Griftopia

Griftopia is a very angry book and if you read it, you will begin to share his anger. Some of the American public are already angry about the economy and government, but their anger is being misdirected away from the real culprits by those very same culprits or their agents. Taibbi names names and gives specific dates, amounts stolen and methods used by those he labels grifters, thieves. The thieves know how to work our system for their advantage and it was their work that produced the Great Recessionof 2008. The end of that recession is still not in sight, and we will not change future bad outcomes until more of us become angry enough to force real change.

Goldman Sachs New World Headquarters

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Much of Taibbi’s anger is directed toward Goldman-Sachs and its former executives, some in government now and some in the past. He blames Goldman in part for the Great Depression and also for the present day Great Recession. Before I agree or disagree, I must do more research. I will comment on Goldman further in a later post.

Taibbi gives an interesting example of how we are paying for present consumption by selling off some assets created in past, more prosperous times. His example is set in Chicago but he mentions that it is also taking place in other parts of the country. Mayor Daley wanted to raise money without raising taxes, so with the help of Goldman, he decided to lease the revenue stream from the city’s parking meters to investors for 75 years for a little over $1 billion. Goldman put together a bidding syndicate from the Middle Eastwhose members were mostly unknown and changing.

After the deal was hurriedly approved by the Chicago City Council, it was estimated by independent auditors that the contract was worth at least $5 billion to the group that bid a little more than $1 billion.

Shortly after the deal was done, the new managers of the parking meters raised rates from $0.25 hour to $1.00 hour, an increase of 300%. Hours were increased daily from 9 hours to 13 hours, an increase of nearly 45%. Sundays and holidays were no longer free. That represented an additional increase of 16%. Now motorists inChicagopay for their gas at the pump and they also pay at the parking meter since an unknown portion of the parking revenue goes to the Middle Eastern suppliers of the petroleum used to make gasoline.

Before the 2010 election, I attended a Meg Whitman event in Culver City. I parked on a side street in an industrial area and was somewhat surprised that the meters required four quarters per hour. If the event had been held in Beverly Hills, Westwood or Century City, I would have expected that rate or higher to park. Taibbi mentioned Los Angelesas also leasing its parking meters for immediate revenue. That causes me to wonder where the quarters I put in the Culver City parking meters went, Culver City or some entity in the Middle East?

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