could be better

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(Things) could be better.

 and (I) could be better.; (Things) might be better.
a response to a greeting meaning "My state is not as good as it might be." (Not necessarily a direct answer.) John: How are things going, Fred? Fred: Things could be better. And you? John: About the same. Bob: Hi, Bill! How are you? Bill: I could be better. What's new with you? Bob: Nothing much.
See also: better, could
References in classic literature ?
Instead of preaching against humbug outside the walls, it might be better to set up a disinfecting apparatus within.