Customer Reviews: Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right
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Showing 1-6 of 6 reviews(2 star). Show all reviews
on January 22, 2012
Thomas Frank complains in "Pity the Billionaire" about the ideological echo chambers people tend to divide themselves in. Unfortunately, his book suffers from a similar problem. The tone is too abrasive to make any inroads with those who don't share his ideology.

Through a loosely joined series of essays Frank discusses everything from the political tone in America during the 1930s recession, to magazines for rich stockbrokers during the 2000s boom, to Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged. His thesis appears to be that the democrats have blown their electoral chances by not focusing on the roots of the populist anger we're seeing. Frank would have done things differently. For instance, he says more should have been done to explain why fiscal stimulus was necessary. I tend to agree, but the idea that the Democrats would be an appreciably different electoral position if they had spent more time lecturing the public on Keynes' General Theory is unlikely.

Frank sees reason for pessimism everywhere. Even the 2010 health care bill was a failure in disguise. Prohibiting insurance companies from excluding customers based on pre-existing conditions apparently doesn't count for anything, because ultimately the bill didn't include a public option.

The book generates a lot of heat and not much light.
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VINE VOICEon December 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'm a huge fan of Thomas Frank. His What's the Matter With Kansas was absolutely brilliant. Since I discovered that great book, I've been following his articles and interviews and eagerly awaiting his new book. You can just imagine how happy I was when I got the chance to read the proofs of his Pity the Billionaire, a book that analyzes the reasons behind the rise of the Tea Party movement. The book strives to answer the crucial question: how is it possible that the Americans' response to the global economic crisis that happened as a result of unbridled free market practices led them to form a movement that would defend the free market rather than to a movement that would ask for regulations?

The book, however, turned out to be a massive disappointment. Frank's trademark wit is gone. Aside from a few forced jokes, the book is written in a plodding, unimaginative style that I had no idea this author was even capable of.

His analysis of the "right renaissance" is also unimpressive. I'm no fan of the Tea Party, to put it very mildly. Still, I have to recognize that Frank is being intellectually dishonest in his characterization of the Tea Partiers. For instance, he blames them for the apocalyptic tone they often adopt and the doomsday scenarios they enjoy generating. This, however, is not a distinctive trait of just the Tea Partiers. It is just as present among the Progressives. The Liberal blogs I read are filled to the brim with endless apocalyptic scenarios. By the way, Slavoj Zizek's 2009 book is titled Living in the End Times. You don't get either more apocalyptic or more progressive than that.

Another fault that Frank ascribes to the Tea Partiers is that they erase the class distinctions and see no difference between a share-cropper and a small-business owner. Does this remind you of anything, by any chance? Yes, right you are, the #Occupy movement that lumps everybody who is not a billionaire into the imaginary downtrodden 99%.

In his analysis of the housing market's crash of 2008, Frank keeps discussing the irresponsible lenders and traders who caused the crash. He is absolutely right in that their actions deserve to be investigated and condemned. However, Frank avoids the discussion of the other side of the equation, namely, the irresponsible borrowers. Unless we recognize that the Tea Partiers express a legitimate grievance of many against those who borrowed huge amounts of money they had no hope of repaying, there will be no opportunity to address the economic and political situation in this country in any productive way.

The irresponsible lending goes on. In my neighborhood it definitely does and it horrifies me to imagine into what fresh round of drama this will lead us. But my neighborhood bank would not be able to hand out the record number of zero-downpayment mortgages last months had there not been people willing to snap them up. "The Bad Neighbor Doctrine" of the Tea Partiers that Frank condemns makes a lot of sense to me, a passionate Liberal.

I also found it disturbing that Frank strives so hard to refute accusations of racism and religious fanaticism that have been directed at the Tea Party movement. For him, the Tea Partiers are not guilty of any of these things. Their greatest problem, in Frank's opinion, is that they are mostly small-business owners who have small-business owners' mentality. And this, in Frank's eyes, is some kind of unpardonable sin.

I'm giving this book 2 stars for the simple reason that I still like Frank so much that I can't force myself to give any book of his one star.
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on January 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was hoping this book would explain what to me what is one of the real puzzles of the recent past. Indeed, as Frank puts it "Before this recession, people who had been cheated by bankers almost never took that occasion to demand that bankers be freed from 'red tape' and the scrutiny of the law." So while Frank clearly grasps the question, the book turned out to be a polemical disapointment.

While built on a foundation of events that no doubt happened as he depicts, the conclusions and interpretations he offers seem to me to be akin to those that would be reached by Limbaugh and Beck if they were writing from the perspective of the Left instead of the Right. For example Frank writes "For decades, politicians had catered to every short-fused demand that economic conservatives raised". Really? Did Social Security get privatized? Were Clinton's tax hikes not enacted into law? Was Obama's health plan defeated? You find page after page of overreaching claims in this book.

While containing plenty of stories and events to help understand what the Tea Party and its ilk are saying and doing, the author has a clear agenda that comes thru on page after page. If that's what you want, then this is the book for you.
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VINE VOICEon September 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Mr Frank starts and ends fairly well, though even at his best the writing is better suited to a blog rant.

The middle of the book really fell apart and with the droning over Ayn Rand I am actually surprised that I completed it.

If you know Mr Frank, like him, and want to read a 240 page rant, go for it. If you're hoping for new information or an original thought you should look elsewhere.

For the record, I agree with his politics. It is the lack of content and style of expression that left me flat.
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on February 5, 2012
If you are amused by the hubristic arrows of Bill Maher targeting America's moral and economic values you will enjoy this attack on the common man deceived by a reactionary new right.
How dare a citizenry who embrace a free market economy, private property and profit (American exceptionalism practiced as capitalism) be so threatened by government regulation intent on transforming the country for the collective benefit. THE HARD TIMES SWINDLE was perpetrated by congressional committees in collusion with Wall Street cronies... those members of congress (Barney Frank, Maxine Waters, Chris Dodd...) escaped justice as much as the Wall Street tycoons at the public's expense.
Pity billionaire George Soros? Unlike Bill Gates, the only thing he produced is wealth. Elitist authors obsessed with their exaggerated expressions of subjectivity to justify masterful musings of class envy and utopian ideals have a following among other elitists and the freedom to annunciate canons of contempt.
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on February 20, 2012
As a conservative, I try to read articles and books from the left and see both points of view. I want to have the capacity to argue both sides. Mr. Frank did little to help me argue from the left.

On the positive side: Thomas Frank pointed out both sides can be bought as he pointed out that President Obama sold out to Wall Street, the Health Care Industry and others. He noted that the government/big business can trample the little guy. On these points, I agree.

On the negative: Mr Frank panders to those who may buy his book. If you like name calling and a one sided discussion, buy the book. Mr. Frank puts up FDR as a roll model for the left. Mr. Frank could have pointed out FDR's policies, including price controls that froze out small companies trying to compete with big companies, minimum wage laws that froze out Southern state's labor from competing with NE textile industry and many other bad policies led to +20% unemployment 10 years into the great depression! FDR trampled on the Constitution (a number of his initiatives were found to be unconstitutional). Like Obama, he steered money to his backers (unions and his favorite industries). On top of that, FDR funneled money to swing states just before elections and than stopped the support just after the elections!

A good example of Mr. Franks propaganda (I don't believe he is that naive and purposely slants his writings) is found at the end of the book. He warned that global warming problems will continue to get worse. This shows Mr. Frank's blindness to reality. The earth's warming took an unexplained respite between 1998 and 2009. A few years ago the global warming alarmists experienced "Climate-gate" where thier emails showed that they were fabricating data. Global Warming is the least of our problems. Until Mr. Franks does his homework, his work can only be taken as propaganda. Note, Mr. Frank makes money debating conservatives. If he starts sounding balanced, he will lose his left wing moniker and also lose his paydays.

Unfortunately, politicians can never say no and we end up with huge bubbles, promises they can't keep, wars we can't afford, schools that can't spell competitions and inefficient government bueracracy that is hugely wasteful and inefficient. Where Mr. Frank is wrong is that he keeps expecting government to be our caretaker and provide us with a safety net that makes life so much better. Mr. Frank will have to wait until hell freezes over before that is going to happen! Big business/Unions/Public Schools systems will continue to manipulate our politicians until we cut the purse strings. Mr. Frank should write a more fair and balanced book, but I guess that won't sell to his audience.
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