Throwing the baby out with the bathwater

Published 12:39 pm Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What a beautiful baby the mother thought. To her, it was the most perfect baby ever and she had convinced her entire family of that, although that was not a most difficult task. Since the baby was the only one in the family, it was the light of their lives.

One day, after a long day of playing, the baby was quite dirty, so the mother took out the large dishpan that had become the bathtub for the baby. In the beginning, the water was clear and clean, but it didn’t take long for the soiled baby to turn the water into a muddy pond, so to speak.

In fact, the mother was embarrassed at the change in the water and decided to throw it out. The only problem was that she forgot her precious, little one was in the dishpan and it was hard to distinguish the baby from the bathwater. As she opened the backdoor and stepped onto the porch, she simply took a hold of two sides of the makeshift tub and, with a careless sling, threw out both the bathwater and the baby.

That’s a silly story, but one that has given us a very colorful idiom. The actual genesis of that saying, “throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” goes all the way back to the Middle Ages. The first recorded use of the saying comes from Germany and the year 1512.

Since no one would actually throw the baby out with the bathwater, there is a more obvious meaning. It means that in reviewing an idea or concept, it is not necessary to accept or reject everything about the idea. There is the logical and good sense to accept the good and reject only the bad.

I said logical and good sense. Those two words haven’t found a home in Washington, D.C., our country’s capital. In that city where the springtime brings the blooming of the cherry trees, idiocy blooms year round. I know that sounds a little rash and I am sort of kidding. Sometimes, I join them in being harebrained. The only difference is that I am not making laws by which you are expected to abide.

Thankfully, the next month should bring us a certain amount of safety. Our leaders have taken a vacation and all I can say is that it is about time! I wonder if we could be blessed with them taking the rest of the year off. Here’s a good question. Would we be better or worse off if Congress didn’t meet again this year?

We might be safe as Congress is out of Washington, but I’m not so sure that they are going to be safe back home among their constituents. Most of our representatives had planned to meet with their voters in town hall meetings to discuss the crisis of the day, health care reform. From the few meetings I saw reviewed on television, the voters are mad as a wet, setting hen. I guess Congress better reform health care; they seem to be the ones who are going to need it!

It’s that health care reform debate that made me think of the saying with which I began this column. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time and will acknowledge that our system needs a good review and can be improved. But going around acting as if the system is beyond repair and no good and that we need to rebuild it from the ground up is dishonest.

It is also quite scary. A need for review and talk about improvement is not helped by Chicken Little talk about the sky falling. Calling everything, including health care in America, a crisis has revved up the political engines of this country to such a feverish pitch that the motor is in danger of cracking. We simply cannot sustain the amount of action, make that spending, that is being thrown at all these crises.

The president’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, said something early in this administration that I heard but did not appreciate so much. He said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” I thought he was talking about the financial crisis.

They used that one crisis to pass an almost $1 trillion stimulus bill. Then, another crisis came along and they told us certain institutions were too big to fail and we had to prop them up, or, surely this time the sky would fall. The next week it seemed another crisis in the automobile industry and, before you knew it General Motors had morphed into Government Motors.

In the late spring it was the energy crisis and we had to pass a carbon reduction bill that would save the planet from global warming. Whew, I thought we were a goner until that passed!

We’ve been saved from financial ruin, from environmental disaster, from educational ineptness and from fiscal greed. Now it is imperative that we transform that old, pesky and cumbersome health care system that hardly knows what it is doing. Thankfully, we are awash in money and can afford all of these changes on our Visa cards. Or, if push comes to shove, we can add a tax on Coca-Cola and cheese crackers. It must be done pronto!

What am I saying? The United States of America is a little over 200 years old. That’s not very old when compared to some of the world’s nations. But in that short period of time, we have risen to be most prosperous, most powerful and the freest of people. We have thrived.

Perfect? Not by a long shot.

Made mistakes? Yes, indeed. Plenty.

Can we be better? Of course.

But why are we acting as if nothing is right? Why are we writing 1,000-page bills and passing them without reading them? Why does everything have to be done yesterday?

Why are throwing the baby out with the bathwater?