Posts filed under “Really, really bad calls”

Thieves’ Paradise: Griftopia

Matt Taibbi’s new book, Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America, was reviewed this weekend in the Sunday New York Times Book Review.

The review was rather positive, with some quibbles towards the end.

If you find Taibbi’s writing entertaining — and I do — then you should read both the full review and the published excerpt.


Among the unfortunate legacies of the financial crisis of 2008 is a tendency among commentators to soft-pedal the outrage over what happened. In too many accounts, blame is considered impossible to assign given the complexities of modern-day finance. Those inclined to point fingers at Wall Street or Washington are frequently derided as innocents who do not grasp how the world really works.

The result is an apologia that goes something like this: Mistakes were made, despite the best intentions of financial professionals. Bankers lent too much money to poor people who never should have bought homes. Models used to measure risk broke down, and regulators were swamped. All of this was a shame, but accidents are a part of life, and an unavoidable part of the swashbuckling style of capitalism that has enriched Americans for generations.

Nonsense, Matt Taibbi says. In “Griftopia,” a relentlessly disturbing, penetrating exploration of the root causes of the trauma that upended economic security in millions of American homes, Taibbi argues that what unfolded was far from accidental. Rather, the nation suffered the equivalent of a hostile takeover of key areas of its commercial life by investment banking houses, while regulators and members of Congress abdicated their responsibilities either because they were influenced by campaign cash or because they believed the fairy tale that unsupervised markets always work best. The result, Taibbi asserts, was a thieves’ paradise — Griftopia.

A contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine, Taibbi is best known for the metaphor he hurled like a grenade at the Wall Street goliath Goldman Sachs, calling it “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” He amplifies that characterization here, pointing out that Goldman managed to collect billions of dollars in taxpayer bailout funds that were paid to American International Group (A.I.G.).

Taibbi persuasively dismisses the argument that the financial crisis was caused by poor people with a taste for real estate, delineating how Wall Street eagerly handed out mortgages to anyone with a pulse, and then used the home loans as the material for a far more lucrative enterprise — the exotic investments known as derivatives. The derivatives market depended upon a steady supply of mortgages. But when too many of the bets went bad, Wall Street persuaded the Treasury to construct bailouts that Taibbi describes as a “labyrinthine financial sewage system designed to stick us all with the raw waste and pump clean water back to Wall Street.”

Full NYT review is here;  See our previous book excerpt here.


Thieves’ Paradise
NYTBR, December 24, 2010

Category: Bailouts, Books, Really, really bad calls

Going Bankrupt: 100 Bailed Out Banks

The WSJ reports today that nearly 100 U.S. banks that got TARP funds from the federal government in Q4 2008 are in danger of going bankrupt. So far, 7 bailout recipients have failed, resulting in more than $2.7 billion in lost TARP funds. The balance of the remaining potential failures relatively small banks — the…Read More

Category: Bailouts, Credit, Really, really bad calls

More Illegal Foreclosure Bank Break-Ins

I wonder if you could go to a Bank CEO’s home, break into his house, and throw out all of his personal possessions — family heirlooms, photos, awards — then claim a paperwork error. That is the excuse they have been using: “In an era when millions of homes have received foreclosure notices nationwide, lawsuits…Read More

Category: Credit, Foreclosures, Really, really bad calls

Blame the Accountants — and Deregulation

I never want to make excuses for the excesses of Wall Street or the horrific judgment exercised by iBank management — you cannot, its inexcusable — but it long past time we begin holding the Street’s grand enabler’s responsible for their actions. Which brings me to the accountants. The New York attorney general may be…Read More

Category: Bailout Nation, Legal, Really, really bad calls, Regulation

Winding Down with an Xmas Rally

Here we are beginning the final 2 weeks of the year. The economy continues to limp along, improving, albeit rather slowly. “Recession fatigue” is likely to make this holiday consumption spree appreciably better than the past 2 years. Markets have looked a bit tired — and yet — every opportunity to see big whackage has…Read More

Category: Commodities, Fixed Income/Interest Rates, Gold & Precious Metals, Markets, Psychology, Really, really bad calls

Dogma Versus Reality

In tday’s NYT, Joe Nocera calls out FCIC member and long time AEI analyst Peter Wallison, and his inconsistent narrative about Fannie and Freddie: “As he wrote in 2004, “Study after study have shown that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, despite full-throated claims about trillion-dollar commitments and the like, have failed to lead the private…Read More

Category: Bailouts, Credit, Really, really bad calls

Repeat A Lie Enough Times . . .

All last year, I kept getting emails from people asking me: “Why do you keep hammering  on these issues?  Why do you beat up on the eejits who push the Fannie Freddie CRA meme? Its dead, everyone knows its nonsense.” Except, not so much. That 4 members of the FCIC could push such as discredited…Read More

Category: Bailouts, Credit, Financial Press, Really, really bad calls

10 Questions for GOP Members of Financial Crisis Inquiry

I never wanted to write Bailout Nation. That only came about after Bear Stearns collapsed. McGraw Hill approached Bill Fleckenstein to do a follow up to his successful Greenspan’s Bubbles: The Age of Ignorance at the Federal Reserve, about the end of Bear. Fleck turned them down. When the publisher asked him who else was…Read More

Category: Bailout Nation, Bailouts, Really, really bad calls

Report Bank Intimidation to Your State AG

Back in October, I mentioned the website that gone viral: “Where’s the” It allowed homeowners to easily request to see a copy of their mortgage note. Yesterday, I noted that at least one Homeowner had made a “” Mortgage Note request, only to see Bank of America report the request as a dispute to…Read More

Category: Credit, Legal, Really, really bad calls

Foreclosure Tax Breaks Hurting Florida Cities/Counties

Here is the latest oddity out of Florida: Homestead-exemption tax break, intended for resident homeowners who actually live in their Florida homes, is instead accruing to the banks that are repossessing homes via foreclosure. The Orlando Sentinel has the details: Local governments across the state are losing revenue because banks are getting the homestead-exemption tax…Read More

Category: Foreclosures, Real Estate, Really, really bad calls, Taxes and Policy