Thursday Bookshelf- Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America

If you are a regular news junkie, politico, or  a policy wonk the name Matt Taibbi should be familiar to you. Before joining Glenn Greenwald’s new startup The Intercept, Taibbi served as a Contributing Editor and Columnist for Rolling Stone for which he is best known. He still has a weekly blog there was well. His July/2009 Rolling Stone article  “The Great American Bubble Machine is a must read on the economy on the roots of the 2008 financial crisis by examining the notorious mega bank, Goldman Sachs whom has a long history of financial market manipulation which, Taibbi sums up perfectly. From the article: [Goldman Sachs] is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”griftopia

Today’s entrant into the TFS bookstore is Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America. The title comes from the term grifter- a class of people Taibbi refers to throughout this collection of essays, that makes the network of privileged people in the financial industry and government that has been allowed to grow unchecked over the generations via mostly illegal and shady activities that have subsequently resulted in the largest upward transfer of wealth in our American history.

Taibbi tells us early in this book, published in 2010, there are really two America’s- one for this grifter class, and one for the rest of us. Since they vast majority of the latter don’t know squat about the world of global finance, these “grifters” have a fun time telling us that Wall Street is our friend that should be trusted, and a booming Wall Street means a booming America, which means a better life for everyone.  Fast forward to present day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit another record high this week  and American is still in the midst of a weak economic recovery and suffering.  Using a plethora of sources, exquisite reporting and thorough historical analysis, Taibbi takes us through a collection of seven essays all centered on this idea that a small group of individuals are getting richer and richer at the expense of the rest of us- a structural problem that we at TFS have made a priority in exposing and solving.  Taibbi takes is back to this movements roots, with an overview of the Conservative icon Ayn Rand’s ideology, through the Fed Chairmanship of Alan Greenspan (whom he excoriates in quite epic fashion), through the failure and subsequent bailout of AIG  all the way through to today’s Tea party dominated Republican Party that enables it.

You might be asking yourself, why the title? What’s its meaning. In a review for this book, Reuters Financial Sector columnist Felix Salmon, sang Taibbi’s praises and explain the meaning behind the title:

Matt Taibbi is, by some margin, the best polemical journalist in America. His dispatches for Rolling Stone—long, carefully reported, deeply angry, and chock-full of information and vitriol—throw complex policy debates into stark relief and are loud and powerful enough to compete with the sex and celebrity filling up the rest of the magazine. One of Taibbi’s signal talents is that he repeats this feat on a regular basis: He’s no one-trick pony… But the undoubted high point of his career—the phrase that will make it into the first paragraph of his obituary, no matter how long he lives—came in his July 2009 article on Goldman Sachs, when he described the venerable investment bank as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money…Never mind that the vampire squid is only a few inches long, poses no threat to humans, is more prey than predator, and has no such thing as a blood funnel. The moniker attached itself to Goldman Sachs like an ardent barnacle (I’m telling you, these marine metaphors are harder than they look). It didn’t take long before Goldman employees stopped responding to calamari jokes in good humor and began greeting them instead with dead stares.

If you are regular TFS reader, you’ll already know why this book is our latest addition to the bookstore. Goldman Sachs and the nations top six banks control seventy percent of America’s assets- a very scary figure. Works this like this are very important as we continue to expose the structural problems and obstructions to America’s recovery. The shady business pratices discussed in Taibbi’s book here, are just the tip of the iceberg. I hope you’ll add this book to your collection, and also, continue to read Matt’s work at Rolling Stone and at his new project, The Intercept with independent journalists, Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Schaill.

As always, thanks for reading


Twitter: @JustinSnyderFL




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