A few words in defense of root canals.

In his State of the Union, President Obama scored some laughs early on with his comment that the bank bailout was "about as popular as a root canal."

"If there’s one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans, and everybody in between, it’s that we all hated the bank bailout," Mr. Obama said. "I hated it. I hated it. You hated it."

It was a clever quip in a long long speech, a bonding moment that broke the ice for a president trying to appear more populist.

But personally, I would have hated the bailout less if it had had actually done the work of a root canal.

I know — painful, lengthy, expensive, root canals cause — and come in for — a lot of grief. Just say the words and people flinch. But let me offer a few words in defense of root canal. At least a root canal gets to the root of the problem.

What do dental surgeons do? They dig deep, eliminate infection, clear the sick places out, and protect the decontaminated tooth from future infection.

The bailout was hated and certainly painful — but dig deep, eliminate infection, decontaminate and protect? That’s an almost flawless list of all the things the bank bailout failed to do. Perhaps because, from everything we’ve learned since, the surgeons in the bailout were themselves infected.

That’s quite enough from me on root canals, but there’s just one more prick: after surgery comes the agony of paying for it. Having bailed out the banks, the bill for the TARP’s now being passed on to consumers through a domestic public spending freeze (read, fewer public services, higher household bills). As dentists like to say, "This is going to hurt." From what I can see, the bailout’s going to keep on hurting, while doing nothing about the infection.

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.