For the past few days the phrase “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” has been bandied about as if it were the heart of great policy making. The context is usually health care reform: “True, the bill isn’t what we progressives wanted, but let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Let’s pass this bill and make it better over time.”
That may be a wise strategy, but the phrase “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” bothers me.
First of all, why assume that the bill is good? What if the bill is bad? What if it is, as it appears to be, a handout to the insurance companies, forcing 30 to 40 million Americans to buy private health insurance without controlling prices or cost. What if it will up the cost to the elderly, and, because the price of health care insurance is so high and getting higher, burden future generations with greater and greater deficits needed to subsidize those who cannot afford the exorbitant prices insurances companies will charge?
If these are indeed facts, then the bill isn’t good, and the phrase “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” doesn’t apply. On the contrary, maybe the appropriate proverb is this: “Don’t let the worse be the enemy of the bad.” This seems to be what the Republicans are espousing: Yes, health care is bad, but this bill only makes matters worse.
I’m not saying that is true, only that that is what I am hearing from Republicans.
Then there is Governor Dean’s proverb, “Don’t let the bad be the enemy of the better.” He wants to scuttle the bill and push true reform through the inaptly named process of reconciliation. There is no reconciliation in the process of reconciliation. There is simply a majority imposing its will on the rest of the Congress. You know, majority rules. That used to mean something in America, the Electoral College aside.
If we went this route we wouldn’t have to kiss the butts of individual senators like Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson. Lieberman got what he wanted: he killed any threat to his overlords at the Connecticut-based insurance companies. Nelson managed to secure not only the life of the unborn, but free Medicaid for the poor of Nebraska who are or will be born, and will be forced onto Medicaid. He won because we are letting the minority (in this case one guy) be the enemy of the majority.
In the end I doubt we will get any real reform of health care, but we did get a few new proverbs, and that is something. Isn’t it?