Hard Times and the Rise of the Right

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Thomas Frank, author of What's the Matter with Kansas?, discusses why the economic crisis and recession has brought about the revival of conservatism. In Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right, Frank examines the conservative idea that the economic system be made harsher on the recession's victims and offer bigger rewards for winners.


Thomas Frank

Comments [22]


Fuva, when you wrote: "Republican "free market" administration," did you put quotes around "free market" because you were being facetious, or do you believe that the United States is a free market economy? If you do believe that the United States is a free market economy, I'd like to know your definition of "free"? The United States is a mixed economy just like all other economies in the world, with the exceptions of Cuba and North Korea—which are command economies.

There are currently no free markets in the world, to the everlasting delight to (and advantage of) big corporations so that they can prevent new competitors into the market.

Jan. 04 2012 02:46 PM

Fuva: All business regulations are written to favor big business. To say, "Big business runs government, therefore we need bigger government" is not only illogical, but it is EXACTLY what big business wants us sheeple to believe. If you believe that big business "hates" regulation, then why aren't all big businesses, which we both know control the government, supporting a candidate like Ron Paul—who is 100% opposed to market regulation? Goldman Sachs was Obama's biggest contributor in his 2008 campaign. And, today, Pres. Obama Tops GOP candidates in Wall Street donations:

I worked in the finance industry for almost two decades. I can assure you that it is one of the most (if not the most) government-regulated sectors in the U.S. economy. The entire finance/monetary system we have in this country (and the rest of the world, for that matter) is a complete fraud. You can "regulate" from now to Kingdom Come, and things will still get worse. The Banksters love it when people call for more "regulation," believing that "this time" this will prevent problems in the system. All those "regulations" are are a cover for a fraudulent banking/financial system.

You can keep believing (being that you are left-wing, as I used to be) that a left-wing President is "less harmful" than a right-wing (which I never was, nor ever will be) President, and the Banksters will continue to laugh all the way to their banks.

(Sorry to break this news to you.)

Jan. 04 2012 02:39 PM
fuva from Harlemworld

I was also pointing out that bank and car co bailouts, and TARP were implemented under a Republican "free market" administration...

Jan. 04 2012 01:47 PM
fuva from Harlemworld

David, you're absolutely correct. Remember, Glass–Steagall was repealed under Clinton. Still, de-/under-regulation is Republican ideology, which is why -- though I am neither Republican nor Democrat -- I think Obama is the lesser evil here. My intention with the first statement you quote was to point out the hypocrisy and incoherence of current Republican fervor.

Jan. 04 2012 01:43 PM

fuva from Harlemworld, you wrote:

"Sure, it makes complete sense to absolutely hate the relatively moderate, compromising Obama, and elect Conservatives espousing the same de/under-regulation ideology that led to financial collapse, who, by the way, were the ones who bailed out the banks and the car companies and signed TARP into law."

You mean to say that then-Senator Obama and many of his other Democratic colleagues didn't also vote to bail out the banks and the car companies and signed TARP into law? This will be news to them (and the rest of us).

I cannot agree with you more when you write:

"Meanwhile, Obama can't call out Republican ideological folly, because it also implicates the financial industry, which controls him."

The exact same big banking/big business interests that control the Republicans also control the Democrats. One would have thought that this would have been glaringly obvious to most Democrats by now after Democrats also voted to bail out the banks and the car companies and signed TARP into law.

And let's not forget that Nobel "Peace" Prize winner Obama not only did not immediately end the Iraq War, as he promised to do (, but escalated the Afghan War and initiated drone bombings in Pakistan and Yemen.

We don't have a two-party system in this country. We have a one-party system controlled by the Banksters, the military-industrial complex, and certain select big corporations (like Big Oil, Big Pharma, and the Health Insurance cartel.

Jan. 04 2012 01:34 PM

Ralph -

Don't you know that posts marked by reasoned, rational thoughts and void of histrionics and narrow-minded attacks are not allowed on WNYC's boards?

Live up to contractual obligations? Careful - you might be called visceral, inbred or racist.

Jan. 04 2012 01:16 PM
Ralph from Connecticut

The "rant" by Rick Santelli followed on weeks of discussion on the loss of any "morale hazard" to help keep people (all people, investors and individuals) to "self regulate" themselves. His point was the lack of any moral hazard for many people who overborrowed and bought cars and built pools with that money (thus, acting irresponsible).
One aspect of his "rant" was people should fullfil their contractual obligations. Since then the current trend appears to put aside the rule of law (through ignoring legal contracts) with all manner of excuses (consider the school loan movement).
Leave aside the excesses of the financial middlemen in these areas (and there were many - for which one could or should seek legal redress or remedy).
The variation of views on "moral hazard" and upholding contractual terms appears to be one difference between the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street. - R

Jan. 04 2012 12:55 PM

What appeals to me about both the tea party and OWS, is the complaint about the nexus of government and business to benefit an elite. One of my pet peeves are things like the Bayh Dole acts of the 1980s which hands over gov't financed intellectual property to corporations. That and defense contractors owning the IP that the government has financed. If the government was paid a royalty for every prince of intell prop it created the gov't would be in the black not the red.

Jan. 04 2012 12:39 PM
The Truth from Becky

Republican supporters are sooo naive, they are rabble rousers who drink the kool aid and support statements such as "let's take our country back" my question is from who? Are Democrats and supporters not American's as well? Why can't these ignorant folk tell that they are being lied to? They just want the title of President. Don't these inbreds realize, that if the repubs were to get back in office they would be in no more of a position to speed up change than President Obama! There will not be a republican president in 2012. You heard it here first.

Jan. 04 2012 12:39 PM
Jessie Henshaw from way uptown

What seems to happen is the "theory we keep" when there's been a big mess, is to let politicians and social activists determine the answers,.. whenever science has failed to understand or explain things. That's really not a good approach, as what you mainly get is self-serving contradictory revisionist histories as the theoretical basis for "the revealed truth"...

The actual source of the financial crisis, that this scientist could fairly easily explain to anyone curious about how, is that society asks government and it's financial system to assure people with financial saving continual growing returns at as fast a rate as they can, by betting on things we all trust. It very directly causes anything we had once kept our trust in to become profoundly untrustworthy, for very easily understood natural causes (you can see by taking a tour in your mind of the consequences).

Jan. 04 2012 12:38 PM
John A

Would love to hear Mr. Frank compare the attitudes on religion 1930 - present. Today soo many people are calling for it's eradication, whereas then the love thy neighbor attitude actually existed.

Jan. 04 2012 12:36 PM
Olivia from New York

Come on guys. You are surprised? Big money is in control everywhere, including the media, and it coreographs everything. I never thought for a moment that the Tea Party "movement" was grass roots. It is funded by the corporations, the same way Congress is "bought off". We are moving toward oligarchy any way you want to define it. And I think we have crossed a line, to the point that pulling back will be almost impossible. That's what Occupy movements are all about. We know the solutions to many of our problems, but the will to implement them is not there on the part of those in power - because it allows them to maintain control. I hope I am wrong.

Jan. 04 2012 12:33 PM
fuva from Harlemworld

Sure, it makes complete sense to absolutely hate the relatively moderate, compromising Obama, and elect Conservatives espousing the same de/under-regulation ideology that led to financial collapse, who, by the way, were the ones who bailed out the banks and the car companies and signed TARP into law. Who also have offered no effective program to address the underlying operative economic problems. No, this is not visceral.

Jan. 04 2012 12:33 PM

How important was the fact that no one was indicted?

Jan. 04 2012 12:29 PM

I love how Obama's race must be the reason why conservatives surged in 2010. I'd argue that people who make that point are themselves "too immature and race ignorant" to consider anything other than race.

I don't like Obama because he represents "progressive" policies - policies which I oppose. It has nothing to do with his race.

Jan. 04 2012 12:22 PM
Hugh Sansom

Bill Clinton wanted to privatize Social Security. Obama has made noises along those lines, and certainly surrounded himself with economic thinkers who urged that (Lawrence Summers, Robert Rubin, Timothy Geithner) while ultimately forcing out or excluding from the start Keynesians (Joseph Stiglitz, Christina Romer, Paul Krugman, etc.)

What is _really_ astonishing is that _even after the crash of 2008_, Democrats and Republicans alike — in significant majorities — still want to privatize Social Security and other huge portions of the social safety net.


Well, Obama and Summers and Dodd and Frank are among the extreme-elite who have absolutely NOTHING to fear from any economic collapse. Moreover, Obama and Bush before him (and Clinton before him) have steadily bolstered the domestic security state in no small measure guaranteeing that the wealthy will be well-protected should Occupy Wall Street sentiments become more widespread, more active, and threaten more to redistribute wealth down.

My great disagreement with Frank is that this was just Republican movement — the Democrats were, with very few exceptions — full-fledged advocates.

Jan. 04 2012 12:18 PM
fuva from Harlemworld

Rick, absolutely.

Jan. 04 2012 12:17 PM
fuva from Harlemworld

Meanwhile, Obama can't call out Republican ideological folly, because it also implicates the financial industry, which controls him.

Jan. 04 2012 12:16 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

"Capitalism" is the ONLY natural economic system that produces wealth like no other. The collapse of every other system proves it. Of course, it can be abused and misused, but it will always bounce back, like life itself, because it is a natural phenomenon. The only thing we can do to blunt its excesses is to be more charitable and make sure that the laws are fair, just, and upheld. But we will never be able to fully defend the stupid from their own stupidity, no matter how much we try to educate and legislate. The Roman adage, "Caveat emptor" or let the buyer beware will always apply, whether in buying or taking a loan to buy a house, a car or an education. A fool and his money will soon be parted. And anyone who thinks they can get away with something for nothing ultimately will be proven a fool, and lose the money anyway.

Jan. 04 2012 12:12 PM
Rick from Connecticut

The real reason the electorate did not blame the right for causing the financial debabacle, is due to the dumbing down of the average level of knowledge people have today. People don't have the slightest idea of what happened in 2008, yet in the 1930's wshen the average person had no college and no TV, they had a much greater understanding of what caused the 1929 crash.

Jan. 04 2012 12:12 PM
Hugh Sansom

I'd suggest that the key reason that the right surged post-2008 is that the economic preferences of conservatives largely align with so-called moderates. Obama has been conservative on economic issues (and on foreign policy, civil liberties, etc.) The only real point of departure between American moderates and conservatives is on social issues — abortion, gay rights, etc. But when it comes to coddling big banks, billionaires, etc., Obama, Schumer, Dodd, Barney Frank, etc., are indistinguishable from the most conservative, Chicago School contingent.

Jan. 04 2012 12:10 PM
fuva from Harlemworld

Because the current "Right" is incoherent, driven by the viscera and base instincts, and not reason. They simply hate Obama. And we're too immature and race ignorant to talk about why.

Jan. 04 2012 12:10 PM

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