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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

Critic Reviews

"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

Average Customer Ratings

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  • EC
  • Asheville, NC, United States
  • 03-19-12

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 4 people found this review helpful

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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.<br/>

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.<br/>

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.<br/>

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.<br/>

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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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 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Wayne
  • Manning, OR, USA
  • 04-21-12

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 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • San Mateo, CA, United States
  • 03-27-12

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 3 people found this review helpful

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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!)

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Wow

Very Informative, and well thought out. Thomas Frank is, by far, the clearest writer on the subject matter of understanding the appeal of the conservative mind.

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Don't expect knowledge. Expect character attacks

What disappointed you about Pity the Billionaire?

Pity the billionaire doesn't seem to be intended to convince anyone of anything. Rather than produce facts and figures, or explain the intricacies of a system, the author instead spends his energy making character attacks and using sensationalist terminology. I came expecting a well reasoned explanation of a different viewpoint, and instead received hate-filled drivel designed to whip the already-believing into a frenzy.

Has Pity the Billionaire turned you off from other books in this genre?

Very much so. It's hard to understand and improve my knowledge when there's so much hate and ignorance being flung (especially when that hate and ignorance is levied at and about hate and ignorance)

How could the performance have been better?

The author read the book himself, and his tonality and energy adds even more venom to the already caustic words. Listening to his message would have been easier had someone else read the book. Heck, a text-to-speech engine would have resulted in an easier-to-digest presentation.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

I wish there were redeeming qualities, but I haven't found any.

Any additional comments?

It's not audible's fault that the content was lacking.

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  • Jeffrey
  • Sheffield, PA, United States
  • 05-13-14

A decent book although somewhat predictable

Would you try another book from Thomas Frank and/or Thomas Frank?

Probably not. Thomas Frank is a decent writer with a wonderful vocabulary and solid research. Unfortunately he's too one-sided and pretentious for my taste. He seems to be interested in talking down to everyone and comes off as quite pompous at times.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

This is a situation again where an author really should hire a profession voice over artist. He's clearly passionate about his material but at so many points he seemed like he was too eccentric, too sarcastic. He seemed like the dictionary definition of a "whiny liberal". So many time when talking to conservatives they go on about the "liberal elite" and how so many liberals think they're better than everyone else and smarter. This reading pretty much summed that up. Unless you desperately hate republicans and the business class, I think that you might find this a bit distasteful.

Any additional comments?

A decent book. I agree with the premise and found some of the points very interesting. It was just a little to "over-the-top" for me.

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  • Maggie
  • bend, OR, United States
  • 06-09-13

Perspective interesting but delivery too shrill

Although I mostly enjoyed the overall thesis of this book, the delivery was that of a sports' announcer hyping everything at the top of his voice. I am suspicious of anyone/anything that requires shouting to make a point. By trying to ignore that part of the presentation, it was mostly interesting.