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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Man Who Sold the World

The Man Who Sold the World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America, by William Kleinknecht (Nation Books, 2009)

BuzzFlash Review by Joe Conason

The myth of Ronald Reagan's greatness has reached epic proportions. The public rates him as one of the most popular presidents, and Republicans everywhere seek to cast themselves in his image. But award-winning journalist William Kleinknecht shows in this penetrating analysis of his presidency that the Reagan legacy has been devastating for the country - especially for the ordinary Americans he claimed to represent.

So much that has gone wrong in America - including the subprime mortgage crisis and the meltdown of the financial sector - can be traced directly to Reagan's policies. The financial deregulation launched in the 1980s freed banks and securities firms to squander hundreds of billions of dollars and make a shambles of the economy. Boom-and-bust cycles, obscene CEO salaries, blackouts, drug-company scandals, collapsing bridges, plummeting wages for working people, the flight of US manufacturing abroad - these are all products of Reagan's free-market zealotry and his gutting of the public sector. Reagan pioneered the use of wedge issues like race and the war on drugs to distract America while his administration empowered corporations to lay waste to our traditional ways of life.

In the spirit of Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? (2004), Kleinknecht takes us to Reagan's hometown of Dixon, Illinois, to show that he was anything but a friend to Main Street America. Relying on detailed factual analysis rather than opinion, The Man Who Sold the World is the first major work to explode the Reagan myth.

This book is a great companion to Will Bunch's Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future (2009)

"A seasoned crime reporter of the old school, William Kleinknecht has penetrated the showbiz curtain to expose the venality and cynicism of the Reagan era - and tells us why the crimes of that time still matter so much today."


Joe Conason, best-selling author, Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth (2003) and It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush (2007)

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Bill Totten


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