helping America's future stability, but simply for short term quarterly statement profit at taxpayer expense. This book is an ultimate and gutsy audit, after the fact, in which the hidden books are opened and a magnifying glass applied. What it reveals is the opposite of the Robin Hood fairy tale, with characters doing a role reversal, making robbing from the poor and giving to the rich the blockbuster twist. His new book is THE DIVIDE: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gapwhich connects the dots between the justice system and having money (or not) to prevent going to jail. (Poor people make up nearly all prisoners.) 

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