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on 5 April 1999
Robert Dallek, one of my favorite historians, here paints a picture of Reagan in his first four years in office which sees the former actor and Governor as an ideologue who, ironically, uses symbolism over substance to form his coalition.
Dallek's book makes great points about Reagan's legacy, even though it was written just four years into his Presidency. He points out the horrible legacy of the national debt, which grew by about $3 trillion during Reagan's watch. He points to the coming redistribution of wealth towadrs the wealthy and away from the middle and working class and poor. Statistics have shown that from 1979 to 1993 the top 20% saw 97% of the real increase in wealth, thus proving Dallek's beliefs. Dallek shows Reaganomics to be an anti-working class and anti-social and moral justice crusade dedicated to the old Republican views of Hoover and a slap in the face to dwindling moderation in the party, as portrayed by the great moderate Gerald Ford. Dallek shows Reagan to be an ideologue on foreign policy, whose 'zeal' for eliminatiing so-called 'waste' on programs for the poor does not translate into a zeal to eliminate true waste which affects the pockets of the wealthy arms dealers. Dallek shows Reagan's views to be uncaring and regressive and ultimately harmful to the progress of the past.
This is, to say the least, a great book. It began to show the injustice of Reaganomics, which saw the top income tax rate on the wealthy fall from 70% to 28% and payroll taxes on working individuals increase 7 separate times. Reagan ignored great issues - such as medical insurance reform, civil rights, urban issues, the environment, education and progressive social policies - and concentrated on tax reductions for the wealthy, a false foreign policy which portrayed a hollow Soviet empire as a true warrior and a regressive nature in regards to civil rights and economics. He also began a great scam, the forging of the modern religious right. Reagan, whose religious views were inactive at best, portrayed himself as a true fundamentalist in order to win over angry white fundamentalists, who were upset with scores in civil rights, women's rights and public activism. He won over millions of working class whites by telling them he was on 'their side' and not 'the other folks' side,' that is, on the side of the minorities. Yet, while he did this, he became the poster boy for the Chamber of Commerce - what a scam! To add insult to injury, he defeated in 1980 Democrat Jimmy Carter, a truly devoted evangelical Christian. Once again, what a scam!
As a true fan of real history, I appreciate this work. Republican ideologues today falsely paint Reagan as a great President, when in fact he was mediocre at best.
Dallek is one of the best out there. His books on LBJ and FDR are great, as is his work on the Presidents. For those who enjoyed his past work, I would highly recommend this one! This one comes with a great recommendation by the great historian James Mcgregor Burns.
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