Pity The Billionaire

Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the RightThe purpose of Pity The Billionaire is to

explain hard-times conservatism, to understand the enthusiasm for an anything goes economic arrangement that persists in spite of all the failures and bank-breaking catastrophes that our previous effort to achieve such an arrangement have inflicted upon us.

The economic arrangement described by Thomas Frank is based on a fundamentalist, free market ideology and its “holy trinity of deregulation, prioritization, and free trade.”

As he points out, how in the world has it happened that

Wall Street had gambled with the world’s prosperity; Wall Street had brought about a financial catastrophe; and yet Wall Street was  to get the kind of government help that you and I will never receive.

And Wall Street now is only a bit more regulated than before the Great Recession.  The big banks have gotten bigger and pose much more of a too-big-to-fail risk than before 2008.  What gives?  I think the obvious answer is that Washington does not want to limit the big-business fat cats’ opportunities to cash in.  Republicans and Democrats alike seem unable to rein in corporate misbehavior – many probably don’t want to.  Who would fund their campaigns if not big business?  Not the unions.  Corporate interests have managed to just about emasculate the union movement in the United States.

‘ . . . our leaders allowed the biggest banks to get even bigger.  They offered the banks an open-ended guarantee against failing without really restricting their activities – a guarantee that might well encourage them to bet on the riskiest propositions available, secure in the knowledge that the taxpayer would make good their losses.

Lest you think that this book is a partisan screed, the author does not hesitate to criticize the Democrats.

the Democrats tried to have it both ways: to deliver the occasional liberal measure here and there while studiously avoiding traditional liberal rhetoric.

The bailouts, the stimulus, the health-care debate:  with each of these issues, the path of expertise led the Obama administration toward compromise with the power of wealth.

. . . each time political adversity has come, the Obama team has compromised in the direction of Wall Street, as though that was who needed to be mollified.

There are many more pithy and cogent passages in Pity The Billionaire that I could quote.  I suggest that you pick up a copy and read it for yourself.  There have been dozens of books on the Great Recession; its causes and its aftermath; this is one of the more enjoyable that I’ve read.

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