- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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Oct. 17

The Charlotte Observer on the firebombing of a local Republican office:

Democracy was firebombed last weekend in North Carolina. The competition of ideas was burned, vigorous debate was charred, free speech was defaced.

The news that a North Carolina Republican headquarters had been torched was sickening and disheartening - not just for Republicans, but for all Americans who understand our country thrives in part because we choose our government leaders with free elections, not through intimidation or violence.

That’s why, even in such a vitriolic election year, people across the political spectrum came together to denounce the attack, from Hillary Clinton to North Carolina GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse. Democrats started a Gofundme page and in less than an hour had raised $13,000 to help repair the Hillsborough County Republican headquarters. Some may dismiss that as a political stunt, but it was an encouraging and proper response.

Others from across the spectrum, though, instantly leapt to conclusions about who was responsible, and they tried to capitalize on the incident politically. Though authorities don’t know who did it, Twitter does: the Left. The Right. The Media. Those who placed blame without knowing facts contribute to our crumbling discourse.

“Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina just firebombed our office in Orange County because we are winning,” Donald Trump tweeted.

“Violent left-wing Hillary Clinton fascists” were to blame, according to the “hillaryisdeplorable” Twitter account.

Jim Blaine, Senate leader Phil Berger’s chief of staff, tweeted that the editorial page editors of the Observer and the (Raleigh) News & Observer were “getting what they want” from the bombing.

Those on the left were also irresponsible in declaring, with no evidence, that the attack was the work of Republican operatives who wanted to make Democrats look bad.

No one yet knows who was responsible. Maybe it was a Democratic extremist. Maybe it was a scheming Republican. Maybe it was a drunk teenager.

That will come out eventually, perhaps. What we know now is that the act violated American principles and should be met with bipartisan intolerance. The attack goes far beyond the heated rhetoric that has marked this election year, though it’s possible it was inspired by that rhetoric.

Whoever was responsible, we need to hope it was an isolated case, and that it doesn’t prompt anything similar or worse in the final weeks of what has been a dispiriting campaign.

The tenor of this election is bordering on dangerous. The Arizona Republic, for instance, received death threats after endorsing a Democrat for president for the first time in its history. Publisher Mi-Ai Parrish wrote a moving piece last weekend in response. She talked about staffers who know free speech requires compassion, bravery and open debate.

U.S. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan, in calling for a bipartisan approach to foreign policy, declared in 1947 that partisan politics stops at the water’s edge. It must stop, also, when a flaming bottle shatters a storefront window.

Online:

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/

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Oct. 19

The Fayetteville Observer on Robeson County recovering after Hurricane Matthew:

Recovery efforts in much of this region are moving ahead. And the process has been remarkably smooth, for the most part.

FEMA officials are here, assessing damage from Hurricane Matthew and helping people get back on their feet as quickly as possible. They have already approved $2.5 million in aid.

But the recovery is only beginning in Robeson County, where the Lumber River is still flooding, although it has dropped from major to moderate flood stages.

At least 7,000 structures were affected by the river’s overflow, and hundreds still remain in shelters. Some power remains out and crews are working to repair road damage on Interstate 95 and U.S. 74.

As was the case with Hurricane Floyd 17 years ago, damage to low-lying areas is extensive and the hardest-hit places are also among the poorest in the state.

It’s going to take more than FEMA or any other single disaster-recovery organization to put Robeson County back on its feet. An army of volunteers won’t be enough there. Robeson residents need a deep infusion of state and federal aid. We hope people in Raleigh and Washington recognize that.

Online:

https://www.fayobserver.com

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Oct. 18

The News & Observer of Raleigh on the Affordable Care Act:

It was, at least, no surprise. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, the only company that offers health care policies in all 100 counties in the state, has announced an average 24.3 percent cost increase for premiums on policies under the individual plans through the Affordable Care Act.

Not all customers will pay more, and 90 percent of those insured under the ACA already, through federal exchanges, will continue to get subsidies which will make their premiums affordable. A 32 percent hike went into effect this year.

BCBS has felt big losses from its ACA business, and two companies, United HealthCare and Aetna, have pulled out of ACA coverage. Only one other company, Cigna, is planning to offer coverage in North Carolina, in five counties in the Raleigh area.

BCBS acknowledges that those paying the full premiums with a subsidy are taking a hit. The new rates won’t affect most of the company’s 3.9 million customers covered under state employee plans, the state health plan and other policies.

Cynthia Cox of the Kaiser Family Foundation said the increases here and elsewhere may show that the first plans offered under the ACA were priced too low. She also said that premiums were below what the Congressional Budget Office had projected they would be in 2009.

BCBS also has the problem of the other companies’ withdrawal to deal with. The customers of those companies, some 260,000 of them, will now have to come to Blue Cross, and a good many of those customers may have significant and costly medical issues to deal with. That’s no small challenge for BCBS or any other insurance company.

This is one aspect of the ACA - which required most people to get insurance or pay a penalty - that is an ongoing problem. Without younger, healthier customers enrolled, customers who don’t need to make claims, insurance companies are crunched by increasing claims from older, sicker customers. Not enough of those younger people are signing up.

And unfortunately, given the partisan divide in Congress, it’s virtually impossible to “tweak” the ACA - to prevent companies from pulling out of a market, to strengthen the requirements for everyone to have health insurance, to bolster subsidies - because Republicans in Congress just want to kill the program outright.

The next president, and the next Congress, must find the solution, and with nearly 20 million people insured under the ACA, people who would be without insurance if Congress repealed the program, that solution must not be delayed.

Online:

https://www.newsobserver.com/

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