Crime writer Kleinknecht (New Ethnic Mobs) turns his attention to a different kind of organized crime in this critical reassessment of the lasting influence of Ronald Reagan's presidency-and his hand in the current economic crisis. According to the author, Reagan and his ideological fellow travelers abdicated the government's regulatory role to oversee banking, manufacturing, telecommunications, the media, mining and public welfare, leaving Americans without protection from the avarice of shortsighted corporations. While well-documented and forceful, the book has a strident tone that might put off the very people Kleinknecht tries to persuade-those who have lionized Reagan as the people's president. More crucially, the author tries to lay everything from the decline of America's image overseas to the 2008 meltdown of the global banking system at Reagan's feet, and it is often unclear whether Reagan was the mastermind or simply the figurehead behind which other agents carried out their own plans independent of the president's will. Whatever Reagan's complicity, the policies carried out in his name and under his leadership clearly changed the relationship between the American people and their government, and rarely, the author shows, for the better. (Feb.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Man Who Sold the World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street Americaby William Kleinknecht
This carefully calibrated image is complete fiction, argues award-winning
Since Ronald Reagan left officeand particularly after his deathhis shadow has loomed large over American politics: Republicans and many Democrats have waxed nostalgic, extolling the Republican tradition he embodied, the optimism he espoused, and his abilities as a communicator.
This carefully calibrated image is complete fiction, argues award-winning journalist William Kleinknecht. The Reagan presidency was epoch shattering, but notas his propagandists would have itbecause it invigorated private enterprise or made America feel strong again. His real legacy was the dismantling of an eight-decade period of reform in which working people were given an unprecedented sway over our politics, our economy, and our culture. Reagan halted this almost overnight.
In the tradition of Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas?, Kleinknecht explores middle Americastarting with Reagan's hometown of Dixon, Illinoisand shows that as the Reagan legend grows, his true legacy continues to decimate middle America.
"This book is borne of annoyance...," crime journalist Kleinknecht admits at the outset of this scathing critique of Reagan's presidency. What "annoys" the author is Reagan's rising stature among historians and the American electorate (e.g., conservative John Diggins's Ronald Reagan: Fate, Freedom and the Making of History, liberal historian Sean Wilentz's The Age of Reagan), despite the general view of the President as an intellectual lightweight. The author sets his journalistic lasers exclusively on Reagan's domestic legacy: "mergers, deregulation, tax cuts for the wealthy, privatization, globalization," arguing that Reagan championed in word the "little man" and the middle class, but that his policies created more distance between the wealthy and the rest of the country. Examining Dixon, IL, Reagan's small hometown, he attempts to show that ironically many there were hurt economically by Reagan's policies, even as the town renamed its streets and buildings for their "favorite son." The author shows Reagan as a former New Dealer who became disillusioned with big government, repeatedly injecting into his colorful narrative Reagan's confusion of Hollywood images with the reality of America to show how out of touch Reagan was. He ends by arguing that the most destructive part of Reagan's legacy was "America's utter loss of national purpose" because he delegitimized government and glorified self-interest. Kleinknecht often scores points, but his exaggerated language (e.g., "the looting of America") limits his audience to those who already agree with him. For consideration by public and academic libraries.
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Meet the Author
William Kleinknecht is a veteran crime correspondent for the Newark Star-Ledger. He previously covered the crime beat for the New York Daily News. The winner of awards from the Associated Press and the American Society of Professional Journalists, he has contributed to American Journalism Review, National Law Journal, and the Boston Phoenix. The author of New Ethnic Mobs: The Changing Face of Organized Crime in America, he lives in Glen Rock, New Jersey.
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Is there a better book out there at this time?I don't think so! David Hilton Clark (SINGER)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Philosophical me and Kleinecht are soul mates. However, as much as I hate to admitt it his history is a little off. A lot of the derugulations was started under Carter. I also found he jumped from one historical situation to another. I would certainly recommend this book for anyone who wants a good historical understanding of our present economic situation. Reagan was a showman and he was able to capitialize on the gas crises and the Iran situation. This made him look like a better president then he really was.