Matt Taibbi has a new book called The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. This ties right in with Joseph Stiglitz’s comments in the Price of Inequality,
But a basic principle of the rule of law and property rights is that you shouldn’t throw someone out of his home when you can’t prove he owes you money. But so assiduously did the banks pursue their foreclosures that some people were thrown out of their homes who did not owe any money. To some lenders this is just collateral damage as the banks tell millions of Americans they must give up their homes—some eight million since the crisis began, and an estimated three to four million still to go. The pace of foreclosures would have been even higher had it not been for government intervention to stop the robo-signing.
The banks’ defense—that most of the people thrown out of their homes did owe money—was evidence that America had strayed from the rule of law and from a basic understanding of it. One is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. But in the banks’ logic, the homeowner had to prove he was not guilty, that he didn’t owe money. In our system of justice it is unconscionable to convict an innocent person, and it should be equally unconscionable to evict anyone who doesn’t owe money on her home. We are supposed to have a system that protects the innocent. The U.S. justice system requires a burden of proof and establishes procedural safeguards to help meet that requirement. But the banks short-circuited these safeguards.
Here is a summary of Taibbi’s book, “The Divide” from Amazon.com:
A scathing portrait of an urgent new American crisis
Over the last two decades, America has been falling deeper and deeper into a statistical mystery:
Poverty goes up. Crime goes down. The prison population doubles.
Fraud by the rich wipes out 40 percent of the world’s wealth. The rich get massively richer. No one goes to jail.
In search of a solution, journalist Matt Taibbi discovered the Divide, the seam in American life where our two most troubling trends—growing wealth inequality and mass incarceration—come together, driven by a dramatic shift in American citizenship: Our basic rights are now determined by our wealth or poverty. The Divide is what allows massively destructive fraud by the hyperwealthy to go unpunished, while turning poverty itself into a crime—but it’s impossible to see until you look at these two alarming trends side by side.
In The Divide, Matt Taibbi takes readers on a galvanizing journey through both sides of our new system of justice—the fun-house-mirror worlds of the untouchably wealthy and the criminalized poor. He uncovers the startling looting that preceded the financial collapse; a wild conspiracy of billionaire hedge fund managers to destroy a company through dirty tricks; and the story of a whistleblower who gets in the way of the largest banks in America, only to find herself in the crosshairs. On the other side of the Divide, Taibbi takes us to the front lines of the immigrant dragnet; into the newly punitive welfare system which treats its beneficiaries as thieves; and deep inside the stop-and-frisk world, where standing in front of your own home has become an arrestable offense. As he narrates these incredible stories, he draws out and analyzes their common source: a perverse new standard of justice, based on a radical, disturbing new vision of civil rights.
Through astonishing—and enraging—accounts of the high-stakes capers of the wealthy and nightmare stories of regular people caught in the Divide’s punishing logic, Taibbi lays bare one of the greatest challenges we face in contemporary American life: surviving a system that devours the lives of the poor, turns a blind eye to the destructive crimes of the wealthy, and implicates us all.
Praise for The Divide
“These are the stories that will keep you up at night. . . . The Divide is not just a report from the new America; it is advocacy journalism at its finest.”—Los Angeles Times
“Ambitious . . . deeply reported, highly compelling . . . impossible to put down.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Brilliant and enraging.”—The Awl