GRIFTOPIA, by Matt Taibbi. Spiegel & Grau (www.spiegelandgrau.com), 2010, 253 pp., $26.00. ISBN 978-0-385-52995-2
Greed. Greed is not only good, it is EVERYTHING to the folks that brought the U.S. to its economic knees.
So what has changed? Barbarism has been replaced by what Taibbi calls “griftopia.” We as a country allow the banks to control us. That is why the U.S. is no longer a democracy, but an oligarchy: rule by money by the few who have it.
When are we going to wake up?
Look at the facts:
Before the Great Depression II, Wall Street, according to Taibbi, was basically a money “crack house,” fueled by cheap weight of free money, fostered by Uncle Sam, of course. After all, why not take market risks – in the end, if the risks go belly-up, well, Uncle Sam will always come to the rescue, right? “Too big to fail” was the rallying cry.
(Who was the actor at the Oscars Award ceremonies who said, despite the collapse that led to Great Depression II starting in 2007, not ONE of the bankers responsible for it served ANY jail time?)
The real estate bubble. The Ponzi scam of adjustable-rate mortgages and residential-mortgage backed securities and the takeover by America by investment houses (financed on the backs of taxpayers). We live in griftopia, promoted by the Oligarchic States of America.
All this Taibbi blames on Goldman Sachs, Greenspan, and the banks. He calls Goldman Sachs a “huge, highly sophisticated engine for converting the useful, deployed wealth of society into the least useful, most wasteful and insoluble substance on earth, pure profit for rich individuals.” (page 210)
This whole griftopia scheme, according to Taibbi on page 210, “pushes us closer to penury and oligarchy at the same time.”
What do you mean, Matt, “pushes us closer”? Matt, we’re already there! These costs, he writes, are “breaking families everywhere – high gas prices, rising consumer credit rates, half-eaten pension funds, mass layoffs, future taxes to pay off bailouts.”
Page 249 concludes it best:
“You put all of these stories together and what you get is a bizarre snapshot of a national economy in which the old Adam Smith capitalist notion of companies succeeding or failing on their merits, with the price of their assets determined entirely by the market, was tossed out the window. In its place was a system in which mergers and bankruptcies were brokered not by the market, but by government officials like Paulson and Geithner and Bernanke, and prices of assets were determined not by what investors were willing to pay, but by the level of political influence of the company’s leaders.”
Unfortunately, Taibbi offers few ways to fix this mess we are in, other than perhaps jailing those responsible. That is long past due.
But he offers few insights into what to do to prevent the mess from happening again. Too bad. I think he should give us a “fix it” book to show us how – it would probably be intriguing to read as GRIFTOPIA.