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How to Fix America (In 3 Paragraphs)

On the surface, the problems affecting America appear so varied and complex that it seems absurd to suggest there’s one quick fix. But when you get down to the core it’s actually very simple, and can be explained in very few words and in such a way that almost all people can agree on regardless of ideological background. We’re not going to get anywhere until we can brush our disagreements aside and engage with each other honestly about the heart of the matter. In the following 3 paragraphs I will identify the problem and state how we can fix it. The bold-faced sections can actually stand alone as the entire argument, but I’ve buttressed these points with brief examples and explanations. None of this will be new to anyone, but its obviousness is the whole point—if I can explain it so succinctly, anybody can. My hope is that more people will reach out to those who normally disagree with them and see if we can at least agree on this.

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1. The root of the problem is that some people can make incredible sums of money by doing things that harm everybody else. Investment bankers can earn huge amounts of money by inflating financial bubbles which collapse economies when they inevitably burst, energy companies earn higher profits by not spending money to protect the environment, insurance companies profit by denying people treatment, prisons profit by taking in more prisoners, and so on. This is not necessarily due to greed—it’s simply the nature of a business to try and earn as much money as possible, and to use that money to ensure that it can continue doing the things which allow it to keep earning.

2. The secondary problem is that our political system depends on campaign contributions from private donors to fund political campaigns. Politicians have a much easier time seeking large contributions from a handful of big businesses than by attempting to amass large amounts of small donations from average citizens. In order to be competitive, politicians must take money from businesses which profit by harming society. In exchange for these contributions, the politicians agree to either fight to protect the ability of these businesses to continue profiting at society’s expense, or to at least not fight very hard to stop them. As a result, the problems caused by these businesses are never fixed, and the negative effects on average people continue to accumulate.

3. Before any of America’s problems can be fixed, this central problem must be tackled first. Money must be taken out of politics if there can be any hope of politicians acting in society’s best interests as opposed to the interests of those who fund their campaigns. As long as the banking sector supplies most of the campaign money to politicians on both sides of the aisle, we can’t expect politicians to honestly reform the banking sector. As long as our politicians take money from private insurance companies, we can’t expect them to honestly reform the health care system. As long as politicians take money from energy companies, we can’t expect them to honestly work to protect the environment. These companies should have a seat at the table, but they can’t own the table. If we want politics to be about finding real solutions to problems, campaigns must be publicly financed so that politicians are elected on the merits of their ideas as opposed to how much money they can raise. Government should be the tool with which society fixes its problems, but problems can’t be fixed with a broken tool. The only way to fix the tool is to get money out of politics. Explaining how we do that, unfortunately, would require a lot more paragraphs…

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