Griftopia Review: You’ll Want to Punch a Kitten

Good non-fiction can often impart a wide-range of emotions to the reader and Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia is no exception. While the main emotion should likely be riot-inducing anger, I found myself alternately experiencing resigned disappointment as well as depression broken by gallows humor. Taibbi, a contributing editor of the magazine Rolling Stone has been writing about the Great Recession of 2008 for years and this book collects and expands of some of those original articles.

At its heart, Griftopia is about what Taibbi calls the Great Bubble Machine, the politically-connected world of high finance that has attached itself to our economy and began draining it of all its wealth like some vampire squid. He examines the origins and evolution of all the worst economic bubbles that our economy has been experiencing since the ’90’s, everything from the tech bubble of the late ’90’s, the sudden commodities bubble that caused oil prices to skyrocket in 2008, to the subprime mortgage fiasco that caused the downfall of venerable firms like Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch as well as the disasters that prompted the bailouts of AIG and most of the Wall Street investment banks. He lays particular ire at the feet of the biggest grifter outfit of them all, Goldman Sachs in a chapter dedicated solely to tracking the history of the bank’s more “creative” means of creating wealth from thin air or from turning taxpayer-backed bailouts into obscene profits.

Taibbi has a fantastic ability to distill the explanations for a lot of the more intricate high finance shenanigans into easily digestible and relatable language. I must admit to being horribly ignorant of how the stock market and some of the more exotic financial products work, but Taibbi does a good job getting it down the cows can chew it. Once he explains it, you will understand how so many people were hoodwinked but will also become quite angry that such obvious fraud has not been punished with anything other than “slap on the wrist” fines. He even takes great pains to show why that is, demonstrating how our political figures, no matter what party affiliation, have become so beholden to these large financial institutions that real accountability is nigh impossible.

If you don’t leave Griftopia wanting to punch something really hard, you probably either made a killing off the mortgage crisis or have just entered the final stage of apathy that presages a complete takeover of our political process by the oligarchy. For anyone interested in why our economy was pushed into almost complete collapse by a very few, I recommend Griftopia highly.

November 19, 2014 at 2:14 pm | Books | No comment

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