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

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  7,926 ratings  ·  771 reviews
The dramatic story behind the most audacious power grab in American history
The financial crisis that exploded in 2008 isn’t past but prologue. The stunning rise, fall, and rescue of Wall Street in the bubble-and-bailout era was the coming-out party for the network of looters who sit at the nexus of American political and economic power. The grifter class—made up of the
Hardcover, 253 pages
Published November 2nd 2010 by Spiegel & Grau (first published September 21st 2010)
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Showing 1-30
4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,926 ratings  ·  771 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Dec 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics, nonfiction
You don’t have to be Dorothy or “The One” to know that there is something foul going on behind the economic curtain. Matt Taibbi, a contributing editor at Rollingstone, rips away the misinformation that cloaks some of the most nefarious behavior in American history. He looks at a few elements of what can only be described as institutional organized crime and explains just what is going on in clear, understandable terms.
The engine for looting the old ghetto neighborhoods was the drug trade, whic
Dec 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is the 6th book I've read about the recent financial catastrophes.

Fools Gold, The End of Wall Street, The Big Short, How Markets Fail, All the Devils Are Here are all worthy books, but Griftopia tops the rest with its insights and outrage.

Taibbi doesn't simply settle for exposition and analysis. He's angry that business (Wall Street, insurance industry in particular) abetted by our government has robbed us blind while citizens have amused themselves with a media circus that doesn't investi
J. Kent Messum
When I finally put this book down I thought only one thing....


'Griftopia' is about the people and institutions that are actively taking away your future. The greed and gluttony of the rich and powerful has never felt so perverse.

If education is truly a weapon against oppression, then this book is everyone's fucking infantry rifle. Buy it and load up on ammo.
Dec 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I've read three books concerning the financial collapse. The other two were by Yves Smith and Joseph Stiglitz and, while perfectly understandable and, in Stiglitz' case, as a dignified and careful critique, they didn't leave me steaming like this account. Matt Taibbi goes the full mile in this book and fills us in on all the facts that make up the big picture. I'm sorry to say that several of the events he mentioned got right by me when they were happening.

Would that every issue of national inte
Nov 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010-reads
The word "polemic" comes to mind. Taibbi's Griftopia kicks off to a blistering start, and pretty much maintains that battery-acid tone throughout. The opening essays imply more of an anti-Republican stance than is actually the case - by the end it's clear that Taibbi is pissed at everyone just about equally, but most on the right wing could be forgiven for not managing to make it through the author's vituperation to the bits where he starts in on Obama and the Democrats. Hell, I had a hard time ...more
Aaron Arnold
Apr 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
There was a lot going through my head when I was reading Taibbi's latest must-read book: disgust, anger, wonder, even laughter at his still-incredible powers of description, but at the very end, after I'd finished and had to take a minute to absorb what I'd just read, what I felt most was sadness. More than anything else, this is a book about a country in decline, a country that can't even recognize what its problems are, let alone try to fix them; instead feverishly running through one fraudule ...more
Feb 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Oh my God! This book is such a phenomenal and spell-binding eye-opener! Some non-fiction books I read, I just want the author to furnish validation to opinions I already hold. This book, on the other hand, reveals so many things I had no idea about, in an extremely entertaining fashion. The chapter on Ayn Rand, and Alan Greenspan's membership in her circle, is worth the price of admission all by itself. (Maybe it helps that I forced myself to finish Rand's Atlas Shrugged a hundred years ago; it ...more
Laurie Gold
Dec 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
"'Follow the money' has long been my mantra, and Matt Taibbi's cogent reporting does the best job describing various economic crises of the last fifteen years of any that I've read, peeling away each level of complexity in a way that the layman reader can easily understand our world turned upside down as a result of greedy financiers and their collusion with the government. He details the creation and bursting of the bubble, the 2004 energy crisis, and the 2008 economic collapse, and lik ...more
Oct 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
excellent pop-overview of the state of usa and globalization. wars? blowouts? torture? underemployment? oil culture? la crisis? what one thing is connected to all this? rich fat cats making lots and lots of money. fat cats rule the world!
Nov 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I'm back on the crack - financial meltdown. Because I just haven't suffered enough. At least Matt (yes, I call him Matt) has a sense of humor - and he swears appropriately.
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: financial-crisis
Disclaimer: When it comes to money and the business world, I rank somewhere between a pacifier-sucking infant and college freshman stoned on paint fumes in terms of comprehension. Ask me about my financial portfolio and I'll just blink and stare at you. Talk to me about derivatives and I'll most likely suffer an acute case of diarrhea so I can run to the safety of the nearest bathroom. I try to keep these things in my head, I really do. But they leak out.

(Sorry--that was not an intentional refer
Todd N
Mar 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Each book by Mr. Taibbi just gets better. Since his days writing for The Exile (which I loved), he has been slowly perfecting the balance of righteous fury, investigative journalism, and appreciation of the absurd in his writing. This book gets it just about right.

The premise of his last book is that political parties on the left and right, in their zeal to service their corporate masters, have abandoned the lower and middle classes, leaving them to cobble together their own view of the world us
Elizabeth Sulzby
Jan 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Ned McMarbles
Note: In selecting my shelves (read, history/politics, nonfiction, etc., I started to add "true crime."

Taibbi's book scares me while not letting me put it down. Well, I have finished it and don't have the energy to write much about it now. He spares no one/no level of the greed. I found his writing frighteningly plausible. I'll use just one: He wrote in detail about the packaging and repackaging of mortgages pushed upon people who did not have the money to buy such a house with such a mortgage.
Jan 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Laura by: Random House free audiobook website
If you really want to understand the 2008 financial crisis, you owe it to yourself to read this book. It goes way beyond the subprime mortgage disaster and even explains why gas prices went through the roof in the summer of 2008. (I remember it well, as we were looking for a fuel-efficient, safe first car for our daughter, and Honda Civics were about as hard to find as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.) HINT: I can almost promise the answer will surprise you.

As Americans, we think we ha
Assaf Lavie
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Vintage Taibbi. He reminds me more and more of Hunter S. Thompson every time. This book doesn't offer a lot in the way of new information, for those that are keeping up on the financial crises.. it's mostly stuff Tabbi's blogged about and wrote about for Rolling Stone. If you do want a review of all that's wrong with America, then it's a very illuminating read. He just nails it. The two party political system that reduces all arguments to bumper-sticker level. The institutional cleptocracy where ...more
Jan 20, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: business, non-fiction
Griftopia tries to explain the financial crisis as the fault of Alan Greenspan, Goldman Sachs and the financial industry. Unfortunately the roots of the crisis are more complex. The fact is that there is enough blame to go around. Government, banks and individual people made bad decisions that compounded over time. The author doesn't offer any solutions. Reading Griftopia will just make you angry. Getting through this crisis will take more than anger and finger-pointing. It will take serious ref ...more
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An excellent clarion wake up call. The only thing missing in what I've read so far is any suggestion of solutions. How, if even possible, do we fight the oligarchy. It's clear the government isn't the answer. We have no real political power over those truly in power.
Until the real revolution vs "Wall Street" happens, I'm going to keep raising consciousness.
Nov 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A few years ago, Matt Taibbi fretted about his career just a little in the preface to The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics and Religion (Spiegel & Grau, 2008). Referring to the period leading up to that work, he wrote:

“At the time I was a little depressed about the number of requests I was getting from editors to whale on people in print and was somewhat afraid that I was going to be buttonholed, professionally, into a role as a kind of lefty/alternative hatchet ma
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book made me want to get rip-roaring drunk, set a banker on fire, and kick a member of Congress square in the nuts, preferably from a running start. It put me one step closer to finally realizing my dream of living somewhere in the wilderness like the Unibomber (although without all the Unibombing). It took all of my already cynical ideas about how America works, patted them on the head and said, “You’re just adorable,” and then proceeded to tell me that Santa Claus is not only dead, but th ...more
Feb 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a book that every American who is wondering what the hell is going on this country needs to read. Taibbi digs deep into the hot mess that is this country's financial system, to uncover how wall street and it's vile relationship with our government is literally stealing our wealth in a series of schemes that are so criminal in nature, to say they're unbelievable is a huge understatement.

If you've been trying to pay attention the past few years, trying to follow mass media to figure out h
Dec 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
before griftopia, i used to think of matt taibbi as something of a guilty pleasure. he's always been better than the average left/progressive pundit at grasping the ugly class snobbery behind a lot of our disdain for the tea party, and his writing reliably mirrors my own political beliefs with more exciting bombast than, say, paul krugman. put differently, he's someone i have typically turned to for catharsis and schadenfreude rather than information.

with that in mind, i'm happy to say that grif
Jul 11, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read the book on the recommendation of a good friend who loaned it to me. He worries that I get too much of my political information from right-wing publishers and news sources, and he is correct on that count. And so he pushes a book on me whose opening is a vigorous ad hominem attack on conservative politicians and commentators. I thought to myself then, this is going to be a long, unenjoyable, immature rant. It turns out that I was wrong.

Matt Taibbi is an equal-opportunity basher. I found t
Brilliant, thorough, very clear, and infuriating, also less floridly reminiscent of Hunter Thompson and Michael Moore than some of Matt Taibbi's other work. In this book Taibbi carefully explains, in plain English understandable to readers like me without a background in business or economics, how a combination of big corporations and the legislators who owe their positions of power to the campaign funding they get from those corporations have been systematically rigging the American and world e ...more
Jeremy Stock
Mar 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
We Live In An Era of Fraud.

This is a superb book! Please read it. I can't recommend it enough. This book and The Divide (also by Matt Taibbi) are crucial reading. If you haven't seen the movie "The Big Short" - it's not a bad place to start. Follow up with these earth trembling reads.

Learn how your country works (or doesn't work)! See for yourself just how broken our system is. As quoted in The Big Short: "We live in an era of fraud." Too true, my friends. Too true.

Just when you think banks lik
Scott Lupo
Jun 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
The best reading I have come across that explains the inner workings of the political and financial systems of the U.S. If you are at all interested in the causes of the financial crises of 2008 and the bubble-to-bailout process (this has happened many times in recent history)that plagues our economy, this is required reading. Beware! Once you read this and have this knowledge you will have a hard time listening to other's opinions on the economy because they will be so uninformed or misinformed ...more
Patrick Tsai
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Matt Taibbi, an artist of analogy, here is one of my favorites.

You will often hear pundits asking with straight faces, certain rhetorical questions about the issue of punishment for financial crime. "What good would it d," they ask, to put this or that banker CEO in jail for fraud? After all, they say, giving a Dick Fuld or John Thain jail time "won't change anything."

Which is an interesting point, but consider this: when was the last time anyone stood up at a car thief's trial and argued that j
Apr 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
If you like acerbic wit, crystal clear explanations of dauntingly complicated financial ideas, and feeling completely hopeless about the future of the country, this is the book for you. Griftopia has had me depressed for weeks. That said, Taibbi is incredibly smart and incredibly funny, so you forgive the dark nature of the book. I can think of no one better to tackle the kind of difficult-to-understand and impossible-to-forgive shenanigans that are the subject matter.

My only real complaints are
Steven E
Nov 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
First thing's first: There's quite a lot of fluff here. Taibbi's introductory chapter is a desultory mess, the health care chapter is undercooked, and while the closing chapter is a fine coda for the's narrative, it's also just a reproduction of one of his easily accessible pieces from Rolling Stone.

But when Taibbi connects the results are spectacular. Particularly pitchfork-worthy are the accounts of Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein in the AIG Fed meetings, threatening to pull the pin on the entire
J. David Clarke
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The subject matter of this book ranges from the depressing to the terrifying. Greed and corruption at the top levels of the financial and political powers of the world conspire to rob us blind and leave our country at the brink of disaster. And no one is doing anything about it. Luckily, you have guide Matt Taibbi to ferret out the wrongdoers and expose them to the light of day, all the while relentlessly illustrating how screwed you are in the deal.

Taibbi has a great gift for taking complex and
4 stars. A good book to read after Michael Lewis (also excellent) Big Short. I know the story and machinations behind housing bubble of 2008, Matt Taibbi adds his colorful and a funny language to this horror story. The commodities bubble chapter was best for me, since this subject has got a little notice in media or books. I have read many complains that Taibbi is not an economist and therefore is not qualified to write about banksters. Not true. Taibbi knows what he is writing, and how he desc ...more
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“In a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy.” 84 likes
“To sum it all up, the [Ayn] Rand belief system looks like this:
1. Facts are facts: things can be absolutely right or absolutely wrong, as determined by reason.
2. According to my reasoning, I am absolutely right.
3. Charity is immoral.
4. Pay for your own fucking schools.”
More quotes…