All the recent hoopla over Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday, including a multi-part documentary extravaganza on PBS has helped to propel My Father at 100 to the NY times bestseller list, where it currently sits at number 24 for nonfiction, a long way down from No.1, currently occupied by Donald Rumsfeld's Known and Unknown, in which, hopefully, we will finally learn what the difference is between a known unknown and an unknown unknown - or is it known unknown and an unknown known?
Ron Reagan is Ronald and Nancy's youngest child who, like his sister, Patti Davis, holds many views on political, moral and religious matters that are in conflict with those espoused by their father. Nonetheless, in this memoir, Ron shows a great love for his father. The personal, en famille, anecdotes Reagan tells give My Father at 100 an intimacy no other biography could have. - Ronald Reagan used to dive to the bottom of the swimming pool with young Ron riding on his back; Ronald Reagan nearly crashed his jeep dragging a trailer load of stone over a steep hill on the ranch, three times in a row, all along refusing to take a slightly longer and more level route.
Ron Reagan said in the book that he suspects, in hindsight, that there were signs of impending Alzheimer's disease in the President which began to show after the assassination attempt by by John Hinckley. The fact that the 70 year old was recovering from a near fatal shooting while doing what is arguably the most stressful job in the world may be an alternative explanation, though. Reagan's management style was always to delegate important functions and trust his subordinates with them. This did make his seem disengaged. Ron is not suggesting that his father was off his rocker or incompetent during either term of his presidency.
According to his son, Ronald Reagan's best job was as a lifeguard on the Rock River in Illinois, which he did, summers through most of high school and college. Rescuing people was what Reagan loved to do. He made 77 rescues in his lifeguarding career. Ron Reagan believes that his father enjoyed playing the part of the hero in his movies but relished more being the actual hero at Lowell Park more and saw his role as President as one of rescuing America from big government, rescuing the world from nuclear war, rescuing democracy from the threat of Communism.
He does point out a few important things which our current crop of tax cutting legislators should be aware of. Early in his first term Reagan got an income tax cut through Congress, but, later in his term in office, much of those taxes were restored because it was realized that Reagan's economics really were "voodoo" and the deficit was growing out of control. I have heard people say, (on NPR! ) that every time the income tax is cut it results in an increase in revenue, due to economic growth that is stimulated by the tax cut. Guess what? When you lower your prices below the cost of production you lose money no matter how much of it you sell, Milo Minderbender notwithstanding. In fact, almost every time that this tactic has been tried, including the original Reagan tax cuts, and most certainly the current "Bush tax cut," it has resulted in a shortfall in revenues, just like the math says it should.
Thursday, February 24, 2011