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The Man Who Sold the World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America Hardcover – February 3, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Kleinknecht shares Will Bunch’s opinion of Ronald Reagan’s current image (see Tear Down This Myth, 2009) but doesn’t credit Reagan, as Bunch does, for failing to match action to rhetoric. Of course, Kleinknecht doesn’t mention foreign policy, in which Reagan did some good. His focus is domestic, and in 11 cogent chapters, he reveals further falseness in the Reagan myth and the devastating effects of Reaganism on America per se. Reagan pretended to represent small-town, small-enterprise America as embodied by his hometown, which, after leaving for Hollywood, he seldom visited and only for personal publicity’s sake, and whose livelihoods of family farming and small industry his favoritism for high-rolling wheeler-dealers has nearly extinguished. To explain Reagan’s duplicity, Kleinknecht contrasts Reagan’s developed politics of the self with the traditional community politics of his practical opponent during his administration, Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. While O’Neill was inextricable from his community, Reagan made himself a man from nowhere, untrammeled by personal connections, who ignored all damage done in the pursuit of self-aggrandizement. Contemporary America’s decimated manufacturing, fraudulent banking and finance, criminalized poor and minorities, inaccessible health care, venal politics—all this and more, according to Kleinknecht, constitute the real and living Reagan legacy. --Ray Olson
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; First Printing edition (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568584105
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568584102
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #864,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

153 of 200 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on February 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Kleinknecht opens by telling us that the Reagan legacy has been devastating for America - especially ordinary Americans. Boom-and-bust cycles, obscene CEO salaries, emergence of "Lockdown America", drug-company scandals, collapsing bridges, huge government deficits, ethical absences, plummeting/stagnating wages for working people, the flight of U.S. manufacturing abroad are all products of Reagan's free-market zealotry and gutting the public sector. Reagan also pioneered the use of wedge issues like race ("welfare queens," "war on drugs").

Kleinknecht also says the book was borne of bewilderment over the myth that continues to surround the presidency of Ronald Reagan, who he characterizes as an empty suit who believed in flying saucers and allowed an astrologer to guide his presidential scheduling. We just finished a presidential campaign season marked by unseeming competition among Republican aspirants to wrap themselves in the Reagan mantle.

Some portions of "The Man Who Sold the World" are missing credible documentation; others blame Reagan for actions that only began during his leadership and were extended by Bush I and II, and Clinton. His 1987 appointment of Alan Greenspan (Mr. Bubbles) to head the Federal Reserve may have been Reagan's worst, given Greenspan's key role in the dot.com and housing bubbles, but we cannot forget he was reappointed again and again by other presidents until 2006. Deregulation of airlines and trucking are also attacked, though undertaken by Carter. And finally, Kleinknecht misses some important additional Reagan actions - eg. undermining Carter's fuel economy and alternative energy initiatives, and the whole Iran-Contra fiasco. Nonetheless, the book still is an important contribution.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By J. Alan Bock on June 8, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The corporate takeover of America, disasters stemming from the deregulaion of business, repercusions from the collapse of Enron, the subprime mortgage scandal, the near collapse of the financial system, widening income inequality, the obscene inflation of CEO compensation, the end of locally owned media, market crashes reminisecnt of 1929, blackouts, drug company scandals, rampant greed and materialism., These, says William Kleinknecht, are the bitter legacy of Reaganism. Why are absolutely none of these unmistakeable harbingers of American decline laid where they belong - at the door of Ronald Reagan? Kleinknecht believes it is because the so-called liberal media (or any other media for that matter) never critizes the saintly Reagan. This disconnect between the Reagan of Myth and the Reagan of Reality has been palpable in the media for many years. The only story that is ever allowed to get out is the one put out by the ideological fanatics and free market zealots of the Reagan propaganda machine. This book is an attempt to right that wrong.

Once upon a time, in the middle decades of the last century, the United States had a government that was, more or less, "of the people, by the people and for the people," insofar as that ideal can be achieved. The combined sweep of Populism, Progressivism and the New Deal opened the way for a remarkably affluent and egalitarian society. A broad and prosperous middle class emerged because of the greatest redistribution of income downwards in our nation's history. A truly Golden Age had arrived. Unfortunately, it was not to last.

Ronald Reagan stood against everything that had been achieved in this remarkable age of reform.
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20 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Jack Mehoff on May 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
I never understood this fascination with Ronald Reagan. Didn't much manufacturing move overseas in the 80's? Deregulation which drove up prices and put the airline industry in a tailspin? And corporate raiders looted pension funds and left millions of Americans w/o retirement money? And the savings and loan scandal? The Iran-Contra scandal? Reagan was a disaster on the international front, supplying weapons to Iran in direct violation of Congress, when Hezbollah blew up our Marine barracks in Lebanon, and tortured to death William Casey, the head of the CIA station there, what did Reagan do? He withdrew US forces! He didn't strike back, he cowered and ran. Actions like these encouraged the terrorism and Islamic extremism that we see today. Or how about when Israel was ready to crush the PLO once and for all? No, Reagan arranged for Arafat and his thugs to go safely to Tunisia!!! Reagan was a disaster, of course manufacturing started moving overseas before him, deregulation started before him, failure to deal with Islamists started before him, but he did a lot of damage to the US both domestically and internationally, he was the guy who really propelled he big business agenda which is at direct odds with citizens.

This book deals with the Reagan disaster on the home front, just keep in mind while reading it that he didn't start a lot of this, but he was the man who really propelled the agenda.
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47 of 68 people found the following review helpful By C. Wagner on August 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book was particularily painful to me, because I remember the President's announcement that we would have a one world economy and watched my home town slide from a bastion of business and industry to a place of poverty where Feed Our Children sends tractor trailers full of food. Yet the subject of Kleinknecht's no-holds barred expose is one of our two best loved modern presidents.
I have given this book 4 rather than 5 stars because it is currently being ignored and will soon be forgotten, even though it is a title that should be a part of all U.S. history collections.
Here follows a minor insight into the content of the title:
"The contagion of free-market purisim has infected almost every sector of American life (p xii)." He cites a rising inequality whith those on top reaping the benefits and claims the obvious that trickle economics is a fallacy. "With Reaganism has come an abandonment of all faith in reason and progress." There is the decline of heavy industry (p.7) and the factory farm policies which have all but destroyed family farms (p. 11). The destruction of unions was an obvious plus for the haves and a bitter pill to swallow for the nots.
But, to get back to the title of this essay: "...the ignomy of social Darwinism which had nourished a view of the lower classes as predestined by genetics and breeding to live in squalor (pp.24-25)." Perhaps the term anti-social Darwinism would have been more to the point.
Corporate income tax drops created a sea of red ink helping to justify the cutting of beneficial social programs (p. 29). As a pioneer of the use of soft money for campaigning this administration walked point for the election styles of the present (p.59).
The business of this presidency, said the author was business (p. 70).
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