As expected, posting the cover for my book on the Ronald Reagan myth -- "Tear Down This Myth," which will be published by the Simon & Schuster imprint Free Press on Feb. 3 -- drew a lot of response. Several commenters wondered why publish such a book in the wake of Obama's election victory -- I believe the answer is quite clear, that a distorted view of the 40th president, who he really was and what he accomplished, still guides too many of our policy makers, even after the landmark events of 11/4/08.
Just check out the itinerary of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a man who has a 24-hour-a-day job if there ever was one: Saving the global economy from any more damage than that which has already been wreaked upon it. And so Paulson has turned down numerous speaking gigs and canceled appearances so he could stay on top of things. But the former Wall Street honcho couldn't turn down the unofficial state cathedral of Reaganism, a long six-hour flight from the nation's capital:
Well, you surely could make the case that Paulson has better things to do with his time than to make the long schlepp to Simi Valley (and it is a long schlepp from the East Coast, having visited there myself in August). But this story -- like so much that we talk about when we talk about Ronald Reagan -- misses the main point altogether. The American people should not be worried that the Paulson-engineered bailout is betraying the legacy of Ronald Reagan. The real problem is that the legacy of Ronald Reagan -- of deregulating the world of risky finance and leaving a giant mess for all of us to clean up -- is betraying the American people, again.
If backwards history like Paulson's speech is the "education about Reagan's history and ideas" that Americans are getting -- and it is -- then we're all in big trouble. It was willy-nilly deregulation that spurred on the global fiscal crisis, and even now, more than a trillion dollars in the hole, our Treasury Secretary and bailout czar is still clutching his Reagan rosary.
Believe me, for America's sake, I wish there wasn't a need to puncture the myth of Ronald Reagan. But clearly there is.