Download Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America PDF

TitleGriftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America
File Size1.8 MB
Total Pages395
Table of Contents
1. The Grifter Archipelago; or, Why the Tea Party Doesn't Matter
2. The Biggest Asshole in the Universe
3. Hot Potato: The Great American Mortgage Scam
4. Blowout: The Commodities Bubble
5. The Outsourced Highway: Wealth Funds
6. The Trillion-Dollar Band-Aid: Health Care Reform
7. The Great American Bubble Machine
Note on Sources
About the Author
Document Text Contents
Page 2


The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True
Story of War, Politics, and Religion

Spanking the Donkey: Dispatches from the Dumb Season

Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire


The Exile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia

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Halfway across the country, at almost exactly the same time, a

businessman named Robert Lukens was starting to feel a squeeze.

He ran a contracting firm called Lukens Construction in Reading,

Pennsylvania. Lukens had seven employees and his business had

been in his family for three generations, founded by his father

close to forty years back.

He hadn't wanted to get into the family business, but

circumstances made that decision for him. Way back in 1981 he'd

moved to Richmond, Virginia, and in the space of a week had

gotten married and then was laid off by Ryan Homes, one of the

biggest contracting companies in America.

Now, with a new wife and no job, he reluctantly went back to

work for his father, who had taken over Lukens Construction

from his own father and with whom he had a difficult relationship.

But father and son smoothed it out, stuck it out, and made it work.

Some fourteen years later, in 1995, Robert Lukens took over the

business himself, and in describing the firm he sounded like a

man deeply proud of his family's business. "We do high-end

contracting, really nice work," he says. Not cookie-cutter houses,

he says, but custom additions and "lots of word-of-mouth

referrals." Heading into 2008, Lukens says, he was doing fine.

"But then all of a sudden I started having high energy costs," he

says. "Used to be I'd pay five hundred, six hundred dollars a week

for gas. Now, in July of 2008, I'm suddenly paying twelve

hundred dollars a week for gas. And not only that—all my vendors

Page 198

are suddenly hitting me with fuel costs. Used to be if I got a

delivery of lumber, the delivery would be figured into the price.

Now they'd hit me with a surcharge—a hundred and twenty-five

bucks for the delivery or whatever. Lumber. Concrete. Stuff like


About the same time that Lukens was seeing those price hikes,

a biology student with dreams of becoming a doctor named Sam

Sereda was heading home for the summer. Sereda was doing his

undergrad at Gordon College on the North Shore of

Massachusetts, but his home was in Sunnyvale, in the Bay Area

out in California. Sereda was doing everything right in his young

life. His grades were good, he was making money in his spare

time by tutoring kids from Hamilton Wenham High in AP Bio.

For the summer he had an internship set up with a Bay Area

company called Genentech in San Francisco, and was planning on

taking an advanced calc class at West Valley College in Saratoga,

to pick up a few extra credits for his upcoming senior year.

"But then gas prices, they went from like three bucks to over

four bucks a gallon," he says now. "My family was going through

some financial problems at the time, too. I ended up having to

cancel the internship.

The forty-minute drive was too long, it cost me too much money."

The calc class went out the window, too. "Couldn't afford that

drive either," he says now. "I ended up having to do twenty credits

in one semester when I got back to Massachusetts. I know how

Page 394

way they are reported here, and I believe that is significant

because it gets to the larger point in the book—that the

responsibility for maintaining order and financial stability in our

society has at times been transferred into the hands of private

financial interests whom even top government officials believe to

be capable of holding ordinary taxpayers hostage for profit.

The sourcing for the rest of the book is mostly self-explanatory,

relying upon interviews with named sources or publicly reported


Page 395

About the Author

MATT TAIBBI is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone and the
author of four previous books, including the New York Times
bestseller The Great Derangement. He lives in Jersey City, New

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