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

Thomas Frank
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
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Book Description

12 Jan 2012

Economic meltdown usually brings calls for change - or it's supposed to. But when Thomas Frank set out to find these, all he heard were loud demands that the losers be hit harder and that the winners get more.

We were told for decades that the market knows best, then had a once-in-a-lifetime crash. And now we see a popular uprising supporting free-market principles. As Frank explains, until 2009 the man on the dole did not weep for the man lounging on his yacht.

Using first-hand reporting, a deep political understanding and a wicked sense of humour, Frank looks at the weird double-think that has enlisted the powerless in a fan club for the prosperous.

Pity The Billionaire takes us on a wild road-trip through the strange landscape of the American Right, the Tea Party and Glenn Beck, makes sense of a topsy-turvy world and shows how instead of complying with the new speed limit, conservative America has stamped hard on the accelerator. It is essential reading for understanding how we all got to where we are, and how we might get out.

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Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right + What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America
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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Secker (12 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846556023
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846556029
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 81,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"No one fools Thomas Frank, who is the sharpest, funniest, most intellectually voracious political commentator on the scene. In Pity the Billionaire he has written a brilliant expose of the most breath-taking ruse in American political history: how the right turned the biggest capitalist breakdown since 1929 into an opportunity for themselves." (Barbara Ehrenreich)

"Brisk and searing and deeply informed by the lessons of history (shocking notion!), Frank's latest guide for the perplexed is nothing less than a precious gift to us. Read it, and finally--You. Will. Understand." (Rick Perlstein)

"Frank is one of the best leftwing writers America has produced" (Nick Cohen Observer)

"Trenchant and witty" (Alexandra Frean The Times)

Book Description

Insightful, infectiously furious and funny: why the worst collapse since the 1930s has brought about the revival of conservatism.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I don't know whether to laugh or cry. 25 Jan 2012
By Andrew Dalby VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is an easy access alternative to "The Strange Non-Death of Neo-Liberalism". It is written from a US perspective and so many of the cast of character will be unfamiliar to British readers but the way the New Right has seized the agenda from the liberal/social movements during the current economic crisis is very much the same both sides of the Atlantic. In that we do share a special relationship.

The crisis was the fault of unregulated capitalism, it was the banks and the financial services industry that took the world economy to the brink and that continues to do so. But the swing of public opinion has been to elect governments of the right and this is not just the Tea Party and GOP resurgence in the 2010 mid-term elections, but also in the UK and Spain governments have been elected that want small government, less intervention and who support business.

Frank explains how all this can happen, how the Right have used rhetoric to turn the story to paint themselves and capitalism as the victim and not the cause. Mostly it is blistering attack on that rhetoric and the lack of facts to support it. His particular targets are Glenn Beck and the Tea Party whose continuous stream of lies and mis-direction he tries to unravel. Last of all he shows why the liberal/socialist response has failed and how the Democrats have become mumbo-jumbo speaking technocrats helpless in front of a populist movement. The spreadsheet and flow-chart pushing intellectuals who have forgotten how to fight.

I think it is a great book and I wish more people would read it. Then perhaps we might get a real movement for change.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Polemic but good polemic, worth a read 23 Mar 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is perhaps an example of polemical publishing at its best, with a target audience perhaps of those likely to already agree with the conclusions of the author, either completely or in part, but it is still worth reading.

If you do share the opinions of the author you are likely to find the content interesting, even useful if you are the sort of person who is likely to engage in discussions of its topic matter. Frank has done his research and it is not simply an intellectual bemoaning the confounding of their hopes and expectations.

It is as impassioned a plee as it is reasoned an argument and if you are a fan of Frank's or similar polemics then you will not be disappointed.

I would recommend this to as wide a readership as possible however and do believe that anyone who considers themselves to be of contrary opinion could benefit from reading it. There are perhaps valid reasons for making common political cause with the billionaires of the book's title if you are not one of them but Frank's points are not merely envious or loathing or anything of that sort.

The book has a good contents and excellent index, there are very good endnotes too. The style and pace of the narrative are good while chapters are structured with the use of subheadings and centreline spacing for the longer citations from other sources. This makes it an easy read to quickly progress through or, if you are a student or speed reading, to discover the central and most salient points. Recommended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Never let a serious crisis go to waste " 12 Feb 2012
By russell clarke TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
How about this an explanation for the 2008 financial crash. The reason it occurred is that the banks and financial systems were not free enough . That government regulation and intervention stymied the markets and prevented them operating to their full potential.
Economic catastrophe usually, you would suspect would bring forth mass social protest and demands for change. But when Thomas Frank set out in 2009 to look for signs of blue collar American discontent, all he could find were loud demands that the economic system be made even harsher on the recession's victims and that society's traditional winners receive even grander prizes and be given even more freedom to carry out their capitalist economic miracle.
The American Right, which had seemed moribund after the election of 2008, was bizarrely reinvigorated by the arrival of recession and the following austerity measures . The Tea Party movement demanded not that Americans question the system that had collapsed with such disastrous consequences but that they reaffirm their unwavering commitment to it. Republicans in Congress embarked on a bold strategy of total opposition to the liberal state, while on TV ranting right-wing huckster Glenn Beck demonstrated the commercial potential of epic paranoia and the purest libertarian economics, decrying the interference of the state and using that horrible word socialism......ughh!!.No wonder millions of Americans were dragged round to that way of thinking . After all if everything you rely on for your information -the TV, the papers and your most vocal and exposed politicians all say the same thing , then must be true. Thank the lord for Fox TV.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Knee Jerk Politics 2 Feb 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It is hard for us in the UK to comprehend what has happened to US politics in the past few years, but this book goes a large way towards teaching us. Obama took office amid a feeling of hope, spreading not only across the USA but round the world. How that could go so wrong, how he could find himself now, vilified by the Right, is an interesting tale.

A great wrong had been done to the country, through the downturn. The Right had to make sure they didn't take the blame for it, and they did this by playing mind games with the US electorate. They devised a "them" and "us" model, where the bankers who fraudulently traded worthless securities suddenly became the victims, hampered by too much government intervention. The "free market" had been tampered with by "them." "They" were trying to take away "our" freedom to choose our health plan by introducing a state-run scheme. That was anti-competitive, and that meant it was anti-capitalist and so anti-democratic, so the logic went. (In the competitive market, you get sick, you don't pay, you die, by the way.)

We have had little exposure over here to the Tea Party movement, apart from the gaffes of Sarah Palin. We have not been told how this movement has been funded and manipulated by big business and the right wing media of the Murdochs, but if you read this book you will get a better understanding of what has been happening over there. Not that it is easy to understand, because the arguments the Right have used are shot through with contradictions: do they hate big business, the banks, or love them? It all depends what day it is.

An image that struck me recently was a Republican primary, where an elderly woman was baying at the camera that she wanted government to "get out of her face.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Neo liberals gone mad.
A real and much needed look at the greed that is rampant in neo-liberal states in the west. How the cronies in the media skew and distort the political elites and corporate America... Read more
Published 3 months ago by assfromelbow.
5.0 out of 5 stars Your mortgage is not my problem.... reads the placard of a Tea Party protestor in full flow. It sums up the brazen, in your face attitude of the resurgent right, of which Mr Frank writes in this splendid but... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Adam
4.0 out of 5 stars Comeback over with
It is interesting to read this book from the perspective of mid-2013 since Frank finished writing this book sometime in 2011 before Obama was reelected in 2012. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Dennis Littrell
2.0 out of 5 stars Not all it seems
Let's get one thing straight. Despite the implications of the blurb, this is not an analysis of a global political phenonomenon. Read more
Published on 9 Jun 2012 by El Loro
5.0 out of 5 stars Orgasmaclysm
In this mind-boggling book, Thomas Frank explains how the Right could sell `the free market God' at the moment when free market theory had proven itself to be a philosophy of... Read more
Published on 7 May 2012 by Luc REYNAERT
5.0 out of 5 stars How the fundamentalists rose from the dead
Like Colin Crouch's The Strange Non-Death of Neo-Liberalism Thomas Frank examines how the wealthy elite have managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by convincing the 99%... Read more
Published on 29 April 2012 by Chuck E
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
It was better than the partisan tea party bashing that I was expecting to be honest. A very concise evaluation of the differences between the market crashes of the 30's to the... Read more
Published on 19 Mar 2012 by Aaron Broadley
4.0 out of 5 stars entertaining polemic
It is surely pointless to criticise the author for being one-eyed. That is entirely the intention of the book; Frank doesn't agree with what the right in the US are saying and... Read more
Published on 11 Mar 2012 by Graham R. Hill
4.0 out of 5 stars Black comedy
This is a passionate, entertaining read - extremely funny in places but with a very serious bent. Thomas Frank examines the revival of the American Right, primarily the Tea Party... Read more
Published on 6 Mar 2012 by Marand
1.0 out of 5 stars Wanted to buy but don't want to be ripped off
If Amazon think I'm paying 8.50 for a non-physical book they've got another think coming.
The publishers of this book barely lift a finger and expect to get 8. Read more
Published on 3 Mar 2012 by Mr E. McConnell
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