Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right
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Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  907 ratings  ·  139 reviews
From the bestselling author of What's the Matter with Kansas?, comes this insightful and sardonic look at why the worst economy since the 1930s has brought about the revival of conservatism.

Economic catastrophe usually brings social protest and demands for financial reform—or at least it was commonly assumed that it would. But when Thomas Frank set out in 2009 to look for...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published January 3rd 2012 by Metropolitan Books (first published August 16th 2011)
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Community Reviews

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Angela
When I read What's the Matter With Kansas? several years ago, I finished the book determined to conduct any future political discussions with a focus on how economic/social justice issues are inseparable from personal morality: that is, if one claims to be a "Christian", one cannot ignore one's responsibility to care for the needy and the oppressed, and said responsibility includes approving and encouraging government assistance such as food stamps, disaster relief, and jobs programs.

It's been a...more
Bill  Kerwin

I enjoyed this book when I read it about a week and a half ago, but now that I sit down to write about it I can't remember any of it clearly, and I think that might be because it didn't give me anything new to think about, I think this might because Thomas Frank doesn't have anything new to say. I loved "What's the Matter with Kansas?"--a book that gave me a new perspective from which to analyze the growth of the new right, a book that helped explain why working class white voters vote Republica...more
Steve
American Horror Story. A real one that shows how a major political party was taken over by brainless zombies wearing tri corner hats, waving flags with chopped up snakes, while driving $40,000 SUVs. Frank delivers up a useful primer on the Tea Party, and salts it with just the right amount of snark. As a special bonus, he guts Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, and with genuine literary flair. The book, by design, is not meant to be balanced, but late in the book he does serve up some shots for the Obam...more
Jonny99
"My opponent is a known raging heterosexual..." The easiest means of getting yourself elected is to draw the voter's focus to how bad the other guy is. Of course, the problem that develops over time, as we see from modern American politics, is that eventually voters lose trust in the system as a whole because everyone in it is covered in slung mud. Frank's book takes this tactic and applies it to the current phase of Fox News-driven conservatism. Essentially, his argument boils down to if "they"...more
Susan
This was a fun, fast yet depressing read - it just reminds the reader of the ridiculously upside down logic (or lack thereof) that has lead countless Americans to somehow vote against common sense and against their own best interests in the aftermath of the global financial meltdown. Frank is snarky, fierce and funny and I enjoyed his writing; it's not his fault that a large portion of the American people have allowed themselves to be manipulated by master showmen like Glenn Beck (I don't know h...more
Clif Hostetler
Outrage apparently doesn't lead to reason. At least according to this author there was no reasoned response to the outrage that followed the 2008 economic meltdown. This book reviews the political reactions to the sub-prime mortgage crisis from a liberal's point of view and finds plenty to criticize on both sides of the political spectrum.

Everyone agrees that there's plenty cause for outrage at the way a small number of investment bankers nearly brought the world economy to its knees. A respons...more
Erik Simon
I honestly can't think of anyone who is better than Thomas Frank at deconstructing today's society to explain what all is really going on. His knowledge of history, politics and culture is vast, containing multitudes. For instance, it's only after he pointed out Glenn Beck's devotion to Orson Wells that I fully understood that the underlying motif to Beck's schtick is a daily broadcast emulating Wells' Martian invasion broadcast. In this book, he breaks down and depicts just perfectly the Right...more
Kate Woods Walker
Thomas Frank once again takes a measured look at the seemingly irrational forces that keep U.S. social, economic and political forces going ever-rightward, despite the stunning failures of every single solitary tenet of the Supply Side-Fundamentalist-Randian faith, and just as he did in What's the Matter with Kansas? comes up with plausible reasons for the collective insanity that threatens our gasping, frail republic.

Along the way, Pity the Billionaire prompts more than a few laughs (mostly of...more
Stephen
In absolute horror and frustration to the political gyrations of mid-century America, I read with fascination Frank's book - "What's the Matter With Kansas;" watched the documentary as well. I had read his "Commodify Your Dissent" in graduate school and loved his use of language and irreverence. This new book does for the economic collapse/depression/great recession what "Kansas" provided to political discourse linked with a dose of financial pablum. The resurgence of the right in 2010 is comple...more
Todd Martin
As we enter the 2012 election cycle, chances are you’ve asked yourself on more than one occasion “What the hell is wrong with these people?”
- Unregulated finance companies leveraged beyond their means trading in credit default swaps almost bring about global financial collapse and instead of responding with strong regulations to reign in these abuses we have free market zealots clamoring for less government intervention and more of what brought about the catastrophe.
- People with pre-existing he...more
Michael
This is a difficult book to write about, and I’m not quite sure where to start. I read Thomas Frank’s book What’s the Matter With Kansas a few years back and really enjoyed it. Mr. Frank, at the time, had assumed the mantle of a modern day prairie populist, like a 21st century William Jennings Bryan, who set out to understand how the people of Kansas (or anywhere in Red State America) could be so foolish to vote for the likes of George W. Bush over John Forbes Kerry. Frank was amazed that the pe...more
Jim Braly
For any American who hasn’t noticed that the economy has tanked, “Pity the Billionaire” will get you caught up on the details … oh, wait, the people who haven’t noticed that the economy has tanked are the billionaires.

If you liked the way George W. Bush cut taxes for the rich, ran up the budget deficit with two wars he refused to pay for, and deregulated Wall Street so it could give us the back of its invisible hand, then you have the chance to go through that again.

Through the miracle of disho...more
Al
An attempt to explain the post-crash turn rightward, when all previous history suggested that a turn to the left was inevitable, this book is pretty boilerplate Thomas Frank. If you're a super-fan, like me, that's fine, even if many of the themes - market dogma, the right's attempt to dismantle government, the boondoggling of the middle class into voting against their apparent best interests - are familiar from his other work (One Market Under God, The Wrecking Crew, and What's The Matter With K...more
Lucas
I expected more of a middle of the road historical assessment of the economic collapse here, along with an analysis of how American society, especially our middle and lower classes, has responded to its aftermath. The beginning chapters of the book, including one that related the American popular response to the Great Depression and those responsible for causing it, were a great way to start this analysis. However, this book quickly degrades into "it's all their fault" language, and I found that...more
Donna
In the financial meltdown that punctuated the end of the G. W. Bush administration, "sixteen trillion dollars in household wealth was incinerated on the pyre Wall Street had kindled." Some of that was my wealth and—unless you happen to be a member of the now-infamous 1%—some of it was undoubtedly yours. And we are still feeling the effects of those losses.

That's $16,000,000,000,000 in household wealth, middle-class wealth—the homes and jobs and hard-earned savings of ordinary folks. We're not ta...more
Margie
Nov 28, 2012 Margie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Margie by: CSPAN. Because I'm that kind of nerd.
Three and a half stars.

Frank makes some good points, but I wish it were a little bit more well-documented and a bit less sardonic.

I've not yet read What's the Matter With Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, but have read several reviews that mention his incredulity at Kansans' credulity. That same sense of "can you believe these idiots?" runs through this book, as well. That, along with the repeated attacks on Glenn Beck (deserving though they may be), cause this book to veer a...more
Jake
This was kind of fun to read, but could have been great if the dude took off his political party eye-glasses. After writing nine chapters on the Republicans and one on Democrats, he doesn't seem to notice that they both cater to the same billionaires. There are a lot of internal inconsistencies which are all due to being opposed to a group instead of being FOR an ideal (much like the talk radio hosts he hates). The writers of really good political books likeThe Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disast...more
Geoffrey Fox
More serious than it appears from the jokey presentation, it is a case study of how manipulation of the media and repetition of misleading terms can fool the swindled into supporting their swindlers. The current example being the US "Tea Party", through which the very rich mobilize the poor in defense of something they call "liberty" which means basically letting the big corporations get away with anything. Fortunately, as Obama's re-election demonstrated and Lincoln reminded us a century and a...more
Melissa Acuna
Thomas Frank begins the laying out a very strong case against the GOP's economic and tax policy platforms. He begins with well documented background on the financial crisis. Unfortunately, mid-way through the case, he digresses into anecdotes as if he's made the case that things have gone from bad to worse due to Republican influence and policy--and he realizes it's going to continue to get even worse. It's s quick read and worth the price of the book for the first few chapters; and you're forgi...more
David Schwinghammer
Some might think Thomas Frank, author of WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS, might be writing from a liberal perspective. To a degree he is, but he saves some of his best barbs for the Obama administration.

Frank starts out trying to explain what led to the mortgage meltdown. He is especially struck by the similarity between what happened today with what happened in 1929. Three Republican presidents did everything they could to deregulate Wall Street. It was a boom period. People were buying stocks on...more
Jim
Pity the Billionaire continues Frank's tradition of left-leaning (for real) sociopolitical analysis with his engagingly witty prose. He first analyzes how a financial meltdown that could credibly be attributed to three decade policy pivot to the right could lead to the emergence of a populist anti-status-quo movement even further from the right. Frank's generally sympathizes with the sentiments underlying the tea party movement while documenting the oftentimes considerably muddled thinking under...more
Nicola
In Pity the Billionaire, Thomas Frank seeks to unravel the peculiar mystery of how the 2008 financial crash paved the way for the Tea Party and the resurgence of the Republicans in the US.

The answer is many-layered, but it mainly lies in rhetoric that lumps together big business and big government indiscriminately, an erroneous tendency to conflate the interests of small businesses with the interests of big corporates (even though they’re wildly different), plus some rather outrageous pilfering...more
Kifflie
This is a well-written, concise account of how the Right hijacked the economic crisis of 2008 to their own ends. Starting with Rick Santelli's notorious rant from the Chicago Board of Trade, and continuing with the Tea Parties -- about as phony a "populist" movement as one can imagine -- Frank gets all the major points across with humor. I find his approach refreshing compared to the overwrought profanity of Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone.
Dee
I won this book as a Goodreads First Read. It presents an interesting explaination as to how the US ran so far to the right when, historically speaking, we should have been sprinting in the opposite direction. it's nice to see that the whole world hasn't gone crazy thinking that the way to fix things is to do more of the same.
Jill Edmondson
This is the 2nd book of Frank's that I've read and I enjoyed Billionaire as much as I enjoyed Wrecking Crew. Thomas Frank is a provocative writer and his research is thorough. Read this. It will piss you right off, but read it anyway.
Pep Bonet
I am not sure how to rate this book. On the one side, I like what it says, I believe it is well documented, extensively supported with references and footnotes. On the other hand, it's four times the size it should have. I was wondering whether this should not be a couple of articles n a magazine of political science and indeed it is a gathering of op-eds published in the Wall Street Journal and extended into a book. It is not the first time I see this in political sciences books written in Amer...more
Jason
I consider myself a liberal and was assuming this would be a guilty pleasure. It turned out to be a waste of time.
Richard
A worthy follow up to "What's the Matter With Kansas," and like that book, "Pity the Billionaire" helps the reader get a better handle on questions that otherwise boggle the mind. Especially, *why* the Right has managed to gain such a firm support from the very people who are hurt worst by current economic policies.

A good portion of what Frank has to say won't be news to the type of person most likely to read it, but his account of the past few years is far better than most. The real value of t...more
Nancy
I really enjoyed "What's the Matter With Kansas"--and "Billionaire" extends Frank's theses about what people with few resources and even fewer prospects in these United States persist in believing that the free market will save democracy.

The book spends too much time deconstructing Glenn Beck (who left the stage shortly before the book was published) and Ayn Rand's turgid potboiler, "Atlas Shrugged." And it gets off to a slow start, as Frank meticulously traces what seems to be incomprehensible...more
Sara
I really love Thomas Frank's work. I wouldn't say that this was his best (that would be
"What's the Matter with Kansas?"), though it was definitely a solid bit of work. This time he focuses on the tea party and the billionaires that back them (with a good dose of Glenn Beck-lambasting, which quite frankly I can't get enough of).

His writing is so dense and crammed with so many different points and facts (and footnotes) happening all at once that reading his books can sometimes feel like work--bu...more
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Thomas Frank is the author of What’s the Matter with Kansas? and One Market Under God. The founding editor of The Baffler and a contributing editor at Harper’s, he is also a Wall Street Journal weekly columnist. He has received a Lannan award and been a guest columnist for The New York Times. Frank lives in Washington, D.C.
More about Thomas Frank...
What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from The Baffler The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy

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“And so the catastrophe of 1929–33 did to the certainties of laissez-faire economics what science did to nineteenth-century religion and what the slaughter of World War I did to old-fashioned patriotism: it knocked out the props. “Everything nailed down is coming loose,” people used to say back then: The Depression made business leaders into laughingstocks and transformed economic orthodoxy into so many fairy tales.” 0 likes
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