Five Best Thursday Columns

Jonathan Cohn says Obamacare isn't a bailout, Michelle Goldberg on why marriage won't solve poverty, Alexander Stille on an American sex scandal in Paris, Charles M. Blow on Chris Christie, and Dave Weigel on marijuana decriminalization. 

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Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic says Obamacare is not a bailout. "Conservatives used to say Obamacare is socialized medicine. Now they say it is a 'government bailout' of insurers. The new claim is just as misleading and cynical as the old one," Cohn writes. This is because the law allows for reinsurance and risk corridors, which basically reimburse insurance companies if the companies don't get enough young, healthy enrollees. "To Obamacare supporters, reinsurance and risk corridors are tools for stabilizing the insurance market and easing the transition from the old system to the new," Cohn explains. Now Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio are lobbying to repeal these features of the law. But Cohn says the "bailout" analogy doesn't hold water. "The formula for payouts calls merely for government to share in high losses or gains, not to take them on completely. It's enough to protect the insurers, the thinking goes, but not enough to cause a massive outlay." Health policy researcher Adrianna McIntyre tweets, "Read on risk corridors. The 'bailout' hype overlooks important precedent."

Michelle Goldberg at The Nation on why marriage won't solve poverty. "In recent days, several Republicans have rediscovered George W. Bush–style compassionate conservatism, acknowledging poverty as a problem while promoting traditional values as the solution," Goldberg explains. Sen. Marco Rubio and Ari Fleischer have been pushing the idea that marriage solves poverty. "On one hand, given recent right-wing attacks on the poor as overindulged layabouts, there’s progress in the fact that some conservatives are now talking about poverty as a crisis. That does not mean, however, that marriage promotion is a serious solution ..." Goldberg argues. First of all, marriage-promotion programs, like Bush's Healthy Marriage Initiative, don't work. Second, more Americans think we should focus on “helping society adapt to the reality of single-parent families" instead of promoting marriage. And, as longtime labor researcher Richard Yeselson tweets, " gets what conservatives don't see: post feminist women think no marriage better than awful one."

Alexander Stille at The New Yorker on an American sex scandal in Paris. "Is the kerfuffle over the discovery of French President François Hollande’s alleged liaison with a pretty young actress a sign of the further Americanization of French life?" Stille asks. "Does it mean that the august French tradition of discretion cannot survive in a globalized, ultra-transparent world of proliferating news websites and Twitter? A preliminary answer, based on the initial fallout of the revelations ... is both yes and no," he writes. While the web tabloid world has forced the French press to pay attention to the affair, the majority of French citizens think it shouldn't matter. "So there has been some convergence — but vive la difference!'" Stille writes.

Charles M. Blow at The New York Times on Chris Christie. "We’re a week into Chris Christie Bridgegate and I’m already bored, not because I don’t think the truth should be ferreted out in the bright light of day, but because the political discussion about it appears to be devolving into pettiness," Blow writes. "Instead of rooting for a bridge to drag Christie under, progressives must focus without deviation on the issues that cry out for continuity in 2016," like immigration, abortion rights, and same-sex marriage. "We are moving toward more equality for all. Income inequality has taken a proper place of prominence. We are working to fix a broken health care system. We extricated ourselves from senseless wars rather than rushing headlong into them. I find the pro-progressive argument more exciting than the anti-Christie one," he argues. 

Dave Weigel at Slate on marijuana decriminalization. "Smoking something illegal in D.C. carries a sort of resonance, a sort of poetry, that you don’t get in the suburbs. In 1989, as the crack wars raged, the DEA ran a sting in front of the White House just so the president could wave a bag of it on TV — 'as innocent looking as candy,'" Weigel writes. "But if you’re white and live in one of D.C.’s decent neighborhoods, the drug laws are nothing to worry about." Weigel explains, "In D.C., black people and white people are just as likely to smoke pot. Black people are at least eight times more likely to be arrested for it. That’s untenable, especially in a culturally liberal city that votes roughly 19-1 for Democratic presidential candidates." So, thankfully, "the D.C. council is trying to reduce marijuana to a parking ticket-level offense:  $25 if you’re caught with less than an ounce, $100 if you’re smoking outside. Selling and growing would stay illegal, but the smokers wouldn’t be collared anymore." Michigan Business reporter Nick Manes tweets, "Great piece by on DC’s marijuana decrim bill. Well done, Washington."

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