Flickr photo by Steve Rhodes
A lot of individuals keep telling me not to make the perfect the enemy of the good. I’m being told that when it comes to health care we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This means that incremental change or reform is what we must accept.
Through experience with several issues, I think this is where many Americans are at when it comes to America’s political process. They think that incrementalism or pragmatism should be the way. They hold up Obama, Clinton, and past people who have passed "reforms" to suggest that we cannot make the perfect the enemy of the good on many issues: the Afghanistan War, bank bailouts, etc.
But, I think far too many are sorely confused. The words of this overused idiom should be rearranged.
No, it shouldn’t be don’t let the perfect be the good of the enemy. That doesn’t make sense. That would be like if in health care we established a single-payer healthcare system that benefited private insurance and pharmaceutical companies. We don’t want that but most Obama supporters and Democratic Party apologists right now would probably be for that because it is a compromise and progressives love to talk about "the way things work" in Washington and tell people what Americans can and cannot have and if we ever had single payer, they would probably suggest we have corporations run it so we can, in fact, get "single-payer."
It shouldn’t be don’t make the good the perfect of the enemy either. We will never convince Big Pharma, insurance companies, or some of these health care special interest groups or lobbying organizations that there is any reason to give up the profits they are enjoying in this lucrative for-profit sick care non-system they participate in on a daily basis.
You can’t ask a born-again Christian to give up Jesus Christ. He derives his whole existence and purpose in life from Jesus and so do these people whose very lives depend on squeezing out the most money possible from poor, working class, middle class, and, most importantly, old people and young people who are on their way out of or on their way into a system of terrible inequities.
They love to weigh old people down with debt as they are about to leave this world and they love to weigh young people down and turn them into corporate slaves as they enter the world and come to think of it they just want people to be in debt so people have to pay them on a weekly or monthly basis for years and years and they hope people never get healthy because where’s the profit in that?
The line on every American’s mind should be we should not make the enemy the good of the perfect. And, by that, we should make sure that any reform, plan for change, or answer to any single problem being promoted in society doesn’t give a role to the very thing that created the problem in the first place.
So, with health care, for-profit insurance or pharmaceutical companies shouldn’t be given the chance to be a savior when they have spent decades proving they will always be more interested in profit care and not patient care. Yet, Americans including progressives are willing to let health reform provide a bright future for for-profit health care companies, willing to let Congress and Obama shower them with millions in subsidies and even let them enslave consumers by letting them force consumers to purchase private insurance under penalty of law.
When it comes to the banks, Americans too often allow the fox to guard the henhouse. Or, as I like to say, they let the terrorists run the Homeland Security checkpoint.
Matt Taibbi wrote about how Obama packed his "economic team with Wall Street insiders intent on turning the bailout into an all-out giveaway." He wrote about how Obama replaced those who had been emphasizing populism during the campaign but were replaced with "a group of Wall Street bankers."
Obama, Taibbi points out, chose to build his team around the one person most responsible for the economic turmoil experienced in 2008—Bob Rubin. Rubin’s history with Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, or the Hamilton Project, a think tank he led to promote his philosophy of balanced budgets, free trade, and financial deregulation, didn’t send off signals to Obama to keep him out. Neither did the fact that he was a driving force behind the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act or the deregulation of the derivatives market bother Obama.
And, with Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal is leading the newly ignited Obama "surge." The man who some call "the Pope", who shares close connections with Gen. David Petraeus who was President George W. Bush’s guy for keeping the Iraq War going and promoting it to the public, is in charge.
Gen. McChrystal allegedly witnessed torture and refused to let the Red Cross into the military prison Camp Nama (which stands for Nasty-Ass Military Area), a conscious violation of the Geneva Conventions. He also played a role in covering up what really happened to Pat Tillman when he died and he typically chooses military action over counterinsurgency operations, which are tactically less brutal (although all war or conflict is brutal).
Americans have acquiesced and agreed to support a strategy for ending a war in Afghanistan that involves escalating the war to ultimately withdraw at some point in some amount of years that has been stated but altered by individuals in the higher-ups of government who have the power to change and alter these terms for withdrawal as they please even if they make pledges that the people usually expect they will keep.
Surges, McChrystals, Rubins, bailouts, the individual mandate, a market-based approaches to health reform, Big Pharma, HMOs, etc all have one thing in common — They are included by Obama and Democrats who think they should play a role in solutions to problems which they played a huge part in creating.
All perpetuate the problem that got America to a point where political leaders were seeking to make "change" in the first place.
They make the enemy the good of the perfect. And, Americans need to ask themselves:
When it comes to making change, wouldn’t it be nice to just reform some of these damn things and be done? Or do we have some self-interest in watching political farces play out on issues like Afghanistan, banker bailouts, health care, Iraq, the war on terror, torture, etc for decades until we finally can’t take it anymore, give up, pull the plug, and exit this world?
We are not career politicians. We will not be signing book deals or be making appearances on Jay Leno or David Letterman or Jon Stewart. We will not be holding fundraising dinners or be taking donations from lobbyists who have special interests (although if anyone has a special interest in padding my bank account, I will gladly take money).
We do not have an image or a brand we need to keep pure and untainted so we shouldn’t temper our energy or zeal when fighting for real change that goes to the root of the problem and fixes that problem.
We are citizens first and foremost, therefore, our approach to change or reform will be and must be radically different from our political leaders.
So, the next time you are told you are making the perfect the enemy of the good look at that person and say, "At least I’m not making the enemy the good of the perfect."