Here comes that peculiar political blindness again. Conservatives idolize Ronald Reagan, the greatest political disaster of my lifetime, to the point that they can’t even read criticisms of his policies without stupidly translating them into praise. Here’s Liz Truss failing to comprehend a book that she thinks was wonderful.
As I reported this summer, Liz Truss’s favourite historian is Rick Perlstein, the great chronicler of the rise of the new right in its Nixonian and Reaganite forms between 1960 and 1980.
She told journalists that she read ‘anything’ he wrote. Interviewers noticed Perlstein’s books on her shelves. In a strange compliment to the American historian, Truss or sources close to her briefed The Spectator’s Katy Balls with precise (if unacknowledged) quotes from his account of the rise of Ronald Reagan.
I sent Perlstein my piece and asked for his thoughts. Let me put it like this: he may be her favourite historian, but she is not his favourite politician. Not even close. Not even in the top 1,000.
‘Liz. Can’t. Read.’ he replied, and began a long – and for British readers frightening – account of how and why our new government of wannabe Reaganites have crashed the economy.
Perlstein said that, if she read his books with the attentiveness she claimed, she would not have risked our pensions and mortgages with a naïve belief that tax cuts would stimulate economic growth and raise revenue for the Treasury. Far from paying for themselves, Reagan’s income and capital gains taxes in the early 1980s sent public debt from 26 per cent GDP in 1980 to 41 per cent GDP by 1988.
I wonder if Truss will continue to cite Perstein as “her favourite historian” after that comment.