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Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post says the country is doing better than most pundits (and Republicans) would have you believe. The country is on a slow mend, he says:
The sour public attitude toward elected officials in general — and the Republican Party in particular — is understandable. Indeed, the wonder is that pollsters can find anyone beyond paid staffers who will express approval of Congress. And as for the White House, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act does not scream competence and efficiency.

But overall, whether by accident or design, things are actually going rather well. Years from now, when someday the nation is mired in another recession or bogged down in another ill-conceived war, these may be remembered as the good old days.

Last week’s announcement that the U.S. economy grew at a 2.8 percent annual rate in the third quarter was stunning. It came with caveats, of course, because everything seems to come with caveats these days. Some doomsayers warned, for various arcane reasons, that it was the wrong kind of growth. But even the gloomiest of analysts had to acknowledge that the figure — almost a full percentage point higher than predicted — showed that the economic recovery is more robust than previously believed.

Juliet Lapidos at The New York Times examines the last Koch spin:
This is the strangest P.R. campaign yet against the Affordable Care Act. Generation Opportunity, the Koch-funded group behind the Creepy Uncle Sam ads, is throwing tailgate parties to “educate” young people about the exchanges. Read: To convince young people to forgo health insurance.

The group’s communication director, David Pasch, wrote an email to The Tampa Bay Times describing a drunken event at Saturday’s University of Miami-Virginia Tech football game:

“We rolled in with a fleet of Hummers, F-150’s and Suburbans, each vehicle equipped with an 8’ high balloon bouquet floating overhead. We hired a popular student DJ from UMiami (DJ Joey), set up OptOut cornhole sets, beer pong tables, bought 75 pizzas, and hired 8 ‘brand ambassadors’ aka models with bullhorns to help out.”

More on the day's top stories below the fold.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer urges that SNAP assistance not be cut during a time of need:

Here's a solution: Fewer people will need to rely on food stamps when businesses start hiring and Congress passes a budget instead of shutting down the government and dragging down the economy.

Congress ought to work on the latter instead of making it harder for down-on-their luck Americans to put food on the table.

Here's a great letter to the editor by Margaret Phillips on how low minimum wage levels essentially subsidize rich fast-food giant owners:
By paying for the minimum-wage workers' health and other costs ourselves, through our tax money, instead of letting their highly profitable employers shoulder the costs, we are helping these fast-food giants put money in the pockets of their already-rich owners.

Bottom line: If employees don't make enough to survive on and have to resort to taxpayer-financed services, while the employers are pocketing huge profits, there's a huge disconnect here, folks, and a wake-up call for all of us.

Adam Smith (coiner of the term "invisible hand" and patron saint of laissez-faire enthusiasts) warned that the invisible hand, unchecked, risked having more and more control be in the hands of fewer and fewer. Hmm.

The Miami Herald looks at climate change:
Some experts predict that the real wake-up call on climate change will come when private insurers react to increased threats of frequent flooding of property by raising rates or dropping coverage. Congress recently increased the costs of obtaining federal flood insurance to reflect real risks, though it appears to be ready to pull back in the face of constituents’ outrage. In truth, the price of flood insurance will rise along with the sea level, though most experts recommend only gradual rate increases as the wisest course.

Rate increases, along with property owners having to deal with the aftermath of repeated flooding, will force rethinking about how South Florida continues to develop. The Seven50 Southeast Florida Prosperity Plan, a far-reaching project sponsored by the area’s regional planning councils to create an economic blueprint for the next 50 years, poses several proposals, including restoring mangrove forests and beaches, higher sea walls where feasible and building better coastal and inland flood control.

No one is yet seriously talking about retreating from the coastline, but they should be. In 50 years, certainly in a century, scientists predict that our coast simply won’t be there any more. We need to prepare, now, to become resilient — to endure and prevail — in the future.

Jonathan Blank at USA Today looks at how helping those affected by the typhoon in the Philippines has the added benefit of boosting America's image abroad:
At a human level, the case for devoting U.S. military resources for disaster relief is compelling. [...] At the level of national interest, however, does the case for tasking the U.S. military to international natural disasters hold up — particularly in a time when the Pentagon has seen its budget slashed? A cold-eyed evaluation would suggest yes.[...]

[D]eploying military resources for disaster relief is a remarkably effective — and inexpensive — investment in the future. One of the largest such deployments in history, the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and other assets following the Asian tsunami of 2004, is estimated to have cost $857 million. That's roughly the price of three days' operations in Afghanistan last year. The goodwill the tsunami relief brought the U.S. is incalculable. Nearly a decade later, the effort may rank as one of the most concrete reasons Southeast Asian nations trust the long-term U.S. commitment to a strategy of "Asian rebalancing."


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