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Congressional sausage-making 

LowDown

Perhaps you recall from high school civics class that neat flowchart showing the beautiful democratic process for passing a law through Congress.

What a bunch of kidders those chart-makers were! To see how the sausage is really made, look at the corporate favors crammed into the budget bill that Congress squeezed out last month, including:

• Allowing Big Coal to explode the tops off Appalachian mountains, then bulldoze the rubble into the valley below, destroying pristine mountain streams;

• Letting truck bosses require drivers to be on the road more than 11 hours a day, up to 82 hours per week, filling our highways with highballing, sleep-deprived truckers;

• Turning Wall Street banksters loose to gamble with our government-guaranteed deposits, meaning we taxpayers are back on the hook to reimburse them when their speculative games go bad.

None of these favors had anything to do with that "How-a-bill-becomes-law" flow chart in our civics text book. No bill was filed, no public hearings were held, no debate or even a vote. Just — BAM! — there they were, a thicket of benefits were secretly slapped into the 1,600-page budget bill by, well, by whom?

Corporate lobbyists (though they get one of their for-hire Congress critters to do the actual dirty deed).

The taxpayer subsidy for Wall Street, for example, was written by Citigroup lobbyists, who then got Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder to cram it into the bill. Thus, the Wall Street bank that had grabbed a $50 billion bailout from us taxpayers in 2008 to save itself from its own bad deals, essentially was allowed to become an unelected, do-it-yourself, backroom "lawmaker" to make sure that your and my tax dollars will be there to cover its next mess-up.

It's government of, by, and for corporations. And that, boys and girls, is the real flowchart for making our laws. Class dismissed.

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.

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