Friday, January 8, 2010

The Serviceable and its Enemies

In this week's New Yorker, Hendrick Hertzberg makes the point that the health care bill under consideration now is not great, but it's much better than nothing, and Democrats should stop whinging and start making it work.

Here's his penultimate and ultimate kicker:

On May 20, 1962, at Madison Square Garden, John F. Kennedy spoke to some twenty thousand people at a rally in support of a bill to provide hospital care for the aged, one of forty-five such rallies around the country. In his speech, President Kennedy acknowledged that his bill would fall short of meeting every need. “We’ve got great unfinished business in this country,” he said, “and while this bill does not solve our problems in this area, I do not believe it is a valid argument to say, ‘This bill isn’t going to do the job.’ It will not, but it will do part of it.”

Two months later, Kennedy’s bill was defeated in the Senate. It took his assassination, a huge Democratic victory in 1964, and the legislative talents of President Lyndon Johnson to get Medicare enacted. The health-care bill now being kicked and prodded and bribed toward passage will not “do the job,” either—only part of it. Are Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress doing enough? No. But they are doing what’s possible. That may be pathetic, but it’s no fallacy.

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