Letter to the Editor

What progressives have gotten right

Regarding George F. Will’s Dec. 29 column, “Bad year for progressives”:

Skipping over the flights of self-indulgence that so endear Mr. Will’s writing to me — liberals are guilty of “bottomless condescension toward the public and limitless faith in their own cleverness”? What is that saying about pots and kettles?

I’d like to examine one little point Mr. Will mentioned without really unpacking: He cited, as examples of liberal overreach at its worst, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s progressivism and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society program.

First, Mr. Will claimed that voters rebuked this utter tyranny, but I seem to recall these being the eras that created Social Security and Medicare, two of the most popular government programs in history. If universal support is a rebuke, well, let us liberals be rebuked again.

Second, the Great Society left us with museums, public broadcasting and expanded transportation networks. Perhaps the thing many voters find most offensive about conservatism is how little it produces in exchange for its overwhelming kindness to the rich. I have yet to see an exhibit at the “Museum Funded by a Government You Can Drown in a Bathtub” or to drive to New York on the “Interstate You Stand Astride Yelling Stop.” Conservatism is the movement of poverty — of people, of ideas, of legacy.

Josh Raisher, Washington

George F. Will showed his talent for making the Affordable Care Act appear to be the worst law ever enacted. Like many others, he conveniently ignored that U.S. health-care costs have been rising at unsustainable rates. Under President Obama’s administration, a health-care reform plan was created out of earlier ideas, a working model in Massachusetts and some necessary add-ons. Meanwhile, the Republicans threw promises on the table while ignoring the real problem.

We can thank progressives for finally taking action. The nation has no choice but to rein in those unsustainable costs, and that requires change. Change is never fun, but there is no alternative.

Joseph Maile, Fairfax

George F. Will continued his dismal track record of writing misleadingly on climate trends. Rather than acknowledge that Arctic sea ice is retreating, Mr. Will attempted to score points by mocking Al Gore for saying the ice would disappear in five years. But the extent of Arctic ice reached a record low in 2012. In addition, the Greenland ice sheet, Canadian and Alaskan glaciers, snow extent and permafrost are all on downward trends. In 2009, after the previous low in sea ice was set in 2007, Mr. Will wrote a column suggesting that concern about the decline was overblown. Mr. Will needs to correct his record.

Rafe Pomerance, Washington

The writer, a climate strategies consultant, was deputy assistant secretary of state for environment and development from 1993 to 1999.

 
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