Five Best Wednesday Columns

The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal on the latest Obamacare ruling, Leonid Bershidsky on Ukraine, Mark Bittman on French food, and Shibley Telhami on Egypt's role in Gaza. 

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The Washington Post on why federal subsidies should be permitted for people in states that don't have their own Obamacare exchanges. The Post responds to the conflicting court rulings Tuesday over the legality of a portion of the Affordable Care Act that grants federal subsidies to enrollees in states that don't have their own exchanges. "Typically, federal agencies get wide leeway in interpreting laws, except when the law is so unambiguous that the administration’s interpretation can’t be sustained." The paper contends, "Given the contradictions, the administration’s interpretation deserves deference. That is particularly true because the administration’s reading accords with the law’s obvious intent: to offer affordable health-care coverage to a large number of Americans."

The Wall Street Journal (subscription) on why federal subsidies should not be permitted for people in states that don't have their own Obamacare exchanges. The Journal takes a different position from The Post.  They write, "The plain statutory language of ObamaCare repeatedly stipulates that these credits shall flow only through 'an Exchange established by the State.' The 2-1 panel majority thus did not "strike down" part of ObamaCare, as liberals and the media claim. Using straightforward textual construction, the court upheld the law the President signed but it vacated the illegitimate federal-exchange subsidies he tried to sneak in via regulation." The Journal contends that the Supreme Court will eventually hear the Halbig case. "The case is part of a growing body of jurisprudence on executive overreach, the separation of powers and political accountability. Mr. Obama's profound disdain for Congress is inspiring a healthy legal counteroffensive that goes to the heart of American self-government."

Leonid Bershidsky in Bloomberg View on the real reason The West is still not as involved as it should be in Ukraine. Bershidsky contends that national reactions to the downing of flight MH17 are proportional to the number of their passengers lost. "Not surprisingly, the Dutch media have been particularly vocal in calling for military intervention or at least harsh sanctions against Russia... The other nations whose citizens died in the crash reacted more or less in direct proportion to the number of 'their' victims." He writes that while the MH17 tragedy has brought attention to Ukraine but, unfortunately, will not put an end to, or significantly alter the conflict there. "Putin, who still won't admit any guilt in the tragedy, may yet get off relatively lightly. Neither the Dutch nor the Malaysians have the political clout to force harsh sanctions. Other countries might not be affected enough to create the momentum needed for tough action. Thanks to a perverse kind of geographical bias, the downing of MH17 won't put an end to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The battle will drag on, causing more tension between Russia and the West, probably until the Ukrainian army finally crushes the rebels."

Mark Bittman in The New York Times  on why the quality of French food, once the bastion of the world, is decreasing. Bittman, a New York Times food critic, laments that it is becoming harder and harder to find good food in France, as many restaurants are increasingly using frozen and imported ingredients and products. "Restaurants in the home of la grande cuisine have become much like they are elsewhere. If you want a meal out featuring great ingredients prepared fresh and with skill you can find one, but you have to be very diligent, very lucky or willing to spend big; the vast majority of restaurants disappoint." Bittman says that the government's attempt to combat this growing trend by using a label to show whether the food was made in house or not, unfortunately, isn't working. "The ruling will not help consumers distinguish between a vacuum-packed salad made thousands of miles away (vacuum-packed foods are exempt) and one made with tomatoes grown 20 feet outside the kitchen door."

Shibley Telhami in Reuters on why Egypt has a growing stake in the conflict in Gaza. Telhami considers Egypt's role, not just as mediator, but as a party in the conflict with much to lose or gain. " .... the longer the war goes on, the more Gaza becomes a domestic problem for the Egyptian president. One he does not want. Indeed, the fighting provides an opening for Sisi’s opponents. At a minimum, it creates a distraction the Egyptian president does not need now — he has said his priorities are the economy and internal security. So Sisi has a strong interest in ending the war, particularly since Hamas and its allies are exhibiting far more military muscle than anyone expected." He continues, "That is why Hamas is prepared to pay a heavy price to get some permanent relief — even if real peace remains remote. In this, the group has public opinion — Palestinian, and Arab broadly, including Egyptian — firmly on its side. Hamas knows Cairo will be under pressure to respond, but it also realizes that it risks being blamed for the growing devastation of Palestinians with every day of war if it continues to oppose an immediate ceasefire."

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