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In a Crisis, a Compromise Solution Is Worse Than No Solution At All
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The raging argument on the left between progressives who argue for radical change and centrists who advocate for incrementalism is hardly new. Nearly a century ago, progressive titan and Wisconsin Gov. Robert La Follette and then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt were often at loggerheads over the same question.

Roosevelt, La Follette complained, was too quick to compromise with reactionaries. FDR insisted that “half a loaf is better than no bread.” While that might seem intuitively obvious, La Follette had a ready reply. “Half a loaf, as a rule, dulls the appetite, and destroys the keenness of interest in attaining the full loaf.” That can be dangerous. The average adult male requires approximately 2,500 calories of nutrition per day. Twelve hundred and fifty is better than zero, but 1,250 is still malnutrition that would eventually kill him.

Even in a long-running crisis, the sustained agitation necessary to pressure the political classes into granting concessions doesn’t usually occur before people’s suffering has become acute. If the powers that be provide partial relief in the form of a half-measure that partly alleviates a problem, angry citizens can be persuaded to put down their pitchforks and go home peaceably. Yet the problem persists.

The Affordable Care Act is a perfect example. Barack Obama became president at the peak of a major economic crisis, the subprime mortgage meltdown of 2007-09. With hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs every month, the need for government intervention in the health care system was obvious to most Americans. So Obama campaigned on major change that included a public option. Two out of three people, including many Republicans, favored a single-payer system similar to those in many other countries.

Instead, we got the watered-down ACA.

As COVID-19 has made clear, the for-profit American health care system is even more scandalously dysfunctional than it was prior to the passage of Obamacare. The ACA “marketplace” has collapsed; many places only offer one “take it or leave it” insurance plan. Nevertheless, health care is no longer a top political issue. Support for a public option or “Medicare for All” has dropped to about 50%. The Democratic Party chose to nominate someone who promised to veto Medicare for All even if both houses of Congress were to pass it.

Tens of thousands of people are still dying every year because they can’t afford to see a doctor. But in too many people’s minds, health care was partly solved. So they are no longer demanding improvements. Though it might seem counterintuitive, the politics of the health care crisis would be vastly improved had the compromise ACA never been enacted. More people would be suffering. But the absence of an existing, lame plan would add urgency (and supporters) to the fight for a real, i.e. radical, solution.

Half a loaf is killing us.

ORDER IT NOW

As President-elect Joe Biden fills his Cabinet with Obama-era centrists and corporatists, many Democrats say they are satisfied with the improvement over President Donald Trump: officials with government experience replacing crazies and cronies, pledges to reverse the outgoing administration’s attacks on the environment, fealty to science. They are falling into La Follette’s “half a loaf” trap. Especially on existential issues like climate change but also regarding the precarious state of the post-lockdown economy, compromise will sate the appetite for meaningful change without actually solving the problems. As with the ACA, voters will be deceived into thinking things are getting better when, in fact, they will still be getting worse, albeit perhaps at a slightly slower rate.

Climate scientists are divided between those who say we might be able to save human civilization if we achieve net zero carbon emissions within a decade (which is the goal of the Green New Deal pushed by progressives) and those who say it’s already too late. A widely reported study predicts that human civilization will collapse by 2050, yet that’s the year Biden is promising to begin net zero carbon emissions. So if we do what Biden wants, we are going to die.

Trump denied climate science, deregulated polluters and pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord. Biden appears to be an improvement. He talks about the urgency of the problem, promises to restore Obama-era regulations and to rejoin the Paris agreement. Pro-environment Democratic voters are breathing a sigh of relief.

But if the goal is to slow the rate of global warming as much as we reasonably can, both Obama’s regulations and the Paris agreement are woefully inadequate. “Marginal cuts by the U.S. don’t have a long-term overall big effect on the climate,” Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University, told Scientific American in 2014.

According to National Geographic, a 2017 report by the United Nations Environment Program found that “if action to combat climate change is limited to just current pledges, the Earth will get at least 3 degrees C (5.4 degrees F) warmer by 2100 relative to preindustrial levels. This amount of warming would vastly exceed the Paris Agreement’s goal, which is to limit global warming by the end of the century to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F).”

“(3 degrees C increase) would bring mass extinctions and large parts of the planet would be uninhabitable,” the UNEP warned in 2019.

If liberals head back to brunch in a month thinking that the Biden administration will move the needle in the right direction, if they stop being terrified, we are doomed. For, as bizarre as it sounds, Donald Trump provided a valuable service when he scared the living daylights out of us.

Consider a more modern analogy than the loaf of bread: If a two-pill dose of antibiotics is required to cure an illness, taking one instead doesn’t make you half better. It actually makes you worse, because not only do you not get better but you also destroy your immune system’s ability to fight the disease.

This country is teetering on the verge of collapse. We can’t afford to settle for the single-pill solutions of incremental Bidenism.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Global Warming, Health care 
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  1. Nodwink says:

    They are falling into La Follette’s “half a loaf” trap.

    There is no “trap.” None of these people care whether you live or die. None of the people in your Congress have your interests at heart. As long as there is enough resources to extract their salaries and assorted benefits, everyone else can go to hell.

    • Replies: @Cthulu Smith
  2. The columnist who said a few months back that he wouldn’t vote for Mr. Biden now naively believes that government can still be the answer if “progressives” can prevail over “centrists” in staffing and policy decisions in play within the Democratic party.

    Predictably, Mr. Rall’s take on the ACA whitewashes President Obama as having compromised his purported preference for a single-payer system. Because it wouldn’t be progressive to see him as Trojan horse for Big Sickness and Wall Street who preceded the next puppet lying his way to office, both used to keep gullible voters chomping on Red+Blue halves of the same stale loaf.

    And then, just as predictably

    Climate scientists are divided between those who say we might be able to save human civilization if we achieve net zero carbon emissions within a decade (which is the goal of the Green New Deal pushed by progressives) and those who say it’s already too late.

    So, there’s no “climate scientist” with a less pessimistic view? Which may explain the lack of any link or citation in the concluding histrionics:

    A widely reported study predicts that human civilization will collapse by 2050, yet that’s the year Biden is promising to begin net zero carbon emissions. So if we do what Biden wants, we are going to die.

    There’s very little dissidence and even less insight or information in Mr. Rall’s columns. So why is this mediocrity published here, other than to replace Tom Engelhardt as lightweight “Left” on the roster, a complement to the likes of Patrick Buchanan?

  3. Biff says:

    “Wah, my liberal glass is only half full!”

  4. MEH 0910 says:

    He said he was “not even sure I’m so enthusiastic about the $600 checks,” let alone $2,000 ones.

  5. Roger says:

    “Climate scientists are divided between those who say we might be able to save human civilization if we achieve net zero carbon emissions within a decade (which is the goal of the Green New Deal pushed by progressives) and those who say it’s already too late. A widely reported study predicts that human civilization will collapse by 2050, yet that’s the year Biden is promising to begin net zero carbon emissions. So if we do what Biden wants, we are going to die.”–Ted Rall

    Well, the fact is that we are going to die, all of us, whether we do what Ted Rall wants or not. What gave him the idea that we would all (most of us anyway) live forever if he can call the shots. Further, if human civilization collapses by 2050, then it won’t matter what Biden does or doesn’t do. It’s going to happen according to this “widely reported study”, for which no link is provided. And, to repeat Greta Handel above, where are the “climate scientists” who dissent from this viewpoint? Or are they only playing at being climate scientists if they disagree with the consensus narrative?

    “If liberals head back to brunch in a month thinking that the Biden administration will move the needle in the right direction, if they stop being terrified, we are doomed. For, as bizarre as it sounds, Donald Trump provided a valuable service when he scared the living daylights out of us.”–Ted Rall

    Now that Trump has scared the living daylights out of them, we need Trump, Act II to scare the hell out of them so that they repent of their sins and change their way of life. Rall is right when he says that they (liberals, progressives) are doomed if they resort to half-measures and incremental changes. What he doesn’t say is that they are doomed if they try to force the whole loaf on us at once. Whether his preferred policies are implemented slowly or all at once, they will be repudiated. How long that takes is anybody’s guess, but it will happen.

    “This country is teetering on the verge of collapse. We can’t afford to settle for the single-pill solutions of incremental Bidenism.”–Ted Rall

    Right again. This country is teetering on the verge of collapse. We might not even make it to 2050 in a recognizable form. Better to go all in and hurry the process along so that we can get started again sooner rather than later.

  6. Bill H says:

    I said at the time that ACA passed that it was the worst possible course of action, based on the “good is the enemy of excellent” theory, and this bill was not even very good. I cringed every time Obama uttered one of his typically elegant but meaningless phrases about how it would “bend the cost curve,” predicting that it would raise costs, not lower them.

    I predicted that, at best, it would extend the existing corrupt system to a handful who could not presently afford it, and that after a few years people who had been affording it would no longer be able to do so. Right on all counts.

    And I predicted that, as the author points out here, that having settled for a half measure, politicians and the public would lose all interest in trying for anything better. Google blogspot lost all the posts for me, but I wrote to all these points in 2009 when this awful pile of garbage passed.

  7. polistra says:

    All politicians work for Deepstate. All politicians are psychopaths who will never rest until the entire universe is obliterated. All “arguments” and “debates” are auctions to raise the killcount and make the mass murder more efficient. Nobody EVER argues against genocide, whether halfway or fully.

    This was NOT true in the ’30s. FDR was working to solve a REAL CRISIS. He wasn’t ginning up fake murderous panics like “climate” and “virus”. He was willing to adapt and modify his solutions to REAL problems when they didn’t work.

  8. Trump denied climate science…

    Always good for a laugh when “progressives” pretend they give a crap about “climate science”!
    🙂

    Ted, suppose you tell us Americans how we’re going to reduce our carbon emissions while we invite everyone on Earth to move (aka “open borders”) to its most notorious carbon emitter?

    {{{Crickets…}}}

  9. @polistra

    FDR was working to solve a REAL CRISIS. He wasn’t ginning up fake murderous panics…

    Well, he sure ginned up Pearl Harbor, didn’t he.

    “Pearl Harbor Unmasked”
    by J. Alfred Powell; The Unz Review
    — (https://www.unz.com/article/pearl-harbor-unmasked/)

    “Have a Blessed Pearl Harbor Day”
    by David Swanson; December 7, 2020
    — (https://original.antiwar.com/david_swanson/2020/12/06/have-a-blessed-pearl-harbor-day/)

    • Agree: Digital Samizdat
  10. anon[123] • Disclaimer says:

    I’m warming up to Ted Rall, because he sometimes provides in one place a whole grab bag of brainless left wing lunacy. This saves me the trouble of having to wander into danker swamps.

    I wonder how he will cheerlead for the first war mostly peaceful intervention in the Middle East?

    • Replies: @Pat Kittle
  11. @anon

    Ted likes to think of himself as a fearless rebel, but he wouldn’t dare confront Jew Privilege.

  12. @Nodwink

    Who do you think was behind pencil-whipping Pedo Joe the Puppet in, eh? Those who want their precious status quo maintained, that’s who.

  13. MEH 0910 says:

  14. @polistra

    FDR was too busy ginning up fake panics like the ‘yellow peril’ (Japan) instead.

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