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    3:39PM

    Matt Taibbi Wrote Parts of 'Griftopia' Just for Imus

    Any book with a chapter entitled “The Biggest A-hole in the Universe” is obviously a book Imus would like, particularly when the A-hole in question is former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.
     
    So, thank you, Matt Taibbi, for writing Griftopia, a word he told Imus means “a paradise for grifters,” or “a thieves’ paradise.”
     
    “It was either that or ‘The Grifter Archipelago,’ and people don’t know what an archipelago is,” Taibbi, a writer for Rolling Stone, said,
     
    Griftopia focuses on the crimes and scams over the last decade or so that contributed to the economic meltdown of 2008, but Taibbi strove to make the book about more than just finance. “We wanted to make it about, how does this stuff happen and people don’t get upset about it?” he said. “How, politically, do these people get away with doing all these things?”
     
    Taibbi posits in Griftopia that political controversies in America are “manufactured distractions” that distract the electorate from important economic issues. “Because the reality is that the Democrats and the Republicans, in 90 percent of the areas, agree about a lot of the stuff that’s in this book,” he said. “And they were equally guilty in allowing all this stuff to happen.”
     
    Beyond a distracted public, Taibbi also blamed this country’s fiscal woes on an endless cycle of power and money changing hands. “We take government money, and give subsidies to the financial services industry and Wall Street, and those guys turn around and give it right back to the same politicians in the election season,” he said, and likened it to the way things worked when he lived in Russia in the 1990s.
     
    Some of the primary con victims of the whole scheme, according to Taibbi, are the people who call themselves Tea Partiers. “They’re victims of foreclosures, they’ve been wiped out by credit card debt, they’ve seen their pensions decrease in value because of all the stuff that I’m writing about in this book,” he said. “But they have been convinced to campaign against the regulation of any of these industries, because they think that’s in their interests, when in fact it’s not in their interests. It’s the opposite of their interests.”
     
    Part of what the Tea Party yearns for, he explained, is a return to simpler times; as such, they’d like to see a simple solution to America’s financial problems. “All these markets—stock market, commodities market, the mortgage market—it’s all become too complex for the ordinary person to understand,” Taibbi, who studied for six months to understand it himself, said. “It’s an incredibly difficult process and it’s very intimidating.”
     
    Afraid of actually having to learn something, people instead sign on to the easiest explanation available—in this case, that markets are good, and government is bad. “The principle might be correct, but the specifics are much more complicated than that,” Taibbi said.
     
    He opens Griftopia with a scene from Sarah Palin’s 2008 Republican convention speech, an address he found poignant because it pitted hard-working “small town people” against “other people” who don’t do any of the  “work.”
     
    “That became the big theme of the Tea Party—this politics of resentment,” he said. “They never really specify who those ‘other people’ are, but it’s not hard to figure out.”
     
    Race, he suspects, plays a big part of it, and so does a fierce sense of patriotism. “I think they genuinely have this idea that they are the real Americans,” he said of the Tea Party. “And these other people—they’re not just un-American. They’re literally not American, like in the case of Barack Obama.”
     
    Somebody who Imus definitely wishes was not an American—or even an Earthling for that matter—is the aforementioned Greenspan, whose chapter Taibbi wrote with Imus in mind.
     
    “You always like the character assassination aspect of my writing,” Taibbi told Imus. “I was going to make it a 2,000- or 3,000-word chapter, but it spawned into this 15,000-word just destruction. By the end it was like ‘Teen Wolf’—I had grown fangs, and hair on the back of my hands.”
     
    Imus suspects Griftopia will be worth all of Taibbi’s blood and sweat. In fact, he’s so sure of its success, he posed a challenge to the audience. “Buy the book,” he said. “If you don’t like it, send it to me. I’ll give you your money back.”
     
    -Julie Kanfer

    Reader Comments (1)

    The only problem with this book is that I wanted to put a gun in my mouth and shoot myself about half way through. While I have a slightly different perspective than the author (ex: I do NOT see Goldman execs as "Randian" characters, since they don't actually produce anything of value. They are more mercantilists, like those Adam Smith railed about.) I agree that the current political divisions seem directed at assuring that no on actually takes a hard look at the underlying problems.

    November 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie
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