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January 5, 2012

Thomas Frank

Bestselling author and columnist Thomas Frank discusses his latest political polemic, Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right at the Brattle Theatre.


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.

"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

About Author(s)

Thomas Frank is the author of The Wrecking Crew, What's the Matter with Kansas? and One Market Under God. The founding editor of The Baffler and a contributing editor at Harper's, he is also a former opinion columnist for the Wall Street Journal. He has received a Lannan award and been a guest columnist for the New York Times.

Frank is a historian of culture and ideas and analyzes trends in American electoral politics and propaganda, advertising, popular culture, mainstream journalism and economics. His writing explores the rhetoric and impact of the relationship between politics and culture in the United States.