VISIONS AND NIGHTMARES: America after Reagan by Robert Lekachman
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VISIONS AND NIGHTMARES: America after Reagan

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Paradoxically perhaps, Reaganomics has been good to Lekachman (Greed Is Not Enough, 1982), a vocal member of its opposition. Here, the sometime CUNY professor continues to play the role of a curmudgeonly disturber of the peace with a virtuoso performance that combines a venomous audit of the Reagan era with dour reflections on its aftermath. For all his bleak vision of the past, present, and future, Lekachman is a fun guy whose flair for articulate invective makes him a sort of left-wing Buckley. He is, moreover, an equal-opportunity critic as adept at ridiculing supply-siders' pretensions or conservatives' lust to privatize public services. The author reserves special scorn for Yuppies (pro-choice in everything) and neoliberalism, mainly because it ""perpetuates Reaganomics by other devices."" There is also a serious side to Lekachman. By way of example, he makes a convincing case for the proposition that the billions of dollars committed to Great Society programs produced ""measurable improvements"" in education, health care, housing, job training, and nutrition. Nor is there any doubting the sincerity of his contempt for either so-called market solutions to socioeconomic problems or the presumptive inefficiencies and inequities of capitalism. The same holds true for his conviction that ""the next wave of liberalism to succeed must be considerably more radical"" than the LBJ version, which made ill-advised bargains with the private sector. As a practical matter, Lekachman does not seem certain that a progressive renaissance is imminent. On the evidence of a series of what-if set pieces, the author's heart appears to be with Mario Cuomo. He nonetheless sounds resigned to a Gary Hart Presidency, with Cuomo in the second slot. Playing it safe, Lekachman includes speculative scenarios on other possible nominees, including Jack Kemp. In the event, he concludes next year's winning candidate will be the man who most adroitly reconciles the conflicting interests and passions of subconstituencies--as Reagan managed to do in 1984. A polemic tour de force, full of sound and fury. . .

Pub Date: March 30th, 1987
Publisher: Macmillan