NYTimes Sunday Review: Reagan 'the Archangel of American Spiritualized Greed'

November 16th, 2011 1:12 PM

The New York Times Sunday Review resembles the hard-left New York Review of Books more and more with every passing week. Formerly the Week in Review, the revamped Sunday Review is lighter on news analysis from liberal Times reporters and heavier on outside essays, often with a hard-left outlook. It’s put together by veteran Times man Andrew Rosenthal, who demonstrates his "alarm" about “right-wing” Republicans at his New York Times blog “The Loyal Opposition.” This week’s target: Ronald Reagan.

Yale professor Harold Bloom’s long essay, “Will This Election Be the Mormon Breakthrough?” was devoted mostly to attacking Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon religion. But he included plenty of insults against the former president.

Persuasively redefining Christianity has been a pastime through the ages, yet the American difference is brazen. What I call the American Religion, and by that I mean nearly all religions in this country, socially manifests itself as the Emancipation of Selfishness. Our Great Emancipator of Selfishness, President Ronald Reagan, refreshingly evaded the rhetoric of religion, but has been appropriated anyway as the archangel of American spiritualized greed.


A dark truth of American politics in what is still the era of Reagan and the Bushes is that so many do not vote their own economic interests. Rather than living in reality they yield to what oddly are termed “cultural” considerations: moral and spiritual, or so their leaders urge them to believe. Under the banners of flag, cross, fetus, exclusive marriage between men and women, they march onward to their own deepening impoverishment. Much of the Tea Party fervor merely repeats this gladsome frolic.


Mormonism’s best inheritance from Joseph Smith was his passion for education, hardly evident in the anti-intellectual and semi-literate Southern Baptist Convention. I wonder though which is more dangerous, a knowledge-hungry religious zealotry or a proudly stupid one? Either way we are condemned to remain a plutocracy and oligarchy. I can be forgiven for dreading a further strengthening of theocracy in that powerful brew.

There was more Reagan-bashing in a Sunday Review essay by Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University (no knee-jerk Ivy League liberalism here!), “The New Progressive Movement.”

Occupy Wall Street and its allied movements around the country are more than a walk in the park. They are most likely the start of a new era in America. Historians have noted that American politics moves in long swings. We are at the end of the 30-year Reagan era, a period that has culminated in soaring income for the top 1 percent and crushing unemployment or income stagnation for much of the rest. The overarching challenge of the coming years is to restore prosperity and power for the 99 percent.

Thirty years ago, a newly elected Ronald Reagan made a fateful judgment: “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” Taxes for the rich were slashed, as were outlays on public services and investments as a share of national income. Only the military and a few big transfer programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ benefits were exempted from the squeeze.

Sachs put forward his simplistic solution and a plug for Occupy Wall Street.

The new movement also needs to build a public policy platform. The American people have it absolutely right on the three main points of a new agenda. To put it simply: tax the rich, end the wars and restore honest and effective government for all....Those who think that the cold weather will end the protests should think again. A new generation of leaders is just getting started. The new progressive age has begun.