From Occupy Wall Street to the Tea Party, we live in an age of righteous rants. Since 2008, our political, financial, and economic systems have been in a state of near-continuous failure. In the U.S., and abroad, the folks who run the show have been revealed to be incompetent, venal, shameless, frequently corrupt, and blind to the public interest.
Most of the recent rants come from outsiders, and as a result their diagnoses and prescriptions tend to be relatively simplistic. But Dylan Ratigan knows the system from the inside. He's a former reporter at Bloomberg, a CNBC anchor, and current host of the eponymous show that airs in the 4 p.m. hour at MSNBC. As a result, his rant, in the form of the book Greedy Bastards: How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and Other Vampires from Sucking America Dry, goes well beyond the typical red-meat tossed out by media figures.
As we discuss in the accompanying interview, the problem as Ratigan sees it merely starts with the banking system. Rather, Greedy Bastards can be found in a range of industries that depend upon the government, leech from it, manipulate it to extract rents, distort markets, and poison the political process with campaign money. They include the financial system, the China trade lobby, health care, education and energy — a welter of industries that comprise a large chunk of the U.S. economy. "Greedy bastards have given upon creating value for others and instead get their money by rigging the game so that they can steal from the rest of us," he writes.
Ratigan believes these vampire industries can be killed off if policy and markets are reformed to focus on the core principles of visibility, integrity, choice, and the proper alignment of economic interests. The book is pitched at the layperson, and each chapter is illustrated with highly legible two-page illustrations that describe how FUBAR our systems are.
The remedies are a mix of mile-high rhetoric — rid the system of corruption, break our addiction to oil — and some highly specific proposals. Greedy Bastards contains several pages, for example, of discussion on specific ways to reform the credit default swaps markets. Since a lot of the trading of credit default swaps is based on hypothetical activity with hypothetical payouts, Ratigan suggests turning the market into a form of online gaming. He's drafted a new constitutional amendment that would ban campaign donations, and highlights examples of patient-centered health care that could be used as national models.
The Great Panic of 2008, the bailouts, and the aftermath have radicalized lots of people. But much of the energy has been channeled in destructive ways. While Greedy Bastards taps into that rage, it offers plenty of construction solutions.
Interested in the book? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll enter you in a drawing for a free copy of Greedy Bastards.
Daniel Gross is economics editor at Yahoo! Finance
Follow him on Twitter @grossdm; email him at email@example.com