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George Will and the ‘synthetic hysteria’ hit parade

In his Feb. 24 op-ed column, “Apocalypse fatigue,” George F. Will argued that the sequester will not significantly affect the economy, noting that the federal government cut spending 40 percent in one year following World War II and the economy boomed. Surely, Mr. Will understands that there is no way to reasonably compare the U.S. economy in relation to the rest of the world in 1945 to its state in 2013.

At the end of World War II, Britain and France were bankrupt, Germany and Japan were in ruins, China was undeveloped and in the midst of civil war, and the Soviet Union was an ideological but not a viable economic competitor. Most of the rest of the world was struggling to emerge from colonial domination. On top of all that, there was so much pent-up demand for consumer goods after years of war production and rationing in the United States, and so much excess production capacity to meet the demand once war spending was cut, that it is not hard to conceive that the U.S. economy would have boomed even after substantial government spending cuts.

We are not in that position, nor are we likely to be ever again. In today’s globally competitive economy, poorly planned spending cuts, even if relatively small by historical standards, can have a significantly negative effect on our economy.

Larry Calabro, Washington

George F. Will’s “synthetic hysteria” hit parade was just a bit one-sided and surely should have included the 2003 cries of hysteria about the weapons of mass destruction that Iraq did not have at all. There’s also former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s more recent cry regarding the Affordable Care Act’s supposed “death panels.” And then there’s this perennial, which is trotted out whenever responsible people ask for responsible gun control: “They’re going to come and take all your guns!” Not sure how Mr. Will could have missed these.

Synthetic hysteria has no right or left boundaries. It makes appearances across the political spectrum, and some people thrive on creating and disseminating it. Mr. Will’s commentary seemed to serve no purpose other than to perpetuate the myth that hysteria is manufactured by only one political party.

Cheryl Crow, Warrenton

George F. Will compared a few articles written in the 1970s that predicted “a major cooling of the climate” with the current concern about greenhouse gases and climate change, commenting “Today, . . . Obama prepares a governmental power grab to combat global warming.” This is a false analogy.

In 2001, President George W. Bush declined to pursue curbing greenhouse-gas emissions, stating that the topic, which even then had been a major concern of scientists for many years, required years of additional study. It’s now 12 years later, and I detect no significant change in the scientific consensus that global warming is an ongoing concern. This has not been a two- or three-year “synthetic hysteria.”

Frank Brodersen, Fredericksburg

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