Shillelagh time

BY BEAU ELLIOT | MARCH 23, 2010 7:30 AM

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That was fun, wasn’t it.

I’m speaking about the health-reform debate, which, of course, wasn’t really all that much fun at all. Unless you’re one of the white people whose idea of a good time is hurling racial slurs at African-American members of Congress.

That highlight of human existence occurred March 20 at the Capitol and involved anti-health-reform protesters and Democratic Reps. André Carson (Indiana), Emanuel Cleaver II (Missouri), and John Lewis (Georgia). Lewis is, of course, one of the lions of the civil-rights movement of the ’60s. And Cleaver, the New York Times reports, was spat upon by one of the protesters.

Ah, yes. What fun. If nothing else, the next time a “Tea Partier” tells you the movement is not bigoted, you’ll be able to say, Oh, really?

As debates go, the bitter wrangle over health care seemed to be more like two Irish guys whacking each other around with shillelaghs. Not that I’m an expert in such matters, despite coming from the Irish, but it seems to me that when you engage in such action, the shillelaghs always win.

Just personally, I think I would rather listen to an endless loop of public-radio fundraising than ever hear the word “health” again. (As it turns out, this week, I can pretty much hear that endless loop of public-radio fundraising. You really do have to be careful what you wish for.)

And speaking of what I wish for, this health bill isn’t it. Yeah, I’m one of those single-payer, public-option people. Unapologetically. I’ve lived in a country that has an excellent health-care system (Germany), and I’ve seen that it works quite well. As has been pointed out many times, the United States is the only advanced industrialized nation that doesn’t have universal health care. That’s not something to be proud of.

And it’s true, the bill the House passed on Sunday will do some good things. It will — eventually — extend health insurance to 95 percent of Americans. That figure is at around 83 percent now, which is quite dismal for a country whose physicians, for a large part, are educated at public universities; presumably, conservatives are not so misguided that they wish all doctors be educated at private institutions.

Of course, one never knows with conservatives; they did come up with “death panels,” a notion so short of being half-baked that you couldn’t consider it being even lukewarm.

The bill does some other good things — removes caps on health-insurance payments (which, as NPR points out, cancer patients can run up against rather quickly) and doesn’t allow insurance companies to deny you coverage based on “pre-existing” conditions, for instance.

So, on the whole, I’m glad the House passed it.

I’m especially glad because, three or so months ago, if you remember, health reform was dead in the water, Barack Obama’s presidency was irreparably damaged, and blah blah blah.

Well, well, well. Obviously not. In fact, Obama proved, once again, that when people think he’s done for, he’s thinking he’s exactly where he wants to be.

And the House bill won’t be the end of the health-care debate. The Senate still has to pass the bill, for one thing. And Republicans will try to use the issue as a cudgel to bludgeon Democrats in the upcoming elections.

So burnish your shillelaghs; it’ll be that time from now until November.

Just remember — shillelaghs always win.

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