They roll into Washington from the West, the North, the South — good ideas to make our national policies better, to make our economy fairer, to improve our nation.
And these good ideas — still sparkling with freshness and common sense — are delivered into the welcoming arms of our members of Congress, who with great fanfare and promise, carry them into the majestic Capitol building, the sanctuary of our democracy.
But then, lobbyists appear from out of the shadows to whisper to lawmakers and slip checks into their pockets. Time passes, and the fresh ideas show signs of wilting.
Next, they move into closed committee rooms where they get dissected by members representing special interests. Then — with Republicans sourly opposing anything fresh and good, and with Democrats timorously trying to appease sour Republicans — the ideas are taken down into a dark, secret chamber for "negotiations."
From there, the good idea emerges as a bill. Only — Oh my god, don't look! — it's been turned inside out, stuffed and twisted into a bad idea. Republicans, who forced this grotesque gut job, spit on their own creation and walk away, but Democrats say they need to pass something, so they pass the bad idea, and call it progress.
This has been the sad journey of a bill to create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, a good idea that surfaced a year ago to stop Wall Street and other banking hucksters from ripping off consumers.
That idea is now being "negotiated" in the Senate, where it is expected to be perverted from an independent watchdog with real teeth into a puppy kept by the Federal Reserve System, where it will be taught not to bark at bankers, much less bite.
The hope for us consumers is that the House will reject this fraud.
For more information, contact Consumer Federation of America: consumerfed.org.
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.