Aaron Arnold's Reviews > Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America

Griftopia by Matt Taibbi
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's review
Apr 10, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: economics, politics, favorites, read-in-2010
Read in January, 2010

There was a lot going through my head when I was reading Taibbi's latest must-read book: disgust, anger, wonder, even laughter at his still-incredible powers of description, but at the very end, after I'd finished and had to take a minute to absorb what I'd just read, what I felt most was sadness. More than anything else, this is a book about a country in decline, a country that can't even recognize what its problems are, let alone try to fix them; instead feverishly running through one fraudulent get-rich-quick scheme after another. If you've been paying attention to the news at all for the last few years, you know that the American economy is not exactly in peak health. This is what happens when both the financial sector and government officials decide that the country is more profitable to loot than to invest in, and use their time to convert money from America's decaying physical assets into NoVa chalets. The chapter on how state and local governments nationwide have started selling off infrastructure to shady megabank investors at fire-sale prices to temporarily plug budget holes is stunning in its depiction of short-term thinking, but it's not like they have any options. Meanwhile, the saying that the easiest way to rob a bank is to own one is still true; it's pretty clear that not only do the lucky recipients of the trillions of dollars of free bailout money not have to worry about continuing to own their banks, they don't have to worry about the robbery either since they've paid people to make their crimes perfectly legal, and, as Tea Party cheerleaders like Rick Santelli repeatedly insist, even noble and laudable. Our entire national dialogue is broken. We've become so used to open corruption and kindergarten-level debates that even after the should-have-been-seismic event of the 2008 election, the same groups of Wall Street criminals continued their business of looting the country practically undisturbed by politicians like Obama who were eager to water down even the most timid reforms in exchange for money. Memories of eras like the New Deal and the Great Society have faded to the point where even suggesting that the government should maybe ask health insurance companies to be slightly less sociopathic puts you in the company of Stalin. PJ O'Rourke had a great line: "When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators." Unfortunately, he might be right. This is an excellent polemical counterpart to the nerdier Hacker & Pierson book, but be warned that you won't walk away from this one feeling very good about America.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Noetic_Hatter To me, the most sobering chapter was the one about Insurance. I have been a cheerleader for the Obamacare plan, thinking "something is better than nothing". But after reading T's brief history of the insurance industry and how it played into working out the "reforms", I have to reconsider.

The sad thing -- and the book brings this out -- is that we don't have a lot of other choices in our government.

Aaron Arnold Precisely. And as horrified as I was to read about the shadier aspects of the Obamacare negotiations, I was even more dismayed by Goldman's involvement in cap and trade, which wasn't in the book but was in the infamous Rolling Stone vampire squid article. I really don't think there's anything they wouldn't try to corner the market on.

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