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Pity the Billionaire: The Unexpected Resurgence of the American Right | [Thomas Frank]

Pity the Billionaire: The Unexpected Resurgence of the American Right

From the best-selling author of What's the Matter with Kansas?, a wonderfully insightful and sardonic look at how the worst economy since the 1930s has brought about the revival of conservatism. Economic catastrophe usually brings social protest and demands for change - or at least it's supposed to. But when Thomas Frank set out in 2009 to look for expressions of American discontent, all he could find were loud demands that the economic system be made even harsher on the recession's victims....
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Publisher's Summary

From the best-selling author of What's the Matter with Kansas?, a wonderfully insightful and sardonic look at how the worst economy since the 1930s has brought about the revival of conservatism.

Economic catastrophe usually brings social protest and demands for change - or at least it's supposed to. But when Thomas Frank set out in 2009 to look for expressions of 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. The American right, which had seemed moribund after the election of 2008, was strangely reinvigorated by the arrival of hard times. The Tea Party movement demanded not that we question the failed system but that we reaffirm our commitment to it. Republicans in Congress embarked on a bold strategy of total opposition to the liberal state. And TV phenom Glenn Beck demonstrated the commercial potential of heroic paranoia and the purest libertarian economics.

In Pity the Billionaire, Frank, the great chronicler of American paradox, examines the peculiar mechanism by which dire economic circumstances have delivered wildly unexpected political results. Using firsthand reporting, a deep knowledge of the American right, and a wicked sense of humor, he gives us the first full diagnosis of the cultural malady that has transformed collapse into profit, reconceived the Founding Fathers as heroes from an Ayn Rand novel, and enlisted the powerless in a fan club for the prosperous. What it portends is ominous for both our economic health and our democracy.

©2012 Thomas Frank (P)2012 Macmillan Audio

What the Critics Say

"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)

“Thomas Frank is the thinking person’s Michael Moore. If Moore, the left-wing filmmaker, had Frank’s Ph.D. (in history from the University of Chicago), he might produce books like this one.” (Michael Kinsley, The New York Times Book Review)

“A feisty and galvanizing book… This is the kind of analysis - historically astute, irreverent and droll - that makes Frank such an invaluable voice. As he's done in a series of perceptive books, Frank cuts through the partisan blather and explains how money and cynical ideas shape a certain kind of contemporary politics. Pity the Billionaire is further evidence that he's as good at this as any writer working today.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

What Members Say

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  •  
    EC Asheville, NC, United States 03-19-12
    EC Asheville, NC, United States 03-19-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "another outstanding book by Thomas Frank"
    Where does Pity the Billionaire rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    one of the best. The author is extremely engaging. His data and research are impeccable.


    What other book might you compare Pity the Billionaire to and why?

    It is hard to compare Thomas Frank to anybody. He writes differently and researches differently. He really stands in the category by himself. His body of work is different than any other author that I can think of.


    Any additional comments?

    if you're a political junkie, this book is a must-read.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mike Schnoll Danville, CA USA 08-17-12
    Mike Schnoll Danville, CA USA 08-17-12 Listener Since 2002

    Gadget Hound

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    "Intelligent analysis of a stupid phenomenon"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Pity the Billionaire to be better than the print version?

    How would I know? The audio edition is moving and insightful, but I haven't read the print version.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Pity the Billionaire?

    Understanding how citizen outrage at profligate government/corporate corruption morphed into the Tea Party reality-rejecting echo chamber. It's a remarkable story of money and manipulation. You certainly can fool some of the people all of the time.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The CEO of Massey Energy (multi-millionare beneficiary of lax safety practices that killed dozens of miners) rallying a crowd of middle class idiots with anti-government rhetoric.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    Self-reinforcing nature of faith and politics, not blatant stupidity, precludes people from questioning the beliefs that lead to this mass crazy. Joe the Plumber really believes he's better off under Bush/McCain no matter the evidence to the contrary.


    Any additional comments?

    Both entertaining and thoroughly depressing to think that so many American voters lack the critical reasoning skills see through the mendacity of the monied leaders of this Astroturf movement. Our public education system has failed us.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer G. Toomey Washington, DC 04-30-12
    Jennifer G. Toomey Washington, DC 04-30-12 Member Since 2011

    jinefizzh

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    "Another important book from Frank"
    What made the experience of listening to Pity the Billionaire the most enjoyable?

    The chapter on Ayn Rand was worth the cost of admission.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    The book has important insights about how the public has allowed wealth distribution to get so out of whack while doing nothing substantive in order to protect the public.


    What does Thomas Frank bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    It's great to hear the author read the book when the author has the charisma that TF has.No one sneers at hyporcrisy so well.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    As with all TF books I found myself simultaneously laughing out loud and wanting to wash my eyeballs.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wayne Manning, OR, USA 04-21-12
    Wayne Manning, OR, USA 04-21-12 Member Since 2002
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    "Exactly what I was looking for"

    This book explained to me better than any I have read what the Tea Party is about and why I have been so disappointed with the Democrats response to both the political right and the recession. I doubt many on the right will be able to listen to it all the way through - just as I haven't been able to listen to any extended writings from the radical right. Frank can be very harsh as he is illuminating. The book does not give any solutions but serves as a starting point depicting the Tea Party development and their relationship with the right. I have a much better understanding of how we got here and for the first time in a long time I feel some comradery with the Tea Party even though I still think they have gone down a very dangerous path for America.

    I will be thinking about this book for a long time.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael San Mateo, CA, United States 03-27-12
    Michael San Mateo, CA, United States 03-27-12
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    "Red Meat for Liberals, but solid & well reasoned"

    It's not loaded with statistics, and doesn't go into too much detail, but Frank's arguments are complete and well-structured. I think he writes assuming that the reader (listener) of his book is well versed in current events and the various positions of the government and media players he talks about. This seems to be a supplement to what we all watch on TV and read in the political press every day. And, as well done as it is, I have to agree that it is indeed more of a "rant" than an academic treatise.

    However, it is not all one-sided in its treatment of the two major parties. Those who say it's just a pro-Democrat, anti-Republican screed obviously didn't listen to the whole thing. In my opinion, the best part of the book is Frank's comparison of the last 5 years to the 1929-1934 US response to the great depression. The parallels are unsettling and he is very even-handed in criticizing our government's response to the Great Recession.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew Dunn Vancouver, BC Canada 09-07-12
    Andrew Dunn Vancouver, BC Canada 09-07-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Frank gets righteously angry"

    And so he should, given the scale of the fraud perpetrated on the 99% by the criminal propertied classes and their lackeys in government. If you like Chris Hedges, read Salon and don't pronounce the word as 'gubmint', then this could be the book for you.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Audiohound Silver Spring, MD, United States 06-05-12
    Audiohound Silver Spring, MD, United States 06-05-12 Member Since 2009

    History, film, comics, dogs, coffee, tator tots, noodle bowls. Things I love in addition to audiobooks.

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    "Under the Banner of the ???Don???t Tread on Me??? Flag"

    I enjoy Thomas Frank???s mixture of contemporary politics linked to deeper history and his terrific wit. ???Pity the Billionaire??? follows on ???What???s the Matter with Kansas????and ???The Wrecking Crew,??? and continues his excellent streak. This is a short book on the Tea Party and its harnessing of the populist anger in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis for the good of free market economics. I laughed out loud at passages like: ???And harmless snakes have learned over the millennia to frighten predators by shaking their tails in the dead leaves. They are mimic rattlesnakes--not the real deal. Don???t be afraid. Go ahead and tread on them.??? He cracks that joke and then embarks on a razor-sharp depiction of how and why the conservative moment mimics other movements it disparages. Frank narrates quickly and with an occasional chuckle in his voice. His voice is different from the professionals, yet surely listenable since I have listened to parts of the book twice now. Recommended.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 03-19-12 Member Since 2001
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    "Insightful, but don't expect balance"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This book provides interesting historical insights into the way the current political stalemate developed. It attacks both major parties (on different grounds). The opinions Mr. Frank provides are backed up well enough by hard facts to make Republicans cringe over the documented failures of laissez-faire, market-driven economics and Democrats ashamed for insensitivity to the shift in American values. Mr. Frank's reading was both more inflammatory and more entertaining than the printed book, not surprisingly. I found his criticism of Ayn Rand's


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    NYNM 01-09-12
    NYNM 01-09-12 Member Since 2011
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    "oh no"

    I actually agree with Frank and am on his side. I appreciate his position of exposing current right wing politics. But! This book is so over the top! It is dramatic (!), too sensational (!), vague (!) and lots of other wasted opportunities (!!). This is more theatrics that a serious discussion that is needed. Sorry, it is just silly. ("El Rushbo" and all!)

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bakunin Southlands 01-30-12
    Bakunin Southlands 01-30-12 Member Since 2010

    Bakunin Amaru

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great thesis, should have been an article"
    Would you listen to Pity the Billionaire again? Why?

    Yes, the author's thesis is solid


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Pity the Billionaire?

    Simply when he starts introducing the Tea Party, and what their demands were, and how scary, frustrating, and counter-intuitive they were given that they were responding to the financial crisis.


    Have you listened to any of Thomas Frank???s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have not listened to any of his prior works, but I have read the book What's a Matter with Kansas.


    Any additional comments?

    This book is one of those cases when the author has a great idea that is meant for a 30 page article. There was no need to make this into a book, and this became clear as the author added filler after filler. Ironically, it works well in an audiobook, because you don't have to be paying close attention, since the argument will be repeated constantly, and interesting anecdotes are scattered throughout the book.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
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