Welcome Matt Taibbi, Taibblog, and Host TBogg

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

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

TBogg, Host:

In Mark Harris’ classic baseball novel, Bang The Drum Slowly, players and coaches for the mythical New York Mammoths (modeled after the New York Yankees) fill the dead hours spent in hotels while on road trips by adjourning to the hotel lobby where they make a show of playing a card game called “Tegwar”. Tegwar (The Exciting Game Without Any Rules) is a con game whose express purpose is to extract as much money as possible from the passing starstruck fans who want to join in yet don’t want to appear like rubes by admitting that they don’t know what the hell is going on in the game. Befuddled by nonsensical winning hands like Red Rooster, Banjo, Coney Island Tatey or Butchered Hog, but caught up in the glow of hanging out with real live major league ballplayers, the fans are easy pickings and, unsurprisingly,  the ballplayers always win.

Which brings us to America’s financial services industry.

In  Griftopia, Matt Taibbi  expands upon his legendary Rolling Stone article on Goldman Sachs which began:

The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.

…and explains how financial giants like Goldman benefit from the inchoate rage of the low information teabaggers. As Taibbi puts it:

The formal beginning of the Tea Party was a classic top-down media con. It took off after a February 20, 2009 rant on CNBC by a  shameless TV douchewad named Rick Santelli, who is today considered a pre-prophet for the Tea Party movement, a sort of financial John the Baptist who was dunking CNBC-viewer heads in middle class resentment before the real revolution began.

Of course, CNBC is more or less a propaganda organ for rapacious Wall street banks, funded by ad revenue from the financial services industry. That this fact seems to have escaped  the attention of the Tea Partiers who made Santelli an Internet hero is not surprising; one of the key psychological characteristics of the Tea Party is its oxymoronic love of authority figures coupled with a narcissistic celebration of its own “revolutionary” defiance. It’s this psychic weakness that allows this segment of the population to be manipulated by the likes of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. The advantage is that their willingness to take orders has allowed them to organize effectively (try getting one hundred progressives at a meeting focused on anything). The downside is, they see absolutely nothing weird in launching a revolution based upon the ravings of a guy who’s basically a half-baked PR stooge shoveling propaganda coal for bloodsucking transnational behemoths like JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.

Of course, as Griftopia documents, this is not to say that the draining of America’s precious body fluids is something that abruptly coincided with the election of the first black president…. although it would be easy to believe that if you lived in a Murdoch-centric universe. No, the foundation for America’s slow-motion ongoing economic Armageddon was almost single-handedly constructed by former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan,  aka,”The Biggest Asshole in the Universe“:

Former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan is that one-in-a-billion asshole who made America the dissembling mess that it is today. If his achievements were reversed, if this gnomish bug-eyed party crasher has managed to convert his weird social hang-ups into positive accomplishments, then today we’d be calling his career one of the greatest political fairy tales ever witnessed, an unlikeliest of ugly ducklings who through sheer pluck, cunning, and determination made it to the top and changed the world forever.

But that isn’t what happened. Greenspan’s rise is instead a tale of a gerbilish mirror-gazer who flattered and bullshitted his way up the Matterhorn of American power and then, once he got to the top, feverishly jacked himself off to the attentions of Wall Street for twenty consecutive years — in the process laying the intellectual foundation for a generation of orgiastic greed and overconsumption and turning the Federal Reserve into a permanent bailout mechanism for the super-rich.

What followed was a house of cards made of ever-evolving Tegwar-esque derivatives, credit default swaps, equity tranches, option-ARMs, commodity index investing, and sovereign wealth funds all designed to do one thing: suck money out of the system and into the all-consuming maw of the privileged few, all the while under the benign eye of  government officials  too compromised or  gun-shy to do anything about other than stand by and try to figure out how they can get a piece of the action. And when that house of cards tumbled over, guess who was left to foot the bill?

Welcome to Griftopia.

Population: you.

228 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Matt Taibbi, Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America”

TBogg November 27th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

First off, let me thank everyone for joining us on this holiday weekend. Well, at least you Americans, anyway You’ve probably had enough football over the past few days, so today we’re going to talk with Matt Taibbi about a cartel that’s even bigger than the BCS. Yes, there is such a thing. That would be the, as described in Griftopia, “ network of looters who sit at the nexus of American political power and economic power”. Those guys.

Matt. Are you there?

mzchief November 27th, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Hej guys and dolls …

BevW November 27th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Matt, Welcome back to the Lake.

TBogg, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

dakine01 November 27th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Taibbi, tbogg, and TEGWAR – only at a Book Salon

Good afternoon Matt and welcome back to FDL this afternoon. And good afternoon tbogg!

Matt, I have not had an opportunity to read your book but did read the original article at Rolling Stone as well as following the melt down as it has gone on. Vampire Squid has to be one of the all time great descriptors.

Did you get any push back from the Goldman Sachs people for that? Or do they still consider themselves so pristine and above reproach even though most of us would consider them as crooks stealing with the pen instead of the gun?

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:01 pm

There’s no such thing as too much football. Hello everyone, thanks for coming by…

Kathryn in MA November 27th, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Hey, Matt – i just bought your book online from Barnes&Noble for my droid! **giddy dance before the tsunami hits**

thingwarbler November 27th, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Tbogg, Matt, thx for making this happen. Matt, thx for an incredible read… panting thru Griftopia was a lot like, well, masturbating: incredible fun, totally “you” time, and extremely rewarding… but then there’s that gloomy, slightly guilty afterglow. Bit of downer, really, but of course I expect to go back and read it again as soon as I’ve recovered.

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:03 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 4

Dakine, I never heard directly from Goldman. I heard rumors about a lawsuit and this was communicated to me in a few different ways last summer, but one never panned out. But overall their strategy, and it’s a good one, is just to ignore people like me and let Americans’ natural apathy win out.

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Thanks Matt. Watching the Arkansas-LSU game as you speak.

I HAVE read your book — and recommended it to MANY friends. Thank you for such wonderful work. And also for those fabulous reviews of Tom Friedman’s ealier tomes that I just ran across. Ha!!!

Yes, Kathryn, one of the great things about Kindle, iPad et al. is we can get Matt’s work IMMEDIATELY. I can’t tell you how long it takes for something like that to show up in our one Maui bookstore, or to get mailed from the Mainland. [I'm talking three weeks at present for another ordered item.]

TBogg November 27th, 2010 at 2:04 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 5

To get things started (after the pleasantries), can you define what exactly you mean by Griftopia for us because the term ‘grifter’ is most often applied to Sarah Palin and she,thank you Jeebus,is only a small player in the book.

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:04 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 9

Mauimom — I like Mallet a lot as a quarterback, reminds me of Joe Flacco. I think he goes to Minnesota next year…

Elliott November 27th, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Matt,
Who did the wonderful origami on your book cover, and do you have it?

lsls November 27th, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I thought your interview on the street with Jesse Ventura was very cool. It, in my opinion, was a very good program that he put together. Your new book sounds great, and I look forward to reading it. How did you find Ventura personally? Not to put you on the spot ;)

rosalind November 27th, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Welcome Matt! I had the pleasure of meeting you and Nomi Prins at your great Largo event a few weeks back.

Fm Page 197: “Obama’s campaign deceptions on health care were both incredibly specific and grossly serial in nature, and are suggestive not of an idealiistic politician who was forced to change course once reality set in but of one who spearheaded a comprehensive, intentional, campaign strategy to buy votes with empty promises”

Is there anyone in the vicinity of the White House who understands this is the root of so much anger and disappointment with President Obama? Only the most cynical reading of President Obama’s actions vs. Candidate Obama’s rhetoric seem to explain where we find ourselves now as a Country.

thingwarbler November 27th, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Matt, you’re wading around in this cess-pool of ours every day, sniffing around in places that no saner person should be made to go (a bit like when tbogg ventures off and reads wingnut blogs so the rest of us can be spared that ordeal). How do you manage not to just go insane with rage and throw in the towel? As mauimom mentions, you skewered little Tommy waay back when, and yet for some reason Mr. Friedman is still allowed to opine about anything and everything. Will we ever wake up and realize this was just a sick dream brought on by too much stuffing?

emptywheel November 27th, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Matt, welcome to the Lake.

TBogg, thanks for hosting.

Matt, I have to thank you. I started reading this just a few days after the election. It really crystallized the completely predicted numbness I was experiencing.

Not that that helps us get out of this mess–but at least it was great reading.

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:06 pm
In response to TBogg @ 10

TBogg, “Griftopia” I suppose technically means a “Con Man’s Paradise.” A grifter is an old Atlantic City term for a street con artist. I thought that word captured what the current Wall Street situation was all about because most of their profit schemes these days are actually elaborate con games — not so much open stealing or embezzlement, or taking by force (although there is an element of that, too) as it is theft by trickery and diversion.

eCAHNomics November 27th, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Hi Matt,

Did you notice that the ONLY income segment whose income rose last year were those ‘EARNING’ (not assets of) above $52 million/year; or words to that effect; I’ve lost the link. Do you think that real people will ever get tired of a smaller & smaller % of pop getting richer & richer?

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:08 pm
In response to lsls @ 13

IsIs, I liked Jesse a lot. We hung out and had a diner meal together during the course of that day and he told me a couple of amazing stories, among them one about getting bounced from his MSNBC cable job because of his antiwar views. I think he’s a little nuts but basically honest, which is more than I can say for all but a handful of people I’ve met in politics.

UncertaintyVicePrincipal November 27th, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Hi Matt, enjoyed the book.

You have to admit that there’s something comic about the way this has played out, that while the world looked to the United States as the great dream of the broad middle class that anyone could attain, Americans, given this nearly unprecedented opportunity, run out and do all they can to create an aristocracy instead.

My question is: do you think this is simply a matter of human nature? After chronicling post-Soviet Russia and now here, do you think that humanity is doomed to create these ruling/ruled arrangements, partly because of the psychological quirk that humans can be more motivated by fantasies of unlimited riches and dominance than by the more modest but far more realistic rewards of being middle class and just having enough?

PhilPerspective November 27th, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Thanks for being her Matt!! I have one question. I don’t know if it was mentioned in the book. And that subject is Pete Peterson. Does he fund any of the Tea Parties? Or does he just corrupt the other elites and buy them off(including one Senator Obama) to spew his view point. That view point being to impoverish the masses as much as possible.

eCAHNomics November 27th, 2010 at 2:09 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 8

Check. USG ignoring wikileaks turns out to be good tactic too.

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 2:09 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 11

Gee, what makes you think MN will be looking for a quarterback????????? It would be fun to see Mallet in that offense.

Clearly you need to rant with bmaz and Marcy.

Okay, back to the subject at hand: I read a comment from someone who’d attended one of your book tour events. He/she said they’d asked you “what could we do” to battle the vampire squid, and your response was that entities like the SEC were among the few that could have any effect.

Care to elaborate a little more on that? I know the bottom line question for many of us.

PS – LSU just scored.

Siun November 27th, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Amazing book – and wow, FDL book salon with Matt and Tbogg! a perfect afternoon.

Thanks so much for coming by to chat with us.

Frank33 November 27th, 2010 at 2:10 pm

I went to Borders and they had two copies that had been sold. Then I went to Barnes&Nobles, and they had four copies and now they have three.

I have tried to contribute or let us say slightly rough up the golden ones of Goldman Sachs. The Justice Dept. is prosecuting a GS fraudster Sergey Aleynikov who stole GS Flash Trading Code. He does deny it.
The”Doomsday Machine” is scary because someone could use it to manipulate markets in unfair ways. Don’t laugh. Fortunately, for GS, the legality of anything they do is not an issue.

In addition, because of the way this software interfaces with the various markets and exchanges, the bank [Goldman Sachs] has raised a possibility that there is a danger that somebody who knew how to use this program could use it to manipulate markets in unfair ways…Prosecutors asserted in their motion that “the legality of high-frequency trading is not an issue here.”

I posted at the Great Orange Satan. Sadly, they have unplugged me. Meteor Blades, I love you guys. Was it something I said? I do not love the censorship and disinformation that co-opts, paralyzes and neutralizes Daily Kos and the Democratic faction of the Democratic Party.

I encourage everyone to sign on there, and at least promote “Griftopia”.

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Uncertainty, I think as time goes on we’re going to discover that the broad middle class that existed in the Western democracies after WWII was an anomaly in world history and that things, as Chinua Achebe said, tend to “fall apart” toward massive income disparity and aristocracy. It takes tremendous effort and political organization to achieve what we used to have and I wonder how easy it will be to get back.

parsnip November 27th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Matt, fan here…I haven’t yet read Griftopia (just the parking meter excerpt), but have a question: What do you think the endgame is here, after they’ve sold off the infrastructure, and pumped the gas wells dry?

From your recent interview posted at AlterNet, about Russia after the fall of the USSR:

They wanted to get the money and get out of the country as quickly as possible. They might steal the money from the government and buy a villa in France. That was the modus operandi in those years. That’s how I see the financial services industry in America with the mortgage scam.

I have a problem understanding the foreclosures if the endgame is to sell off and get out. If it’s to cover up their crimes, destroying evidence of the mortgages, what’s the need? Government is in their pocket. It seems only small-time investors are dumb enough to buy up the foreclosed houses now.It has seemed to me all along that the houses were merely a means to the end of vampiring up the wealth, and they don’t really give a fig for the houses, or the screw-up of property/land title.

Thanks for joining us today.

I wonder if RK Arnold ever realized he’d become a patsy when he was selected to create MERS.

Ruth Calvo November 27th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Thanks for putting this together, all, and Matt Taibbi for talking to us. After watching everything they put together to build up their own wealth dissolve into the present meltdown, do you think that the grifters themselves believe the myth that there is just a lack of consumer confidence to overcome, and once we’re all panting after their latest hoax again we can all get back up and continue the mythical hunt for the beast/Mammon?

blenkinsop November 27th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Matt, thanks for stopping by and for all of your work, you are certainly about the most entertaining as well as informative journalists we have today. How do you think the tax cut and catfood commission controversies will shake out? Will Obama finally show some spine or will the plutocrats have their way as usual?

Scarecrow November 27th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Matt, you describe in one of your MJ articles and book your experience in a court room with the rocket docket judges. Did he finally get you excluded from that and other foreclosure hearings? And what kind of reaction have you had from Fla authorities about efforts to keep those proceedings closed?

PhilPerspective November 27th, 2010 at 2:13 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 17

So basically a more refined, legally protected Henry Gondorff? Obviously the con is a lot bigger, also, too.

thingwarbler November 27th, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Matt,

You highlight time and again in the book how morally and culturally tone-deaf the honchos at Goldman come across: arrogant, elitist etc. etc. Time and again they seem to get all the proof they need that they really are invincible and have covered their ass by getting all their friends strategically placed in positions of power. Is there anything you see as a potential weakness that could bring them back down to earth and to justice? Hubris?

duncan November 27th, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Hi Matt, what did you think of the Jon Stewart rally? What about the latest flap over TSA groping?

Are there the beginnings of pushback in the land, or will apathy and cowardice win out?

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:14 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 30

Scarecrow I was not actually thrown out of that courtroom, but thanks to a coalition of ACLU lawyers and press advocates pressure was applied and the Florida Supreme Court forced the city of Jacksonville (and all foreclosure courts) to adopt new rules and put proceedings in open courtrooms. It was kind of a cool thing, actually.

Scarecrow November 27th, 2010 at 2:15 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 16

Agree. It’s also one of the funniest, heartbreaking and dismaying descriptions of our times. The picture of total corruption and fad everywhere is stunning.

But what is to be done? Where, Matt, do we even begin to confront this monster the banks have created? Any thoughts?

pseudonymousinnc November 27th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Good to have you here, Matt. Simple question: what’s the end scenario? Some kind of farcical reprise of post-Communist Russia where, instead of cushy deals to take chunks of privatized energy industries, you have an oligarchy generating tax cuts and free rein out of teabagger resentment? When there’s nothing tangible being sucked out of the ground and sold for cash money, that shit can’t go on forever.

parsnip November 27th, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Matt, Have you read any/been influenced by the writings of Catherine Austin Fitts?

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I’m laughing [with tears in my eyes] at all of the “Lexus December to Remember” and “buy your sweetie a BMW” ads that pollute my non-stop football watching.

I mean, how many MOTU are there, and how many BMWs can they buy?

TBogg November 27th, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Okay Matt. You have, like, twenty questions to answer. I’m just going to set mine aside and let you field what you can.

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:18 pm
In response to thingwarbler @ 32

Thingwarbler –

Obviously the total lack of empathy/awareness of what ordinary people are going through is a major character weakness of a lot of these people, but I’m not sure yet how that translates into a material/political weakness. It is a new thing for investment banks like Goldman to have to worry about their public image, and I’m not sure they’re doing such a great job at it. One thing that is a major problem for them however is the perception that they steal from their own clients, which will eventually cause big institutional customers to stop using them for i-banking services. I hear that’s already happening.

Shoto November 27th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

…things, as Chinua Achebe said, tend to “fall apart” toward massive income disparity and aristocracy. It takes tremendous effort and political organization to achieve what we used to have and I wonder how easy it will be to get back.

Thank you for being here, Matt. It’s a privilege.

It seems clear to me that social upheaval (or some cousin of that) is likely to result as a consequence of the increasing income disparity. Given how difficult it is for a large bloc of people to organize around a particular issue, how do you see things playing out here in the US? What’s the “end game,” if you will.

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 2:18 pm
In response to TBogg @ 39

Have you asked him about the pups, and shown him pictures?

UncertaintyVicePrincipal November 27th, 2010 at 2:18 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 26

I think you may be right. Paul Krugman has a blog post yesterday by the way in which he said something similar about the macroeconomic part of that, and I quote:

Specifically, I now suspect that the kind of moderate economic policy regime Brad and I both support – a regime that by and large lets markets work, but in which the government is ready both to rein in excesses and fight slumps – is inherently unstable. It’s something that can last for a generation or so, but not much longer.

PhilPerspective November 27th, 2010 at 2:18 pm
In response to TBogg @ 39

My guess is that this will end up being one of the more popular Book Salons. ;-)

afterthought November 27th, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Thank you for your efforts.

ghostof911 November 27th, 2010 at 2:19 pm

To what degree are the market manipulators in the U.S. responsible for economic distress in the countries in Europe – Iceland, Greece, Ireland, now Portugal?

eCAHNomics November 27th, 2010 at 2:19 pm
In response to parsnip @ 37

I merember Austin Fitts when we were both at Goldman Sucks. Though we never really interacted.

wmd1961 November 27th, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Hi Matt. Your writing has been inspiring to many people.

How do we get the 28%ers to understand that this isn’t conservative vs liberal? It’s filthy rich vs middle class – and we get a shiny object du jour to keep it from entering most people’s world view.

We need sound bite level marketing to change this.

Scarecrow November 27th, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Matt, I recently read a joint interview with you and a coupla of establishment types . . . David Gergen? . . . Who recoiled at your descriptions of the T party. . . Its as though they were in different universe. They couldnt accept.the notion that a whole mass of people could be mostly nuts, or as you once said, full of it. So, I’m wondering what the general reaction to the stories in the book has been. Do they recognized themselves?

eCAHNomics November 27th, 2010 at 2:21 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 40

It is a new thing for investment banks like Goldman to have to worry about their public image, and I’m not sure they’re doing such a great job at it.

Um, no. I was there from 1976-1985 & their public image was just fine. What Goldman Sucks learned in the intervening years is their pubic image didn’t matter, becuz as of the Clinton administration they had so captured the USG that they didn’t need to worry about the great unwashed.

lakezoarian November 27th, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Hi Matt, a Congressman in my state (Connecticut) came to the position direct from his job at Goldman Sachs. His name is Jim Himes. He’s mostly pretty popular, but I have my reservations. What should I be watching out for, and is there anything I can do as an activist?

kall November 27th, 2010 at 2:22 pm

I’m headed out the door to dinner so don’t have time for anything except to remark that Griftopia was terrific. I actually got 2 copies – one for my e-reader and a hardcover, because I decided to get an e-reader after pre-ordering the book and wanted to read it on that, but I have a guy in mind to give the book to – I gave him Spanking the Donkey too. You have a real talent for making complicated subject matter accessible and understandable to people without dumbing it down.

DrDick November 27th, 2010 at 2:22 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 40

While in human terms, this is obviously a character flaw, I think it is also a prerequisite for doing their jobs and is carefully cultivated.

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 2:23 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 40

I’ve been operating under the assumption that if the Wall Street assclowns destroy the middle class, there will be no one left to buy products, to create demand and fuel the economy.

I know that the grifters make their money fairly much apart from the “business” core [i.e., in their casino games], but do they have ANY interest at all in not destroying the bottom 2/3 of America? I mean BUSINESS concern, since it’s clear they have no MORAL concern.

Or do they just operate so far apart from what we usually think of as the “normal” business sector in America that its destruction is irrelevant to them?

[My husband's answer: American businesses will just sell their products to China, Vietnam & India.]

PS (aka Public Service announcement): Arkansas scores with 0:00 left in the half.

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Pseudonymous, when I first put this book out, my attitude toward the “What do we do now?” question was that this wasn’t my problem and that my job sort of ends at describing what’s happening. But I’m now realizing that that’s a cop out and I’ve had to think a lot about it.

I think they will keep trying to move the consumer economy and the various key markets (i.e. home lending) forward by bailouts/government fiat/smoke-and-mirrors tricks like QE. Pump the banks full of cheap money from the Fed and then push it into the economy and pretend that this is growth in time for the 2012 election.

Obviously this doesn’t work in the long run and at some point there will need to be a reckoning with the fact that we have no manufacturing economy left and 300 million people to support. And… well, let me come back to this

thingwarbler November 27th, 2010 at 2:23 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 40

But the fact that they are still (and increasingly so, with the recent Supreme Court decision) able to bribe their way to happiness and a huge legislative comfort zone surely goes a long way towards alleviating any potential trouble on the political front. I do like the notion that the customers of GS might in fact turn out to do the right thing and abandon them…

wmd1961 November 27th, 2010 at 2:24 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 50

when did Goldman go public? At that point their Public Relations had to change somewhat if only to keep investors happy.

kall November 27th, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Oh yeah, and David Gergen clutching his pearls at your suggestion that the Tea Party is mostly nuts was priceless. Unfortunately, he represents conventional journalism these days, which is a big reason why things are so screwed up…

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:26 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 54

Maui, I think your husband is right, I don’t think they care at all. Preserving the middle class for the sake of long-term financial health is so much further beyond the immediate goal of HOW DO I GET A BIG BONUS FOR MYSELF THIS YEAR? that none of these guys will ever get there… that is too meta of a question for all but a few, and the few that would think about it with the ability to impact the question, the Blankfeins etc, will not think about it in a positive way, let’s put it that way.

eCAHNomics November 27th, 2010 at 2:27 pm
In response to wmd1961 @ 57

Quite awhile after I left. Maybe 1990s sometime. Still their image was fine, until they figured out it didn’t matter. In fact, once they became public & partners were no longer liable, behavior deteriorated markedly. In economics, it’s called the agency problem.

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:27 pm
In response to kall @ 58

kall –

Hilarious story: Gergen apparently mistook me for Matt Bai of the New York Times. That is why he kept expressing surprise at my opinions. Apparently he expected less hostility from a NYT reporter!

DrDick November 27th, 2010 at 2:28 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 59

I agree completely. I do not think many or most of these people are really all that bright and certainly are not given to thinking things through and considering the potential consequences of their actions.

ghostof911 November 27th, 2010 at 2:29 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 59

Time in jail is wonderful for making those kinds of reflections. Bernie Madoff now has plenty time to think about meta questions.

wmd1961 November 27th, 2010 at 2:29 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 55

US still has manufacturing – in fact it is still in number 1 in manufacturing production worldwide (at least it was comfortably ahead of number 2 China in 2008). The amount of employment in manufacturing has dropped a great deal in the past 30-50 years, most of which is due to productivity – both of labor and capital. The margins enabled by productivity growth have flowed towards capital unfortunately.

thingwarbler November 27th, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Matt, if you get a chance, please expand a bit on the growth of the Sovereign wealth funds and where you see them fit in as we move ahead — I found your coverage of the haphazard sale of our infrastructure striking and quite shocking. It would appear there isn’t going to be political will to stop the sales from happening, but how do you see it playing out as budget holes continue to need filling and the temptation to hock the community silver lingers?

TBogg November 27th, 2010 at 2:30 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 59

If there is one thing that I want to bring the conversation around to, it is the chapter ‘The Outsourced Highway” about sovereign wealth funds. Outside of China pretty much owning us economically, I found the idea of selling off our infrastructure even more disturbing. Is this going to be a bigger problem going forward?

eCAHNomics November 27th, 2010 at 2:30 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 59

Ties into my earlier Q, about income distribution, which you skipped over in the rush of early Qs.

gnarlytrombone November 27th, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Matt, it seems to me that we now have many more means for people to dumb themselves down, be it the media or e-mail chains, than in past crises. What’s your take?

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:31 pm
In response to lakezoarian @ 51

lake, Himes sits on the committee for Capital Markets… watch what he does w/regard to the Volcker rule and the rollback of Dodd-Frank, pathetic as it was.

Virtually the entire tri-state area delegation is bankrolled by the financial services industry and they vote as a bloc and are powerful during the conference process. NY-NJ-CT submarined the Lincoln rule and gutted Volcker during the Dodd-Frank thing.

TBogg November 27th, 2010 at 2:31 pm
In response to thingwarbler @ 65

Yeah. What thingwarbler said…

tejanarusa November 27th, 2010 at 2:33 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 61

Oh, perfect! That story was soooo revealing! It made fall right in love with you from afar – who else ever states the truth to guys like him?

Btw, just got home w/ my new copy of Griftopia, from B&N – I left the other copy fac ing out, covering the facing-out copies of K Rove’s “book.”

Borders supposedly had 9 copies but- conspiracy? – they couldn’t find any of them! So I haven’t been able to read the book, but have read your RS pieces, and especially love the foreclosure one.
If you never do anything else good, you can be proud of shifting the foreclosure courts to openness.
The idea that anyone could be forbidden to listen to a public court hearing of any kind is…well, once I’d have called it un-American…

Ruth Calvo November 27th, 2010 at 2:33 pm
In response to TBogg @ 66

In TX, Perry is using builders from other countries to perform needed road building, for toll roads which we get to pay for after and before the fact. And the stimulus funds to fill in other holes. I believe he’s going to run for the WH promising to perform more such hat and rabbit tricks.

eCAHNomics November 27th, 2010 at 2:33 pm
In response to TBogg @ 66

TBogg,

In the good-ole-daze of Japan dominating the world economy, the U.S. could count on selling it to the Japanese dear & buying it back cheap. (Think Rock Center.) Maybe can do this to the Chinese too, but they seem a lot more savvy. But maybe not.

wmd1961 November 27th, 2010 at 2:33 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 61

Tea Partiers need a dose of reality. Getting it to them in a way they can accept it is a problem – they easily buy myths, facts are harder.

Bumper sticker and sound bite level marketing is needed. And while I like “Eat the Rich” it won’t fly with the Tea Party.

Hmm… Short pithy quotes from Ben Franklin, Adam Smith about progressive taxation could fly.

blenkinsop November 27th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Matt, do you think the recent SEC action against insider trading is important or just a sideshow that deflects attention from the foreclosure mess and the weapons of mass financial destruction?

kafka November 27th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Matt Taibbi – telling the stories the whores in the MSM won’t tell (because they’re paid not to).

gmoke November 27th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

With the clear object lesson of Iceland’s experience (banksters pay for their own losses) and Ireland (austerity for the poor to pay off the banksters) do you think that this may be some leverage in changing the stupidity of our public discourse?

Do you know Dmitry Orlov and his work on the collapse gap? Seems that you two are working different sides of the same street.

tejanarusa November 27th, 2010 at 2:35 pm
In response to TBogg @ 66

Agreed! Seems to me that one reason the old joke of selling a rube the Brooklyn Bridge has lasted so long is that we deeply feel that such things must belong to the people/state/government, not be able to bought and sold.

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:35 pm
In response to TBogg @ 66

TBogg, yes, there are dozens of these deals in the pipeline right now, including more parking meter deals. Indianapolis just became the latest major city to do one. Many cities, including Los Angeles, are selling public parking lot revenue (including often airport parking lot revenue). It’s a friction-free way for executives to get their hands on cash without raising taxes, so it’s growing. I think it’ll be a while before the public comes around on this stuff, although some notoriety (the Indy deal was nicknamed “Son of Chicago”) will help defame this practice.

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 2:35 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 59

My husband, of course, is delighted to have his analysis validated by you.

But what about the non-Grifters? There are a hell of a lot of “top of the mountain” people out there — ones who run Wal-Mart and Microsoft and Accura and home building companies etc.

Do THEY get it, because THEIR bonuses aren’t generated by these middle class-destroying activities of the vampire squid? Are they any better?

To his credit, Warren Buffett has spoken up and asked that he and other billionaires be taxed at a greater rate. I think his sentiment comes from feelings of fairness, but he’s among those I’d expect to recognize the business suicide of destroying the middle class.

wmd1961 November 27th, 2010 at 2:35 pm
In response to TBogg @ 70

Dubai Ports deal got stopped by a nativist (know nothing) response. So did Unocal sale to China National Petroleum.

DrDick November 27th, 2010 at 2:36 pm
In response to wmd1961 @ 74

I do not think anything will work there. They only hear what supports their pre-existing worldview. They will reject anything which challenges that worldview and call you a liar for saying it. Take the whole “controversy” over the constitutional separation of church and state.

TBogg November 27th, 2010 at 2:37 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 79

Unfortunately these are not getting the kind of press that the Bush Dubai port deal received.

DrDick November 27th, 2010 at 2:37 pm
In response to wmd1961 @ 81

One hates to admit that these dimwitted yahoos occasionally have their uses, even from our side.

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:38 pm
In response to blenkinsop @ 75

blenkinsop, I don’t know the extent of the investigation yet, but people are telling me it’s going to be mostly confined to the practice of hiring consultants who feed inside info on things like medical mergers. Some of those companies however are linked to SAC capital which is at the seat of some very serious systemic controversies, including the Lehman collapse, where there were allegations of mass collusion/insiderisms on the part of hedgies and i-banks that got short of Lehman and then blew it up. If the investigation goes there it will be very interesting… there are multiple Watergates in that Sep-August 2008 period.

lsls November 27th, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Shovel ready outsourcing.

kall November 27th, 2010 at 2:39 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 61

That is pretty funny. Anyways, I’m Canadian, so I kind of understand your original perspective on writing Griftopia from the standpoint of simply reporting what was going on with some detachment of “it’s not my problem” as to what can be done to change it.

But it’s pretty clear to me that when your guys’ financial sector has the ability to torpedo the world economy, it is my problem, and everyone else’s. Just powerless to do anything about it up here, which is even more frustrating.

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 2:40 pm

A question I asked earlier, @ #23, when we were joshing about football:

***I read a comment from someone who’d attended one of your book tour events. He/she said they’d asked you “what could we do” to battle the vampire squid, and your response was that entities like the SEC were among the few that could have any effect.

Care to elaborate a little more on that? I know the bottom line question for many of us.***

I don’t believe this has been answered.

wmd1961 November 27th, 2010 at 2:41 pm
In response to DrDick @ 82

Nothing will work over night.

Repetition with some variation will work eventually. Hell, in addition to Founding Fathers on progressive taxes there’s Friedrich Hayek on social health insurance. Fricking Hayek saying socialized health insurance isn’t part of the dreaded “Road to Serfdom” right in the eponymous book.

thingwarbler November 27th, 2010 at 2:42 pm
In response to TBogg @ 83

What struck me was how easy it was to wrap the whole thing in enough layers of Wall Street-esque mumbo-jumbo to effectively disguise who became the final “owner”. Not that I think it matters much whether the owner is in Dubai or in the Hamptons, if their end goal is always basically to suck us all dry, but just as with the mortgage bundling etc. it does makes it harder to renegotiate or complain about the deal if it’s complete opaque who you’re now beholden to.

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:42 pm
In response to gnarlytrombone @ 68

gnarly, the problem I see is that our media habits tend more and more toward short-attention-span products, little boxes and inserts in magazines, 30-second pieces on TV news, while our economy is becoming more gnarled and complex by the second, impossible to cover in a short space. I just needed all of 6000 words to do a foreclosure piece, even to just explain the basics, and I had to leave a lot out… impossible to do this stuff on TV, that leaves so many people without a clue.

TBogg November 27th, 2010 at 2:43 pm
In response to kall @ 87

A good example of how these guys can torpedo the world economy can be found in the AIG chapter where Goldman Sachs basically held a gun to AIG’s head demanding cash, knowing fully well the the bullet would kill everyone in the room. Basically, economic hostage taking.

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 2:43 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 91

I just needed all of 6000 words to do a foreclosure piece, even to just explain the basics, and I had to leave a lot out… impossible to do this stuff on TV, that leaves so many people without a clue.

Jane had a comment here this week about some tv dweeb saying to you [re the subject matter of Griftopia], “it’s complicated, so we’ll give you six minutes.”

Scarecrow November 27th, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Matt, you’re one of the few with a significant audience who follows the trail of pervasive fraud from the mortgage brokers and originators through the banks and trustees and securitizers and the feedback that gave to the flagging housing market to push even more worthless mortgages on the public, to the fraud on the investors and how the banks are struggling still to cover that up. As you note, it’s a huge story, very complicated, takes pages of careful writing to explain. So naturally, it can’t be presented on the news. Most of the media segment these stories into little pieces, so it’s hard to see how massive and pervasive it all became. the entire financial system failed and became corrupt, and it’s mostly still there. How do we overcome the complexity and get the story out that were being plundered?

Shoto November 27th, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Matt: Last week, Shelia Bair indicated that the large banks were doing just fine, but that problems still existed with the smaller ones. I agree with the latter, but not with the former. What’s your observation on this? Also, do you know of pressure being put on the outside auditors to toy around with “mark-to-market” FASB pronouncements? That seems to be a major lynch pin in keeping this house of cards standing.

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:46 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 88

Maui, the regulators still have enormous power. I don’t remember saying that but the Fed, the SEC, the OTS, the FDIC, the CFTC etc, the IRS, they all have the tools to police a lot of the more obvious scams withut additional legislation. But the problem is that many of the people currently sitting in these positions don’t see that as their role. They could have and should have forced the ratings agencies to take a perp walk years ago for instance, and have not.

wmd1961 November 27th, 2010 at 2:47 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 91

Spot on.

To combat the propaganda we need a way of putting facts out there in sound bites. We’ve got a marketing problem – we need a simple Big True message to counter the Big Lie. Truth needs to sleep with its boots on and stand up before the Lie makes its way around the world.

While 50% of the population has an IQ under 100 the converse is also true. And it isn’t the majority of the above average intelligence cohort that is pushing the Lies.

thingwarbler November 27th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Matt, I’m in Vermont where we have a fairly strong tradition of yankee stubbornness (we’ve also inflicted Bernie Sanders on DC for some time now). We have a fairly vibrant (if delusional and at times tea-baggy) secessionist movement, but I do wonder at what point a state like ours is going to realize that DC and the Beltway power players really are a net loss for the local economy — and how to make it clear to the citizens who want “less taxes, more services” that their taxes are largely going to DC, while the services they require remain local. That disconnect plays so nicely into the power brokers of the day… Any thoughts on that dynamic of local vs. Fed as the financial crunch gets crunchier?

TBogg November 27th, 2010 at 2:48 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 91

Which brings us to another point. As Brad DeLong often says, “why can’t we have a better press?” It seems that all too often economic issues are treated as political issues and political reporters don’t have the background or the desire to “get into the weeds” like you do. Obviously the problem is lack of space and, quite frankly, it can be boring as hell when reporters are auditioning for Politico where the horse race is everything and policy is bo-ring.

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:49 pm
In response to ShotoJamf @ 95

Shoto, I agree with you. I bet most of the large banks are really functionally insolvent, if we were to actually mark their assets on their balance sheets according to their real values. They all have mountains of MBS and bonds that are being marked near par when they are worth 10-2- cents on the dollar.

The small banks are in bad shape as well, of course partly because the Too Big to Fail thing screws them — since only the big guys have the implicit guarantee of the state, the small banks have to pay more to borrow money, which puts them at a major disadvantage and is the reason for the surge in bank failures in recent months.

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 2:49 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 96

I guess the question is is there any way of making the regulators EXERCISE that power?

Clearly relying on Obama to motivate/direct them is not a viable option.

Suggestions?

RevBev November 27th, 2010 at 2:49 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 96

How can they not see that as their role? What do they expect to do?

TBogg November 27th, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Matt, you’re one of the few with a significant audience who follows the trail of pervasive fraud from the mortgage brokers and originators through the banks and trustees and securitizers and the feedback that gave to the flagging housing market to push even more worthless mortgages on the public, to the fraud on the investors and how the banks are struggling still to cover that up.

Yeah. No pressure, Matt. We’re all just counting on you. No pressure at all.

DrDick November 27th, 2010 at 2:51 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 96

We have suffered systematic regulatory capture for the past 30 years, to the point where the regulators are in the pockets of those they regulate.

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:51 pm
In response to TBogg @ 99

TBogg in defense of most reporters, most of the ones I know who are doing say the campaign trail stuff have absolutely zero leeway to venture into anything real with regard to the economy — no space, no time. On the other hand, none of them know a whole lot about it, either. Most of us campaign trail types are trained to look at the NYSE and the unemployment numbers — if those are good, we say the economy is strong, etc. I was in a unique position because my bosses were supportive of me taking time out to spend months dwelling on things like the commodities bubble.

tejanarusa November 27th, 2010 at 2:52 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 96

There’s another big part of the problem – and silly me, I thought that was Bush-era problem, and would be solved when we got (sigh) a Democrat into office.

Once that attitutde sets in, and those kinds of people are appointed, and the population begins to see it as the norm, I think we’re headed the way of the banana republics. See, e.g., Mexico – Revolution and all, it seems impossible to reverse. See also, Russia, where the longing for a strong leader to make all decisions is allowing Putin to take them back to the bad old days.

tanukisauce November 27th, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I realize that, if you were going to answer every question posed to you, you’d be here for hours, so feel free to skip to the questions at the bottom of the post, or skip the entire post all together:
It seems to me that most (weasel word, I’m aware) economists who believe that the government (that is, anyone who isn’t an Austrian) can have a positive effect on markets are proponents of QE (while some say that there is not enough of it).
I haven’t finished the entire book, but I know you mentioned (I’m very loosely paraphrasing)that QE was an insane money-printing scheme.
You also mentioned that you believed (paraphrasing again) that the Fed would be a positive force if they and Wall Street were in the least bit honest, so I infer that you fall in the camp for government intervention.
Considering that most of the Fed’s policy is enacted through Wall Street, is it worth disabling the Fed to stop them from enabling Wall Street?
Also, do you think that those proponents of QE are just naive and making the assumption that the Fed and Wall Street are still honest, or are they complicit in the whole scheme? Or is the entire economics profession corrupt?
Finally: What did you think of Inside Job? I assume you’ve seen it.

GlenJo November 27th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Matt, huge fan, TBogg, thanks for organizing this.

Like others, my question is the end game on all this – how do you see this playing out? Will Obama grow a spine? Or will Wall St and TBTF bailouts continue without end? How do the Republicans handle Teabagger rage when the Teabaggers finally wake up?

TIA!

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:55 pm
In response to RevBev @ 102

RevBev–

Most of these people are accustomed to accepting the arguments of the industry leaders reflexively. They are not geared toward questions of systemic fraud. Regulators prefer to capture individual miscreants committing obvious crimes. The Geithners and Greenspans and Bernankes do not see it as their job to revamp whole industry practices like the mismarking of AAA MBS or front-running in the commodities markets or HFT corruption (computerized insider trading). On the HFT stuff, you had banks that went whole quarters last year without posting a single losing day trading on the NYSE. That is impossible without fraud. But the regulators will not touch these huge questions.

AdamPDX November 27th, 2010 at 2:56 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 96

The United States is out trillions of dollars. Do the regulators think that’s business in usual in the USA?

RevBev November 27th, 2010 at 2:58 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 109

Thank you. Can change come about? We’ll see, I guess. This has been very helpful.

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 2:58 pm
In response to TBogg @ 103

Matt, are you getting any recognition from either other reporters, Big Cheese Media Types [i.e., those on the Sunday Morning gas-fests], or some not-completely-in-the-pocket-of-industry political types re your work — recognition of how complicated and far-reaching the problems are, that few understand them, etc.?

lsls November 27th, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Where’s the money?

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 2:58 pm
In response to tanukisauce @ 107

Tan, the question of abolishing the Fed feels a little above my pay grade. I’m not sure how that would work. But QE seems like lunacy to me. It’s a gross handout to the banks and it hammers individuals via the effect on daily prices. I don’t see how it doesn’t have a hyperinflationary effect at some point.

egregious November 27th, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Outstanding book – enjoy seeing you on television – keep up the good work.

wmd1961 November 27th, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Will Elizabeth Warren be able to do anything with the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection?

might that be a place where the mortgage fraud stops?

Shoto November 27th, 2010 at 2:59 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 109

That is impossible without fraud. But the regulators will not touch these huge questions.

What are the regulators afraid of…if that’s even the correct way to state it?

tejanarusa November 27th, 2010 at 2:59 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 109

Whose job do you suppose they believe it is? Do they think industries will simply wake up and “self-regulate?”

Ruth Calvo November 27th, 2010 at 3:00 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 109

The industry leaders seem to think that if they wait long enough, there will be enough consumer confidence building up to start back into the same groove, without ever valuing their toxic holdings down – so all the loss will be that of consumers. Had a WaPo economics writer declaring on Washington Journal that consumers have the money to Go Shopping, it’s all just in savings right now, and we’re holding up the business world from returning to full employment. Honestly, it seems they have their own bubble world and are not, not, not going to see through the soap film

wmd1961 November 27th, 2010 at 3:02 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 114

The question is where the QE money goes. It seems like a lot of it (so far) ended up in Brazil, China and other Emerging Markets.

They end up owing Treasuries with less buying power – inflation is exported.

UncertaintyVicePrincipal November 27th, 2010 at 3:02 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 61

I just want to add that this is priceless. “Oh my god, I agreed to sit down with whom??” I think you should consider wearing an actual disguise next time. Then at the right moment, like the old Mission Impossible shows, you could pull off the David Broder mask.

Teddy Partridge November 27th, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Dear Matt Taibbi –

You, sir, are a national treasure. Please, never change. Brought up on the writings of HST, I can say with clarity and conviction that you are a proper heir to his tradition of tale-telling: precise like a scalpel, with no cow sacred.

Thanks for everything you do. Also: more teevee, please.

A fan,
Teddy Partridge

lakezoarian November 27th, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Thanks for answering my question about Jim Himes awhile back in the thread. I’ll be watching…

I am curious about something else, that seems a bit mysterious. It’s regarding Senator Dodd’s sudden and unexpected announcement that he would not be running for re-election. That took a lot of us for surprise. But I don’t remember anyone, at least within the regular “MyLeftNutmeg” community, speculating about anything deeper than, uhh, “I’ve had enough, time to pass the baton” sort of thing. Any thoughts on that?

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 3:03 pm
In response to GlenJo @ 108

GlenJo,

Obama will not grow a spine and the TeaBaggers will never get a clue. I just don’t see it. I spent literally hours one afternoon trying to explain the commodities bubble to a crowd of TeaBaggers in Kentucky. Not one of them got it after hours and hours. My hopes in that regard are very faint.

I will say that I met plenty of people in Jefferson Cty Alabama who hated JP Morgan Chase for jacking up their sewer bills. BUt it took something like that.

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Had a WaPo economics writer declaring on Washington Journal that consumers have the money to Go Shopping, it’s all just in savings right now,

Wow, that WaPoo fool needs to come on over to my house where we’re attempting to support, in addition to ourselves (both on social security), two recent college graduates [2008 and 2010] who can’t find jobs.

Savings???? Ha! We won’t be “shopping” for other than bare necessities any time soon.

I think there are an awful lot of folks in our situation. “Shopping” is not coming for any of us.

Rayne November 27th, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Many questions I’ve had are being asked and answered — want to thank Matt, TBogg and the community for what is proving to be a great discussion.

I do have a few more questions for Matt, which he can answer if he has time:

– After reading your recent Rolling Stone article, “Invasion of the Home Snatchers,” I’m wondering if you have heard of any efforts to impeach judges or pursue disbarment or other punitive measures against the judges and attorneys who have been complicit in the rolling foreclosure fraud?

– Were there any politically partisan components to the griftopia food chain?

– Do you recall ever hearing/seeing anything about Alan Greenspan (the biggest asshole in the universe, as the chapter about him is entitled) explaining why he allowed the Fed Reserve to relax or fail to require better margins during the run up to the dot.com bubble and again during the beginning of the housing bubble?

Thanks so much for being here, Matt (and to TBogg for hosting!).

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 3:04 pm
In response to Ruth Calvo @ 119

Ruth –
Exactly right. They hope this all blows over and that the underlying toxic assets somehow recover before the pyramid collapses and they are all exposed.

DrDick November 27th, 2010 at 3:04 pm
In response to tejanarusa @ 118

I think for many of these folks, it is the job of “the market” to sort out that kind of thing. Their naive belief in magical markets would be touching if it did cause so much havoc in the lives of so many.

GlenJo November 27th, 2010 at 3:05 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 124

Matt, somewhat sadly, I have to agree.

Please keep speaking out.

econobuzz November 27th, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Great discussion. Thanks Matt and TBogg

Ruth Calvo November 27th, 2010 at 3:06 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 125

Agree, it’s amazing dissociative powers, probably a job requirement under editor Hiatt.

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 3:06 pm
In response to lakezoarian @ 123

lake, I’m sure Dodd is up to his ass in a shady deal with Countrywide/Angelo Mozilo and they told him to do a Frankie Pantangelo and open his veins before it all came out. Something stinks there, I agree.

tejanarusa November 27th, 2010 at 3:07 pm
In response to DrDick @ 128

You’re prolly right…but surely those people are smart enough, or non-ideological enough? to be able to change their opinions in the face of fact after fact proving the opposite? Yeah, I know, the recent psych research on the effects of facts on belief is not encouraging.

sadlyyes November 27th, 2010 at 3:07 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 124

they got it when gas was 5 buz a gallon,keep it teh simple

klynn November 27th, 2010 at 3:07 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 124

I will say that I met plenty of people in Jefferson Cty Alabama who hated JP Morgan Chase for jacking up their sewer bills. BUt it took something like that.

Your comment triggered an OT thought I have been wrestling. I hope the infrastructure bank does not take off until this mess is fully addressed.

Ruth Calvo November 27th, 2010 at 3:07 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 127

And of course, much of that happened in the S&L crisis, consumers/investors just forgot or avoided facing facts.

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Uncertainty, later in the day, when my editors and I figured out what had happened, we were all laughing hysterically — somewhere that night David Gergen was telling someone what an asshole Matt Bai is.

tejanarusa November 27th, 2010 at 3:08 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 132

Depressing. I enjoyed (once) thinking Dodd was one of the good guys.

spocko November 27th, 2010 at 3:08 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 96

Hi Matt. Mauimom was referring to me. I asked the question about who had any power over the MOTU at the SF signing and my friend JeffCo asked it at your Colorado signing.
Based on your answer I’ve been doing more research for “The Spocko Squad” with the focus on helping government regulators to pay attention to corporate violations.

Since there are a lot of targets to choose from I’ve decided to focus on folks like NewsCorp, Pete Peterson, Koch companies and the hidden funders of the Chamber of Commerce.

My question to you is, which regulations violations are they the most vulnerable in? I’m especially interested in someone like Peterson a MOTU who ran a hedge fund and now wants to “fix” social security.

Shoto November 27th, 2010 at 3:08 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 132

they told him to do a Frankie Pantangelo

Ha! Good one!

person1597 November 27th, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Amoral politicians (ends justify the means) in an age of immoral economics (beggar thy neighbor)… Here’s the rhetorical question….

Win-win for ponzi capitalists or clash of the super-sovereigns?

Or maybe “creative destruction” on an unprecedented scale?

Strange days indeed…When the music’s over… it’s lights out!
Which amounts to Japanese style deflation from the bubblesville point of view…

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 3:10 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 137

This has been a fabulous book salon, Matt. Thank you. But the Gergen story is PRICELESS!!!!

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 3:11 pm
In response to Ruth Calvo @ 131

Fred Hiatt was the Moscow bureau chief when I was there in the nineties. He would have made an excellent Soviet reporter, let me put it that way.

Scarecrow November 27th, 2010 at 3:11 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 114

I dunno. I don’t see how the current QE is either a handout to banks or hammers individuals. Sure, QE 1 gave the banks cash for toxic assets. But QE 2 is buying US Treasuries, and the effect (if it works at all) should be to lower long-term interest a bit (they’re already lower than usual). So I don’t see the handout or the hammering. And with most of the Western World deleveraging, I don’t see it causing much inflation either. A little more inflation would be good for people who owe money, and a lot of inflation doesn’t seem possible now.

RevBev November 27th, 2010 at 3:11 pm
In response to person1597 @ 141

And since much of this stuff is why people are so angry…what would it take to have them wake up?

ghostof911 November 27th, 2010 at 3:12 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 127

They hope this all blows over and that the underlying toxic assets somehow recover

We can be pretty sure they have a Plan B.

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 3:12 pm
In response to ShotoJamf @ 140

Matt, I hope an article on Dodd is on your to do list.

DrDick November 27th, 2010 at 3:12 pm
In response to tejanarusa @ 133

Belief in the efficacy of markets is central to their worldviews and is an essential element in their getting where they are now. It would require a profound mental transformation for them to realize that the whole system has been gamed and does not work the way it is supposed to. You are seeing that increasingly happening to Krugman and DeLong.

TBogg November 27th, 2010 at 3:12 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 143

We are SO quoting you on that one. Which means no counterpoint column to Jennifer Rubin for you.

tejanarusa November 27th, 2010 at 3:14 pm
In response to DrDick @ 148

Guess you’re right. Which is partly why I can stand to read them, and can actually understand what they say.

I especially like the way they talk about other economists – whom I have found incomprehensible for years.

TBogg November 27th, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Matt, I noticed Tim Geithner didn’t get a lot of play in the book. Any thoughts on him?

athena1 November 27th, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Quick question Matt…what do you think of Paul Krugman?

tejanarusa November 27th, 2010 at 3:17 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 143

That explains a great deal.

You have a gift for pithy embodiments of core issues. Paging through the book I’ve found a bunch already. Jumping into the Greenspan chapter, I can see I’m gonna need a highlighter…quotes to use on the clueless.

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 3:17 pm
In response to TBogg @ 151

He’s a dick?

TBogg November 27th, 2010 at 3:18 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 154

So I can put you down for “Not a fan”. Okay.

Teddy Partridge November 27th, 2010 at 3:19 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 132

Do you suppose Dodd will get the job many of us thought Elizabeth Warren was slated for, since they’ve put off appointing someone until after he’s done his Senate gig?

RevBev November 27th, 2010 at 3:19 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 154

Did they push Christine R. out? I heard her in an interview and she sounded way “not in line.”

lakezoarian November 27th, 2010 at 3:19 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 147

Yes, me too. And if you do that, Matt, please consider interviewing a prominent blogger there who goes by the name of Connecticut Bob. Dodd tried to make him his mouthpiece shortly before that unexpected announcement.

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 3:19 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 154

He’s a dick ? !!!!

Fixed it for ya.

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 3:20 pm
In response to TBogg @ 151

No, seriously, I know someone who knew him in college… his father was a big shot at the Ford foundation and Geithner apparently grew up in an atmosphere of cuddling up to rich benefactors, which seems to have shaped his worldview.

spocko November 27th, 2010 at 3:20 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 154

Somewhere in America Dick Gergen is appalled.

BTW, when you said, “fuck the business community” Gergen quoted you as a question, “Fuck the business community?” That would be a nice audio clip to have.

Teddy Partridge November 27th, 2010 at 3:20 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 143

roflmao

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Teddy, wow, I haven’t heard that. That would be horrifying, but also sort of funny, particularly since Dodd was not exactly a proponent of creating that particular position.

DrDick November 27th, 2010 at 3:22 pm
In response to tejanarusa @ 150

You can see them struggling with this new epiphany and trying to reconcile it with their existing beliefs about the world. Krugman is further along on this than DeLong, but both have been shaken to their intellectual cores (in fact both have columns up today dealing with this issue).

person1597 November 27th, 2010 at 3:23 pm
In response to RevBev @ 145

It’s tough to get folks to re-constitute their own point of view — it’s nigh unto impossible to rewire someone’s brain — the neuro-circuits just don’t want to die.

That said, faced with non-being, hearts and minds can be won. The facility for that is anticipation. That would be your area of specialty, eh?

Teddy Partridge November 27th, 2010 at 3:23 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 163

Seems to me that a RS Dodd expose might head that off at the pass, so to speak…. if you know anyone so inclined to write such a thing.

klynn November 27th, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Matt,

This has been a fantastic book salon. I hope your author events list grows. Please consider an event in Columbus, Ohio.

Matt Taibbi November 27th, 2010 at 3:25 pm
In response to spocko @ 161

There was no question mark on my part. It was an exclamation point! But he was really upset. Gergen kept talking about how Obama’s big problem was that he wasn’t being nice enough to America’s CEOs. What drives me nuts about that sort of thing is that it’s an idea that becomes self-fulfilling if enough people like Gergen say it – then you get Democratic operatives who can point to news stories and say, “Gee, we need to do something to improve our image with CEOs.” Or at least they use these news stories as an excuse. It becomes a trope with a life of its own.

My wife is looking at me accusingly — dinnertime apparently. This has been a lot of fun. Thanks to TBogg — I may have to bow out now, though. Thanks everyone for coming!

tejanarusa November 27th, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Ooh, much like Matt’s answer re Geithner, here’s my so-far favorite passage – [Greenspan]“attended meetings at [Ayn] Rand’s apartment with a circle of like-minded intellectual jerk-offs who called themselves by the ridiculous name the ‘Collective’…”

After reading so many political writers who pussy-foot around characterizing the MOTU’s (and would-be MOTU’s), this is so refreshing!

Dearie November 27th, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Do the MOTU not realize that at the rate we are going they and their children will eventually become targets of kidnappings and mutilations? Do they think they are above it? With a country as allegedly armed as ours, it seems likely that once the truly irritated get a clue, it could be bad times for the big boys.

blenkinsop November 27th, 2010 at 3:26 pm

This is from the current New Yorker article on the financial industry:

Economic historians refer to a period of “financial repression,” during which regulators and policymakers, reflecting public suspicion of Wall Street, restrained the growth of the banking sector. They placed limits on interest rates, prohibited deposit-taking institutions from issuing securities, and, by preventing financial institutions from merging with one another, kept most of them relatively small. During this period, major financial crises were conspicuously absent, while capital investment, productivity, and wages grew at rates that lifted tens of millions of working Americans into the middle class.

Do you think this can be explained to people in such a way that will make sense even to the Tea Partiers?

RevBev November 27th, 2010 at 3:26 pm
In response to person1597 @ 165

The other facility is that people really do not like “being screwed” in the not good sense. Usually gets quite a push back…We may be getting there. But I will consider your view of anticipation.;)

Teddy Partridge November 27th, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Thank you, Matt, this has been a gem.

And to TBogg, my gratitude for a wonderful Salon.

As usual, Bev, a perfect match of Host and Author.

spocko November 27th, 2010 at 3:27 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 160

Sucking up to the rich, huh, what a surprise. I sucked up to the rich for years and all I got was this lousy t-shirt. I guess I was doing it wrong.

Back to my question.

which regulation violations are the MOTUs the most vulnerable to? I’m especially interested in someone like Peterson a MOTU who ran a hedge fund and now wants to “fix” social security.

I’m investigating a potential Murdoch SEC violation right now about his inaccurate responses to questions on Fox revenue.

DrDick November 27th, 2010 at 3:27 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 168

Enjoy your dinner. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your insights.

Ruth Calvo November 27th, 2010 at 3:28 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 168

Thanks, you’ve been a big help and encouragement.

tejanarusa November 27th, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Yes, thanks so much for coming, and doing a great job keeping up with questions.

Now, I must read the whole book.

TBogg November 27th, 2010 at 3:29 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 168

Matt. Thanks for joining us. And I want to encourage everyone who has not done so to read Griftopia as well as pick up Matt’s previous book The Great Derangement which is simultaneously hilarious and terrifying.

Thanks to every one who joined us. Remember, there will be a quiz on Monday. Bring a number 2 pencil. Class dismissed.

wmd1961 November 27th, 2010 at 3:30 pm
In response to person1597 @ 165

It is possible to change how people see the world. It takes time. Repetition is a key factor. There needs to be positive reinforcement of the new viewpoint as part of the reinforcement.

Simple messages. better day to day life coupled with those simple messages.

Social Security is sound. Grandma can bake a pie when you visit. Repeat.

lakezoarian November 27th, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Thank you for taking the time to blog with us! And have fun in the big city. Oh, and take your wife to see the “Pee Wee Herman Show.”

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Thanks so much, Matt. I’ll continue to “publicize” your book among my friends & acquaintances. Hope it helps.

PS – ARK 21 LSU 20. We know you’re really leaving to catch the 4th quarter, and the other later games.

GlenJo November 27th, 2010 at 3:31 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 163

Matt, TBlogg,

Thanks!

spocko November 27th, 2010 at 3:31 pm
In response to TBogg @ 178

Nobody said this was going to be on the test!! If your salary is tied to our test scores don’t blame me if you don’t get a raise this year Mr. Bogg!

wmd1961 November 27th, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Thanks Matt.

I agree with Teddy – you’re a treasure.

rosalind November 27th, 2010 at 3:31 pm
In response to tejanarusa @ 153

I can see I’m gonna need a highlighter

at Matt’s L.A. book-signing his onstage partner Nomi Prins (“It Takes A Pillage”) held up her copy of “Griftopia” and warned we were gonna need a bunch of post-its notes and a couple of new highlighters.

she was not kidding.

gmoke November 27th, 2010 at 3:32 pm
In response to spocko @ 161

Unfortunately, that somehow is at the Kennedy School where the eminent Mr Gergen is teaching a whole new crop of go-getters how to get what needs to be got.

Gergen has that soft voice, like Cheney, which sounds so reasonable until you realize they are batshit crazy. It’s similar to the priest voice but less unctuous.

Marion in Savannah November 27th, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Getting here late… Matt, thanks for your wonderful book. As Teddy said above you’re this generation’s HST. Thanks again.

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 3:32 pm
In response to rosalind @ 185

Yeah, that’s the one thing I don’t like about Kindle: no highlighting.

perris November 27th, 2010 at 3:33 pm

I see greenspan is mentioned as one of the examples, I want to point out to everyone, one of the most depraved policies greenspan expanded (if not invented) was to coin the phrase “wage inflation” and use that phrase as if it is a bad thing

for everyone’s info, whenever you saw the prime rate go down or remain low that meant wages were not under pressure to rise, whenever you saw the prime go up that meant laborers were demanding and getting higher wages

think like so;

“the economy is heating up, we have to raise the prime” that really meant “laborers are asking for and getting higher wages”

whenever you hear the expression;

“the economy is stable, we can maintain or lower the prime” what that really meant was there was little to no pressure on raising wages

that’s why our prime remains low right now, there is no wage pressure what so ever

for that reason we have had a decrease in real wages even though we are producing more per person per hour

this at the same time corporations are enjoying the highest profits in global history

JCfromNC November 27th, 2010 at 3:34 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 188

I thought one of the big features of the Kindle was that you were supposed to be able to annotate your reading?

GlenJo November 27th, 2010 at 3:34 pm
In response to gmoke @ 186

Agree, Gregen is a nutjob.

I’ve yet to see the clip in question with Matt, but I’d love a link and it would be great if we could go viral with it.

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 3:35 pm
In response to JCfromNC @ 190

Maybe so, but I haven’t figured it out. Actually, I have an iPad, with the Kindle app.

athena1 November 27th, 2010 at 3:35 pm
In response to blenkinsop @ 171

A few of them. Most have a religious belief that “regulation” is the root of all financial woes, though.

rosalind November 27th, 2010 at 3:37 pm
In response to GlenJo @ 191

it’s from a Rolling Stone roundtable, so probably just in print.

Teddy Partridge November 27th, 2010 at 3:38 pm
In response to GlenJo @ 191

Susie has it over at Crooks and Liars

BevW November 27th, 2010 at 3:38 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon,

Matt, Thank you again for coming back to the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and the financial crisis.

TBogg, Thank you very much for Hosting this outstanding Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:
Matt’s website, book
TBogg’s website

Thanks all,
Have a great evening!

greenwarrior November 27th, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Hi Marion. Time for me to ask. Who is HST?

tejanarusa November 27th, 2010 at 3:39 pm
In response to rosalind @ 185

LOL!

perris November 27th, 2010 at 3:39 pm

I would also like to remind everyone, there was a time (before reagan) where ONE parent could earn enough house the entire family, take vacation every year, send every child to college, work only eight hours and retire while still young enough to enjoy that retirement

thanx to reagan, greenspan we now need TWO incomes and even then struggle to maintain even close to teh same financial security pre-reagan

Teddy Partridge November 27th, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Actually, that’s another interview on Park Her Spitz Her.

Here’s the whole RS interview, not sure if there’s video.

perris November 27th, 2010 at 3:40 pm
In response to BevW @ 196

uggg, sorry I got here so late, thanx for the bev

Marion in Savannah November 27th, 2010 at 3:40 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 197

Hunter S. Thompson. If you haven’t read his stuff, you are in for treat!

Ruth Calvo November 27th, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Thanks for the great book salon, TBogg and Bev, have quoted some of Matt Taibbi’s comments over in the post I have up with the WaPo reporter telling us that it’s our fault that there’s unemployment, since we have the money to Go Shopping.

dakine01 November 27th, 2010 at 3:41 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 197

HST = Hunter S Thompson, original Rolling Stone “National Affairs Editor”

greenwarrior November 27th, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Thanks, Marion and dakine. The library’s got me restricted to how many books I can put on hold, but I’ll get to it.

econobuzz November 27th, 2010 at 3:44 pm

x2

tejanarusa November 27th, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Ohhhhhh…feeling dumb. I always take HST to mean Harry S Truman – but noticed it didn’t quite seem apt in today’s references! Never thought of Hunter Thompson in initials. Good grief.

econobuzz November 27th, 2010 at 3:46 pm

As with TBogg, Matt, when I read your stuff, I say, Geez, I wish I had written that sentence.

tejanarusa November 27th, 2010 at 3:46 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 205

The library’s got me restricted to how many books I can put on hold

That’s hilarious, in a way. How many of your holds are books you heard about here at fdl? Lots of mine are. And where once I was the only one requesting certain “liberal” books, now I’m lucky to be among the first five or ten hold requests. For which I “blame” FDL, of course.

tejanarusa November 27th, 2010 at 3:47 pm
In response to econobuzz @ 208

Ditto (pardon the expression)

person1597 November 27th, 2010 at 3:47 pm
In response to tejanarusa @ 207

Don’t forget Hubble Space Telescope — kind of “Star Gonzo” logic…

greenwarrior November 27th, 2010 at 3:52 pm
In response to tejanarusa @ 209

A lot of them are from FDL. Some are from TomDispatch. And some from people who recommend them.

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Oh, I thought it was Harry S. Truman.

I was never a Hunter Thompson fan. Too weird for me.

Mauimom November 27th, 2010 at 3:57 pm
In response to Ruth Calvo @ 203

Ruth, is this at the WaPoo site? I.e., can one make comments there, ’cause I’d be only too happy to go over and torment them.

tejanarusa November 27th, 2010 at 3:59 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 213

You, too? Thanks, Mm, I feel better. Sorta old…but, but…I am so old I read Hunter Thompson’s stuff in RS when it first ran ….
sorta like having seen “2001: A Space Odyssey” in theaters when it was first-run…
Haven’t read all his stuff – a little too gonzo for me, too, but I think there may be a box in the garage with the paperback “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

tejanarusa November 27th, 2010 at 4:00 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 212

Yup, me, too.

msmolly November 27th, 2010 at 4:02 pm

What a great Book Salon…so sorry to have arrived late and missed Matt. He’s great! I read everything he writes in RS.

Marion in Savannah November 27th, 2010 at 4:11 pm
In response to tejanarusa @ 215

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 is one amazing piece of work.

tejanarusa November 27th, 2010 at 4:23 pm

I think that I did read that…or possibly in the magazine installments. That was definitely the time period when I had a RS subscription.

TheLurkingMod November 27th, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Richard Lyon is upstairs!
The “Rehabilitation” Of The IMF

Petro November 27th, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Well, this was great. I was at work, of course, dammit, but the thread was great. Thanks, FDL & Matt & TBogg.

SethK November 27th, 2010 at 7:04 pm

“The formal beginning of the Tea Party was a classic top-down media con. It took off after a February 20, 2009 rant on CNBC by a shameless TV douchewad named Rick Santelli, who is today considered a pre-prophet for the Tea Party movement, a sort of financial John the Baptist who was dunking CNBC-viewer heads in middle class resentment before the real revolution began.”

Of course, despite being a good journalist, Taibbi is wrong on this point. The Tea Party movement started at a Ron Paul fundraising event in Boston a couple of months before Santelli’s famous rant. What is interesting is the degree to which journalists go out of their way to ignore this easily verifiable fact. I suspect that recognizing libertarians role in a populist movement would give them credibility that some are simply not willing to see established. As well, unless Taibbi (and others) have mind reading capabilities that would be far more alarming than any element of the Tea Party movement, it is entirely impossible for anyone to know what was in Santelli’s head when he took of on his rant. Anyone with any knowledge of the television industry would recognize that such a thing is not likely to have been scripted. Further, why would Santelli have made attacking the bank’s bailout, attacking the blatant coming-our-of-the-closet of corporate-statism in America an issue if he hadn’t truly felt threatened by it?

newtonusr November 27th, 2010 at 7:19 pm
In response to SethK @ 222

It took off…

Using Taibbi’s metric of ‘took off’ as an acknowledgment that the Tea Party is now nothing like Paul envisioned it, I don’t know if the good doctor would like the credit.

I doubt seriously that he would have imagined Dick Armey being it’s guiding force, or Tim Phillips being it’s soul, or the Koch Brothers’ astroturf muscle being what he birthed.

But if he wants it…

TheOracle November 27th, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Great interview, great questions, great responses.

Why do I get the feeling that Matt won’t be called to testify at any of the Republican “kangaroo court” House committee hearings next year, nor will his name be put on President Obama’s short list of contact people who might help him grasp things better?

GregDiablo November 28th, 2010 at 4:44 pm
In response to SethK @ 222

You are right, sir. Matt is wrong about 9/11 as well.

GregDiablo November 28th, 2010 at 4:49 pm

You are right, sir. Matt is wrong about 9/11 as well. His scurrilous “debate” with David Ray Griffin was shamefully uncivil and brutish.

Sebastos November 28th, 2010 at 5:10 pm
In response to Matt Taibbi @ 124

the TeaBaggers will never get a clue. I just don’t see it. I spent literally hours one afternoon trying to explain the commodities bubble to a crowd of TeaBaggers in Kentucky. Not one of them got it after hours and hours. My hopes in that regard are very faint.

I will say that I met plenty of people in Jefferson Cty Alabama who hated JP Morgan Chase for jacking up their sewer bills. BUt it took something like that.

As an ex-wingnut myself, maybe I can shed some light on the psychology. I don’t think it’s necessarily a matter of sheer stupidity; they’re distracted. Being in the grip of a toxic meme can make smart people do very stupid things. Let’s say you need to explain a dozen bullet points in order to give them a picture of how the bubble worked. Before you’re through the first of your dozen points, their minds will be elsewhere, trying to integrate and evaluate the first half of your first sentence from their Glenn Beck perspective. They won’t even hear the rest of what you have to say, not in any form that you would recognize. The echo chamber extends into people’s heads. I’ve seen it in action here in commentary by the occasional Tea Party visitor here at Firedoglake.

And even if you did somehow get through to them, next Sunday they would go to their local church memehouse, or listen to a few more hours of good ol’ Glenn, and they would be back to square one. It takes a lot of work for wingers even to hear what you’re saying through the white-noise machine in their heads. One reason I was (very atypically) able to break free was that I became heavily involved in political talk and argumentation, and actually read a book on leftwing politics (Chomsky’s Turning the Tide).

That said, while it may not be altogether hopeless to flip Tea Partiers over to our side by rational discussion, the amount of effort and time it takes is prohibitive when you consider it as a political strategy. I can testify personally to that, as well. You’re better off concentrating exclusively on activating and radicalizing people who already agree with you about everything except the need for intense political activism. There are a lot of them out there. The Tea Partiers are more likely to pay attention to the Left when they see their friends and neighbors become activists than when you try to address them directly.

Also, the sewer-bill factor will help. Largely, the question is: Just how much pain will it take for Americans to turn down their internal squelch and listen to a new point of view? If the economy hadn’t been in the process of tanking in 2008, Obama would have been lucky to get 20% of the vote. Conversely, if the vampire-squid types don’t start offering the public something real, they may hear the Internationale sung in the streets sooner than they expect.

Sebastos November 28th, 2010 at 5:27 pm

BTW, I regret very much that I missed the chance to participate in this Salon live, and my hardcover copy of Griftopia is on order. I loved the Rolling Stone article on “Judge” Soud and the other company goons in black robes. I haven’t yet read the transcript of the Gergen encounter, but I will; it sounds hilarious! If video is not available, I’ll just have to imagine the look on Gergen’s face. Keep up the good work!

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