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Editorial: Government can do good

The president and Congress have low approval ratings, the federal government nearly defaulted and partisan rancor has brought us gridlock. Can the U.S. government get anything right?
In answer to todayís pervasive negativity about government, MarketWatch commentator Rex Nutting came up with a list, ěThe 10 best things government has done for us.î
Below are excerpts. What would you add to the list?
1. Protecting our freedoms. Our political and economic rights are the foundation of our democracy and capitalist economy. Without them, weíd be nothing. …
2. Giving away the land. From the Land Ordinance of 1785 right on to the Homestead Act of 1862, the government offered cheap or free land to people who would have been serfs or indentured servants in any other society. …
3. Educating everybody. Our economy and democracy would be impossible without an educated, skilled populace. From the beginning of our nation, offering free and universal public education has been one of the most important functions of government. …
4. Helping us retire with dignity. Social Security and Medicare keep millions of Americans out of poverty, allowing them to live out their lives in dignity. …
5. Improving public health. Many of us owe our lives ó literally ó to the government. The greatest advances in longevity are due to public-sanitation measures such as water treatment, sewer systems and trash disposal. The Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and thousands of federal, state and local agencies keep us safer and healthier than weíd be in their absence. …
6. Building our transportation networks. Every major mode of transportation ó from canals to airports ó has received critical financial support from the government.
7. Investing in communications. Communications networks, like transportation systems, create lots of external benefits that cannot be easily recouped by the builder. That makes them perfect for public investment. …
8. Building our energy supply. Most energy investment comes from private companies, but the government has played its role. …
9. Inventing the future. The space program and defense research continue to spin off benefits to our economy. … Thousands of products in everyday use are spinoffs from the space program, from titanium golf clubs and running shoes to GPS and MRI.
10. Defeating totalitarianism. The United States has faced few serious external threats in its 235 years of independence. When it did, the government spent trillions of dollars to defend us from the forces of fascism and communism.

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