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Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right Paperback – September 18, 2012
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Amazon Exclusive: A Conversation Between David Sirota and Tom Frank
David Sirota: Do rich people in America genuinely feel persecuted, or are their requests for pity a political ploy to combat their critics?
Tom Frank: Well, we’re talking about something that’s self-evidently preposterous. The phrase “Pity the Billionaire” is the absurd but inevitable end-point of the present conservative argument. The book is about people trying to depict themselves as the victims of a situation where they are manifestly not victims: imagining that corporate enterprises are ground under the iron heel of an over-regulating government, that banks were forced to issue the loans that puffed up the real-estate bubble, that taxes are by definition onerous and thieving, that businesspeople are all, as a rule, hard-working, unassuming, and straight-shooting—and that they have risen up righteously in a great strike, like in Ayn Rand’s and John Boehner’s fantasy.
Sirota: Why has the economic crisis resulted in a rise of conservative economic populism rather than progressive populism?
Frank: Because conservatives got there first with the most money.
Remember, the right has been “populist” for a long time now, raging against this educated elite and that. Populism is a language and a style that the conservative movement is comfortable with. It wasn’t hard to turn a well-funded, well-organized movement already accustomed to thinking of itself this way into a protest movement for hard times.
Of course, this involved the swiping of a whole range of traditional left-wing ideas and symbols, everything from the exaltation of the strike to the notion of a despicable “ruling class.”
The other side of the question is, why weren’t the liberals there to contest this larceny? Where was the left-wing populist movement? Occupy Wall Street didn’t turn up until three whole years after the September ‘08 crash.
The answer to this, I’m afraid, is that genuine populist movements don’t just spring up overnight, in the way the Tea Party did. They come together slowly. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, which is the traditional home of working-class movements, has grown very uncomfortable with populism. They don’t like it, they don’t trust it, they sure as hell don’t know how to talk it. The Democratic Party more and more sees itself as the party of conscientious professionals—of bankers who are socially liberal, for example—and not as the party of working people.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
"Pity the Billionaire" covers even more astonishing recent developments. It is one thing to have people prostrate themselves before the "free-market god" prior to 2008. But when it became "the god that failed" to reference Arthur Koestler's book about his eventual disillusionment with communism, and the entire house of cards came tumbling down, then how could Americans be calling for yet a purer version of the "free market," effectively doubling down on their bets? Why didn't they throw the rigid ideology of the supremacy of the "free market" into the dust bin of history, along with communism? Frank does a superlative job illuminating how this most unlikely occurrence unfolded.
He reminds us that we have seen this 2008 movie before: The Great Depression.Read more ›
Oliver Wendell Holmes (a Republican) once famously said: "Taxation is the price we pay for civilization," by which he meant that taxation is how we fund government which is a necessity for civilization. On the basis of the Republican debates I have watched so far I have concluded that all of the Republican candidates seem to have trouble with the concept of "civilization" as we know it in the western world - i.e. a political system providing a safety net for all of its citizens. It's every man for himelf, buddy.
Mr. Frank spends a lot of time exploring the incredible ideology of the Far Right and how they came by it. They inhabit a very separate world - almost a parallel universe. What kind of misapprehension permits the Right to brush off truths that everyone else can see so plainly? That the great crash of 2008 was caused, not by too much regulation over business, but by lack of any effective regulation at all (repeal of the New Deal regulatory laws has been going on for over 30 years!) That critics of the bailouts were responsible for those bailouts.That Ayn Rand is not the hero but the villain of this disaster. Other examples of conservatism's "dalliance with error" abound.Read more ›
At all other times in American history when there has been an economic bust or crisis middle and working class Americans generally blamed conservative politics, the financial elite, and the capitalist system. They reacted by advocating economic and political reforms in opposition to the policies favoring the rich including increasing unionization, increasing financial regulation, and social policies to weaken the harsher consequences of the capitalist market system.
Now, despite the outrageous financial shenanigans of Wall Street and its conservative friends in business and government, the reaction has been in support of even more free-market behavior, less regulation, less government involvement in the economy, and less consumer protection.
At a minimum, this is a strange phenomenon.
In 189 pages covering 12 (total)chapters, Mr. Frank explains quite clearly how this reaction is irrational in so many ways in regard to the objective interests of these supporters. He explains how these people are favoring the same or even more extreme policies and behaviors which already have cost them their jobs, pensions, 401(k) balances, medical insurance, homes, and which have contributed mightily to the depletion of the U.S. Treasury on top of all that.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Anything by Thomas Frank is, in my view, worth reading. He's smart, clear-eyed & well read. "Pity the Billionaire" is a sequel to his "What's the Matter With... Read morePublished 3 months ago by David J. Keefe
later note: Red and Blue and Broke All Over by Charles Goyette goes somewhat deeper but Macrowikinomics gives a better idea of the out-of-the box thinking that's essential. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Lara Boyde
This guy is hilarious!! It wouldn't be as funny if he didn't believe it so much. He has heard of the Community Reinvestment Act but has no idea how it affected the "Great... Read morePublished 12 months ago by air2mud
Thomas Frank is a classic populist and gets the facts right. An excellent book on the Tea Party and its Libertarian Dead-Enders....Published 12 months ago by Bob
This is an interesting book albeit a bit dated. It gives a lot of insights into what really happened in 2008, and explains why populists have turned against big government rather... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Nancy M. Gould
It seems all the reviews were entered in the paperback version of this book. I bought the hardback. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Dennis Gannon
This is one of the few books I have ever given up on without finishing. It is short on facts and long on assertions. Read morePublished 15 months ago by H. Person