Columns Reviews

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

If you’re like me, the bubble economy of the turn of this century, how it burst, the economic crisis that followed, and what it means that those who were behind all this mess were ultimately bailed out at tax payers’ expense, has you by turns confused and angry. We may understand the machinations of elites and the manipulation of the rest of us in broad strokes, but the specifics are enough to make us cross-eyed.

I’ve looked for good reading material to help me decode the whole situation, and have found a lot of it very dense and difficult reading. Then I found Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America by Matt Taibbi.

This is a terrific book! It’s short, easy-to-read, and funny as hell. Matt Taibbi is a good writer with a very good sense of humor and a f-you attitude toward unjust power and the arrogance of those who wield it that I found refreshing. Finally, someone who will just come right out and call Alan Greenspan a short-sighted, selfish, deluded, irresponsible, narcissistic a**hole!

I might have added a few adjectives in there, but for sure that a**hole part is all Taibbi.

If that wasn’t satisfying enough, Taibbi explains the financial crisis with its maze of credit swapping and derivatives, etc., in language that makes these manipulative and totally f’ed up instruments through which corporate types grabbed power and toppled the economy understandable to financial dunces like me. Better yet, he makes the connection between Wall Street and Washington, presenting a bleak but nonetheless instructive and surprisingly inspiring picture of the political circumstances under which we live today in what truly does feel, by the end, like Griftopia.

All Things Considered on NPR did a story on it that you might want to check out before taking the long walk to the library.

There is, of course, a race dimension to this story. For more about racism and the housing market, follow me. I’ll review another book I’ve been reading on the subject shortly.

Meanwhile, check out Griftopia and let me know what you think.

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By Scot Nakagawa

Scot Nakagawa is a political strategist and writer who has spent more than four decades exploring questions of structural racism, white supremacy, and social justice. Scot’s primary work has been in the fight against authoritarianism, white nationalism, and Christian nationalism. Currently, Scot is co-lead of the 22nd Century Initiative, a project to build the field of resistance to authoritarianism in the U.S.

Scot is a past Alston/Bannerman Fellow, an Open Society Foundations Fellow, and a recipient of the Association of Asian American Studies Community Leader Award. His writings have been included in Race, Gender, and Class in the United States: An Integrated Study, 9th Edition,  and Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence.

Scot's political essays, briefings, and other educational media can be found at his newsletter, We Fight the Right at He is a sought after public speaker and educator who provides consultation on campaign and communications strategy, and fundraising.