We've been reading Scheer's informed, edgy prose since his days at Ramparts magazine, and his career has included a long stint as a national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and, more recently, the founding of the website Truthdig. By now, he is so practiced at investigative journalism and advocacy journalism that his book is like a strong dose of black coffee — bracing and eye-opening.
"After the inauguration, the new Obama administration made it clear from day one that pleasing Wall Street rather than distraught homeowners would be the focal point of policy," he writes. "For all the brave talk about transparency and accountability in the banking bailout, [Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner] gave the swindlers who got us into this mess yet another blank check to buy up the 'toxic assets' they gleefully created."
Indeed, Scheer always allows himself the luxury — and gives his readers the pleasure — of verbal pyrotechnics that would be out of bounds in a newspaper. Thus, for example, he complains that regulators merely watched as "the giant banks, led by executives and boards seeking fast profits, joined in a mad feeding frenzy, gobbling up so-called liars' loans given out willy-nilly by off-brand lenders that are almost now bankrupt."
Scheer is plainly a progressive but also, and above all, a populist. "If we as a people learn anything from this crash, it should be that there are no adults watching the store, only a tiny elite of self-interested multimillionaires and billionaires making decisions for the rest of us," he concludes. "As long as we cede that power to them, we can expect to continue getting bilked."
On that point, I suspect, a great many of his readers, Democrats and Republicans alike, will agree.
Kirsch is book editor of the Jewish Journal and author of, most recently, "The Grand Inquisitor's Manual: A History of Terror in the Name of God."