There are not enough words to describe how awesome Matt Taibbi's Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America is.
And by awesome, of course, I mean depressing as hell. If you want to get a handle on a) how our political system now only functions as entertainment for the masses, and b) how thoroughly manipulated our financial markets are for the vast personal gain of the very few, then this is the book for you. And no one, NO ONE, can lay it on the line like Matt Taibbi:
"Bad political systems on their own don't always make societies fail. Sometimes what's required for a real social catastrophe is for one or two ingeniously obnoxious individuals to rise to a position of great power--get a once-in-a-billion asshole in the wrong job and a merely unfair system of government suddenly turns into seventies Guatemala, the Serbian despotate, the modern United States.
Former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan is that one-in-a-billion asshole who made America the dissembling mess that it is today." (p. 34.)
I'll give him this: he tells the truth, so he makes me cry, but at least I'm laughing while I'm crying.*
Rest assured: he does not blame everything on Greenspan. He goes on from there to describe (in terms a normal person can actually understand) how the financial crisis of 2007-2008 actually got rolling, how the "commodities bubble" caused gas prices to go up (an event which had nothing to do with supply and demand), and how our politicians are currently busy selling our infrastructure to foreign investors for lump sum payments that vastly underestimate their value. The last anecdote I wowed my brother with from this book was how all the parking meters in Chicago have been sold to a consortium of foreign owners, and now they can't have street fairs anymore in Chicago. Why? Because the consortium wants to charge fair organizers for their day of lost meter business--and no one can afford what they're asking. (pp. 165-171.)
So who might like this book?
Anyone you know who feels ripped off by their vote for Obama.
Anyone you know who enjoys indignant profanity.
Anyone who know who might be interested in learning what a credit default swap actually is, without reading a whole boring business book on the subject of the 2007-2008 financial crisis.
*Taibbi must have a great sense of humor and a sanguine personality. A friend told me she recently saw Taibbi speak, and he was quite chipper, especially in light of what he was talking about. This annoyed her--she didn't see how he could be so happy--but it made me feel better. Taibbi's one of the smartest guys around, and if he can write this whole book and understand it and STILL smile, well, that makes me feel better too.