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Tearing down the Reagan myth where it all started

For all you Attytood readers who live on the Left Coast, I'll be taking "Tear Down This Myth" out your way, finally, to the place where it all began -- this MONDAY, June 1. That's when I'll be appearing in Pacific Palisades (the Gipper's old neighborhood, where this photo was shot in the mid-1960s) at Village Books at 7:30 p.m. that night. I hope to see you, California Attytood reader (and I use the singular, because there may be only one of you :-) ) there. Here's info about the event.

Talk about perfect timing. My visit comes as California teeters on the verge of the collapse, in good part because of politicians and a good chunk of the public following what I call Reaganism, a warped view of what Reagan really stood for as governor and then as president in the 1980s. My new friend Bennet Kelley, who helped arrange my trip to the L.A. area, explains here:

The state faces the challenge of tackling a $22 billion deficit with its hands tied behind its back by voter initiatives and politics. The Legislature controls only 20 percent of discretionary spending and any tax increase requires some Republican support to meet a two-thirds vote requirement. Thus the fate of the state rests in the hands of 44 Reagan Republicans -- 80 percent of whom have signed Grover Norquist's "no tax" pledge.

The Republican leadership often invokes Reagan in seeking to hold the line on taxes and are pushing for draconian cuts in spending. For example, gubernatorial candidate Tom Campbell is calling for a 15 percent reduction in the state workforce, which would mean 45,000 layoffs in a state with 11 percent unemployment (and the second lowest rate of state employees per population). Economists fear that such a move may push the world's seventh largest economy into a depression.

The weird irony, as Kelley notes in his piece, is that the real Reagan never would have allowed this to happen. In fact, faced with a similar dilemma upon taking office as California's governor in 1967, the Gipper enacted a $1 billion tax increase, the largest state tax hike ever, up until that time. It surely averted the kind of disaster that the Golden State now faces. But Ronald Reagan, pragmatist, would not last five minutes in the irrational party that's allegedly cast in his image.

That's why the problem in 2009 is not Reagan...but the Reagan Myth and its cynical peddlers like Grover Norquist. So that's what I'll be talking about on Monday night. See you there!