Started reading Rick Perlstein’s The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan and it’s turning out to be what it couldn’t help being and I knew it would have to be but which I’d hoped I wouldn’t mind too much.
A long, depressing slog through the 1970s.
It’s other things too, good things that will keep me reading, but having to relive that “kidney stone of a decade” is going to take a lot of the fun out of it.
What a tawdry, mean, ugly, unhappy time that was.
And it’s not just the reminders of what it was like back then.
It’s learning there was even more tawdriness, meanness, ugliness, and unhappiness than I remembered.
Or even knew.
Like the sudden, sharp rise in the price of meat.
I’d always known that all the tuna casserole and scrambled egg and pancake dinners Mom Mannion served us when we Mannion kids were kids were due to inflation having halved Pop Mannion and just about every working American’s take home pay almost overnight. . But I forgot if I ever knew it---and Mom and Pop Mannion didn’t go into it with us beyond saying that we needed to watch our spending and save some money---that meat had become prohibitively expensive for most families. And it wasn’t just beef. Chicken, pork, and lamb prices jumped too. Sometimes, even if you could afford it and wanted to buy it, you couldn’t. Supermarkets were stocking less of it because they couldn’t sell it. Restaurants reduced portions because they couldn’t afford it. Farmers and ranchers were getting out of the business altogether.
Hardly the worst thing that happened during the 70s. But it’s just one more way life shrank and got mean.
And Ronald Reagan was contributing the meanness all around.
That, of course, is the story being told in The Invisible Bridge and told well, and that’s what’s going to keep me reading through all the ambient tawdriness, meanness, ugliness, and polyester.
But while I’m still on the subject of meat.
Reagan used an investment in cattle ranching---the only way he came close to being the rancher he was sold to voters as---to cheat on his taxes.
Reagan was a tax cheat.
I know. You’re surprised. I was too.