Pity the Billionaire : The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right
From the bestselling author ofWhat's the Matter with Kansas?, a wonderfully insightful and sardonic look at why 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. The understanding Frank reaches is at once startling, original, and profound.
Frank's fifth book spotlights America's political shift to the right and its embrace of laissez-faire economics ("the dogma of the nation's ruling class") in an effort to figure out why so many harshly affected by the Great Recession are falling in line behind the banner of free market theory. One response is that the downtrodden are quick to "lash out at whoever is in power"--and the talking points of right wing pundits are crisp: "Limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets." Of course, the culture wars haven't ended, but they're invisible in the platform of the Tea Party. While others continue to shed heat, rather than light, on such issues as gay marriage, fiscal messaging is the prevailing ethos. Sadly, Frank's book ends before the Occupy Wall Street movement took center stage across the United States and the world in fall 2011. Agent: The Spieler Agency. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/21/2011
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January 03, 2012
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