The Economist's Lexington highlights a bill:

[Maria Cantwell, the junior senator from Washington state] is pushing a simpler, more voter-friendly version of cap-and-trade, called “cap-and-dividend”. Under her bill, the government would impose a ceiling on carbon emissions each year. Producers and importers of fossil fuels will have to buy permits. The permits would be auctioned, raising vast sums of money. Most of that money would be divided evenly among all Americans. The bill would raise energy prices, of course, and therefore the price of everything that requires energy to make or distribute. But a family of four would receive perhaps $1000 a year, which would more than make up for it, reckons Ms Cantwell. Cap-and-dividend would set a price on carbon, thus giving Americans a powerful incentive to burn less dirty fuel. It would also raise the rewards for investing in clean energy. And it would leave all but the richest 20% of Americanswho use the most energymaterially better off, she says.

Lexington worries that "a simple bill that doesn't bribe every clamouring interest group is going to have a hard time getting through Congress." That's becoming a universal theme, isn't it, made more obvious rather than less by Obama's first year. Special interests run the Congress which runs the country. The notion of citizens voting for specific goals for the public good and having their representatives debate them in good faith and vote on them ... well, it seems positively surreal, doesn't it?

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.