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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.