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REVIEWING

Greedy Bastards

by Dylan Ratigan

Simon and Schuster | January 2012 | 227 pages

Reviewed by Emily Rosen

dylan ratigan

Gordon Gekko, you’re chopped liver, toast, a penny ante has-been!!! Our country is saturated with your clones who have mastered your operative philosophy and indeed have taken it to soaring heights infecting society beyond even your wildest dreams.  Dylan Ratigan has “outed” the lot of them. And I can’t believe the Karma that has enveloped me as I write this review on the very day that an unknown Greg Smith has plastered Ratigan’s thesis smack on the op-ed page of the New York Times, under the headline, ‘Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs.”

In a nutshell, he says of his former bosses, they are Greedy Bastards and he wants out-of-there. Making money is no sin, he declares, unless you are not giving value in return.

Ratigan, the host of the 4 p.m. MSNBC Dylan Ratigan  show is probably the least partisan of the anchors in their stable, an equal opportunity political party excoriator. Coming from CNBC’s Fast Money, The  Call, and Closing Bell, and as a managing editor at Bloomberg, he won Journalism’s coveted Gerald Loeb Award for his coverage of the Enron scandal, and is the perfect messenger to deliver this apocalyptic missive.

Spotted with cartoons and graphics, and devoid of footnotes, the book is not likely to find its way onto academic shelves and it could well  have been  titled: “The Oncoming Fall of the Roman – ooops – I mean, The United States:  For Dummies”  His simplistic, pedagogical, clarity makes the book highly readable, and his thesis is lucid and logical. Corruption and wide spread venal knavery exists in every aspect of society and is perpetuated by archaic systems that are highly resistant to change. And his heavy handed lament is what he calls “extractionism,” taking money from others without creating anything of value, producing economic growth or improving lives. Ratigan  makes frequent references to VICI, core values that he assumes are universal to any deal or relationship : Visibility, Integrity, Choice, Interests.

The book tackles corruption, that is, waste and greed, in several areas of society: banking, education, health care, energy, international trade, tax policy, and the number one system he would like to obliterate and replace, campaign financing.  And who wouldn’t, except six of our “Supremes,” and Citizen’s United, and those with cash cows in their back yard?  His passion regarding the latter has spawned the website www.getmoneyout.com.

Regarding banking, he makes the case that banks should be required to retain more capital and also that they themselves be required to pay the losses when they place “bad bets.” He dares to suggest that  CEOs and board members of AAA rated financial institutions should not collect  bonus pay on losses caused by their own bad decisions just because the losses were covered by the government (“us”).

Referring to China’s big trade-war win with their protectionist policies, he quotes Washington Post columnist Steve Pearlstein, “Americans acquiesced to this off shoring because it fattened corporate profits (Wal-Mart, in particular), lowered consumer prices, and fit neatly with a free trade market consensus among the economic elite.” One of Ratigan’s many examples of short term wins leading to long term economic disaster: “Low wages and poor working conditions in China drive down those in the rest of the world in a “race to the bottom,”

His health care rant takes on the Affordable Health Care Act – “Obamacare”  if you are fulminating about it– and shores up the criticism, “The best possible world for greedy bastards is when government can legally require people to pay fixed prices.” But he goes on to denounce most suggested alternatives. Referencing Singapore’s system, he urges universal mandated catastrophic policies, which are relatively cheap since catastrophes are rare, and he wants all citizens to contribute to a health care savings account of their choice, from birth, monies from that account to be used for routine medical services. 

He has much to say (negative) about college loans and the “debt for diploma” market, as well as our outdated educational system modeled over a century ago on the interests of an industrialized society and which is pretty much clueless about our changing needs. 

The custom of having Washington insiders become lobbyists, especially in the oil industry according to Ratigan is unacceptable and is partially responsible for our unrelenting energy dependence. And a small one page peek at the evils of gerrymandering hardly does justice to the skewering of the democratic ideals that are currently being addressed, nay, struggled with, in many states these years after the 2010 census.  

A final thrust at the media expresses most of his political philosophy: “We need media that uncovers what every chapter in this book show: that both Democrats and Republicans give away vast amount of taxpayer money to greedy bastards. They just go about it differently. As a result, like any other vampire industry, politics has become an exercise in ruthless self-preservation, a monopoly that exists mainly to keep existing when its productive value has faded away,”

He does end on a note of optimism, although some might call it fantasy. Everything he criticizes is fixable.  “We may never wipe out all of the greedy bastards, but with our resolve and digital technologies, we can reduce their numbers and minimize the damage they can inflict on our world.”

One wonders what he’s smoking.

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