Five Best Tuesday Columns

Sandra Fluke on Hobby Lobby, Jon Healey on why employers should get out of the insurance business, Joe Nocera on victims' compensation funds, and Farah Stockman and Michael Brendan Dougherty on America, the Superpower

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Sandra Fluke at The Washington Post on Hobby Lobby's attack on women. The activist who famously lobbied Congress for more contraceptive coverage in insurance says yesterday's Supreme Court ruling set a dangerous precedent, both for women's rights and corporate responsibility. "Corporations are not people. Corporations cannot have religious views. And this decision sends us in a dangerous direction." She also argues that the case is not about money or religious rights, but an assault on the right to abortion access and birth control. "In sum, the anti-choice movement wants to limit not just affordable access, but all access to abortion and birth control, whether it is backed by the government, by employers, or purchased by private citizens. It is an attack at all levels, and today’s decision is just another success in these efforts.

Jon Healey at The Los Angeles Times on why employers should get out of the health insurance business altogether. The fight over contraception insurance was a win for corporations, but Healey says the real lesson should be that all insurance should be divorced from job benefits. "One of the arguments for having employers provide insurance was that it created risk pools, spreading individuals' medical costs over a larger group. That sort of pooling is a good thing, but it's no longer necessary. The state insurance exchanges created by Obamacare perform that function, and do so on a larger scale." After all, that money isn't really the employers' — it should be going to workers in the form of higher salaries. "Still, it's not helpful to pretend that employers have an extra pocket that healthcare costs come out of. They come out of worker compensation. Too bad the Supreme Court didn't see it that way."

Joe Nocera at The New York Times on why compensation funds are better than the courts at addressing victims' needs. Kenneth Feinberg has made a career out of helping governments and corporations distribute money to the victims of tragedies, "from the Agent Orange settlement to the 9/11 fund to the Gulf coast compensation fund that Feinberg managed for BP." The alternative would be a neverending series of lawsuits. "'Where is it written,' he muses at one point, 'that the tort system, and the tort system alone, must be the guiding force in determining who gets what?'" Feinberg still argues that courts serve us well in the majority of cases, but Nocera likes his approach better. "I think the country would be better served if [funds] became more frequent. Compensating people while keeping them out of the tort system is a worthy goal. For one thing, such funds can serve as a kind of public atonement for a company, as is the case with General Motors. For another, courts can be a crapshoot. Finally, these funds can pay people quickly, without years of litigation and the anxiety it brings."

Farah Stockman at The Boston Globe on why income inequality in the U.S. threatens peace around the world. A new American isolationism is creeping in as "Americans on both the left and the right are feeling ambivalent about their superpower status." Stockman believes the real cause of our withdrawal is income inequality. "Around the time of World War II, the United States offered much of the world a deal that went something like this: “We’ll protect you, financially and militarily, but in exchange, you’ve got to follow our rules.” That "deal" made more and more Americans prosperous during the post-war years, but as the "mean household income for 40 percent of American families has flatlined," Americans are less enamored of the idea of sending tax dollars overseas. "Once this deal is off, the world order as we know it will unravel. No one is sure what will come next. That’s scary. That’s why the only thing our allies hate more than American bossiness is American neglect."

Michael Brendan Dougherty at The Week on America's role as a global activist. Speaking of isolationism, many Americans do still feel that the United States must actively engage in the spreading of democracy around the globe, in order to fulfill its larger purpose. But despite good intentions, action can sometimes do more harm to the cause. "It was precisely America's unleashing of modern and democratic forces in the Middle East that has intensified this persecution of Christians and liberal activists. When sovereignty is invested in "the people," the people usually respond with dramatic purges, ethnic cleansing, and legal apartheid." Dougherty also argues that in times of peace, simply taking care of your own house is a noble endeavor in itself — and will inspire Americans to do greater things elsewhere. "Crusader states inspire great battle poetry. But a democratic republic like America needs no purpose, no mission civilisatrice. It needs no poetry. America just needs to be our home — that will require sacrifice enough."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.