Book Review of Griftopia
In 2008 Wall Street feces hit the proverbial fan and sucked out trillions of US taxpayer dollars in rescuing banks criminally responsible for creating the crisis called by some the Great Recession. Griftopia by Matt Taibbi (Spiegel & Grau 2010) connects all the dots and links the key players and their roles in this criminal conspiracy which caused the domestic and international economies to implode.
Taibbi of The Rolling Stone starts slow describing the Bubble Meister, Alan Greenspan’s, connection to the ultra extreme capitalist advocate, the mediocre novelist Ayn Rand. The book delves into the crooked deals by high government officials with close Wall Street connections which determined the winners and loser in the bailout fiasco.
The book uncovers the hidden commodities bubble which transfers billions of dollars to Wall Street while creating food shortages around the world and speculatively jacking up the price of petroleum, cutting into everyone’s pocket worldwide while lining the wallets of the grifter class. The book clearly shows how finance dominates politics and gives an insightful account of the corrupt high stakes forgone battle for health care reform, and in the process provides a convincing indictment of Obama and his administration. The book covers the auctioning off of America’s infrastructure to foreigners, primarily Sovereign Wealth Funds from the Middle East unaccountable to anyone. These are the same funds which became money laden with speculative petroleum bubble.
After reading the book, one is firmly convinced that Goldman Sachs needs to be broken up and a number of people in charge need to go to prison, including the Secretary of Treasure at the time, Henry Paulson, a Goldman Sachs alumni.
After playing an intimate role in the historic bubble catastrophes, after helping $5 trillion in wealth disappear from the NASDAQ in the early part of the 2000s, after pawning off thousands of toxic mortgages on pensioners and cities, after helping drive the price of gas up above $4.6- a gallon for half a year, and helping 100 million new people around the world join the ranks of the hungry, and securing tens of billions of taxpayer dollars through a series of bailouts, what did Goldman Sachs give back to the people of the United States in the year 2008 ? Fourteen million dollars. That’s not even as much as the CEO took home. And that same year, Goldman paid out billions in bonuses to their employees.
Banks like Goldman remain largely shielded from the impact of public opinion because while the public’s only link to power is through the clumsy and highly imperfect avenue of elections, a bank of this size has a whole network of intimate connections with direct access to policy. In many cases, their people are sitting in the relevant positions themselves. The public is at best left to press their elected representatives (who are inevitably heavy funded by these banks) for investigations or prosecutions to remedy offenses committed years before.
This is a good book, and well worth the read. However, it suffers from the malady most books of this genre are inflicted with. It is purely descriptive, and offers no insight on how to change the obviously dysfunctional system, though it gives an accurate road-map of what will happen to the United States in relatively short order if action is not taken to right the grievous crimes detailed in the book. It is interesting to note that no one involved with the financial calamity described in the book has gone to prison, and few have been indicted. The book comes to the weak and sorry conclusion that business has now returned to normal on Wall Street. Taibbi blames this on the dumbing down of the American public and their short attention span. He might at least offer the suggestion to allow Europeans to vote in US national elections since the actions of the bloated hegemonic US government impacts everyone in the world. By allowing Europeans to vote in US election, the country would at least have a much more informed electorate making decisions.