Peter Goodman, a former Times business reporter with a tendency toward Marxist cant and a nose for the paper's front page, is now business editor for the left-wing Huffington Post (no surprise). In Sunday's Book Review he recommended "Griftopia," a new book on the financial crisis by leftist Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi. (Also no surprise.)
The inflammatory Taibbi is most notorious for a 2005 New York Press piece, "The 52 Funniest Things About The Upcoming Death of the Pope." Goodman wrote for Sunday's Book Review:
Among the unfortunate legacies of the financial crisis of 2008 is a tendency among commentators to soft-pedal the outrage over what happened. In too many accounts, blame is considered impossible to assign given the complexities of modern-day finance. Those inclined to point fingers at Wall Street or Washington are frequently derided as innocents who do not grasp how the world really works.
The result is an apologia that goes something like this: Mistakes were made, despite the best intentions of financial professionals. Bankers lent too much money to poor people who never should have bought homes. Models used to measure risk broke down, and regulators were swamped. All of this was a shame, but accidents are a part of life, and an unavoidable part of the swashbuckling style of capitalism that has enriched Americans for generations.
Nonsense, Matt Taibbi says. In "Griftopia," a relentlessly disturbing, penetrating exploration of the root causes of the trauma that upended economic security in millions of American homes, Taibbi argues that what unfolded was far from accidental. Rather, the nation suffered the equivalent of a hostile takeover of key areas of its commercial life by investment banking houses, while regulators and members of Congress abdicated their responsibilities either because they were influenced by campaign cash or because they believed the fairy tale that unsupervised markets always work best. The result, Taibbi asserts, was a thieves' paradise - Griftopia.