It has been said that 10 percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing. And that a positive anything is better than a negative nothing; that it’s better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly. Or, as Winston Churchill put it, “It is better to do something than to do nothing while waiting to do everything.”
Maybe that’s why they say the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step or “the secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
In many circumstances, that is precisely correct. Drinking more water, instead of soft drinks, for example. Eating better. Exercising. Donating your time or money to a charity. Saving money going grocery shopping. Being grateful. These are all good examples of where “something is better than nothing.”
There are some instances, though, where “something” is not better than “nothing.” Take the imminent repeal of the Affordable Care Act in Congress, for example, especially because 80 percent of us want it “significantly changed or replaced altogether.”
You see, after nearly $2 trillion in spending, there are just 3 percent more Americans with health insurance today – and even that number is dropping daily – as many Americans simply can’t afford paying their premiums. That comes as little surprise considering insurance companies lost $2.7 billion in 2014 alone, and are now raising premiums on everyone by 60 percent (or more) to keep from collapsing and going out of business altogether (as two-thirds of the government-funded health insurance exchanges have already done).
But, but, but, some will say … isn’t “some” increase in the number of Americans with health insurance better than “nothing” at all? And even though “Obamacare” is not perfect, isn’t it better now because you can’t be denied coverage for any reason, or be charged more based on your health status or gender, or be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions?
Yes, theoretically, yes.
But if 31 million Americans can’t afford the deductibles because of rising costs, and have flat-out stopped paying the premiums for the very insurance policies intended to afford them the benefits mentioned above, then hasn’t the care and comfort of the least among us only worsened? And all under the pretense that “something” is better than “nothing”?
Of course, there are countless other examples of where “something” is not better than “nothing.”
Remember when the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) lowered lending standards in the mid-1990s, so first-time buyers could qualify for loans that they could never get before? Well, doing “something” back then to increase homeownership resulted in over 10 million Americans being uprooted by foreclosure, with even more still threatened today, over a decade later.
Remember in 1964, when Lyndon Johnson proposed a conglomeration of federal government welfare programs to assist the poor? Regardless of the reasons why so many were generationally poor or unemployed, the federal government, and the American people, felt they needed to do “something.” And now Congress has spent $15 trillion dollars over the past 50 years on poverty, yet the poverty rate today is virtually the same as it was in 1964. In fact, we are now spending close to $1 trillion per year on doing “something” about the poor, and yet 46 million Americans still live below the poverty line.
Doing “something” may feel better than doing “nothing” at all, but one only needs to look around to see what decades of politicians doing “something” has done to our nation, and our communities.
As a new administration goes to work in Washington, “nothing” would be a refreshing change, because something is not always better than nothing.
Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman and attorney. He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in The Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at email@example.com.