5 Surprisingly Solvable Problems America Can't Figure Out
Hey America, I think you're swell. Your Constitution is aces, those purple mountains are very majestic, and there are tons of safe places to park your car here. Breaking Bad was a wonderful show. And your people are super fun. What you did with the Boston accent? Fu-cking hilarious. Nobody wants to change you, America. But a lot of us citizens are super concerned about some rather self-destructive things you've been doing to yourself lately. We totally get that not every problem has some snap-your-fingers solution, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few fairly easy suggestions you could take to fix your overall quality of life. And frankly, we have no idea why you haven't done them already.
Want To Fix The Rust Belt? Support Renewable Energy And Marijuana
Blaming environmental regulations on the coal industry's decline is like blaming online pirating for the shuttering of video stores. Yes, it certainly didn't help, but stopping it won't get your Blockbuster job back. Thanks to cheap natural gas and renewable energy, coal is dying. That's just a fact of modern life. While some coal will still exist, it won't be enough to save the Rust Belt and Appalachia (areas that weren't exactly swimming in money before coal disappeared).
Pictured: the "good ol' days."
So the next step is figuring out what thriving modern industry can replace those jobs for a long period of time. It would have to be a livelihood that's a) easy to train coal miners to do and b) growing enough to sustain a huge workforce.
Yep. That crispy beardo living in his vegetable oil Mazda Bongo up the road from your high school? Turns out he was a leader of industry this whole time. Kids, consider that the next time you shy away from some weird stranger, because you could be harshing a very lucrative business opportunity. And the transition is already happening in places like Australia, where a coal mining town transformed itself into one of the country's largest solar farming communities. It's also in the U.S., where areas in Colorado rose from the coal ashes with a $800,000 boost in marijuana tax revenue. There have even been studies looking into the transition, which found that most coal mining workers not only could be cheaply retrained to work solar and wind farm gigs, but would also make more doing it. And that's not even assuming the coal companies would transition over themselves, which is exactly what's happening to a state-run mining group in India.
This isn't a hard decision, people.
So What's The Goddamn Holdup?
Well ... despite creating 150,000 full- and part-time jobs, certain politicians can't seem to leave the 1980s when it comes to marijuana.
While obviously not the wonder drug stoners want you to think, it's insane we have an attorney general who's apparently possessed by the ghost of Nancy Reagan. As for renewable energy, well, that's oddly off the current administration's to-do list, despite overwhelming bipartisan support for it. As for whether or not places like Appalachia would want this change, go ask the people of Whitesburg, Kentucky, an unfortunately named town and one of many places trying to reform their economy with bars and tattoo parlors and trendy businesses in an effort to attract younger citizens. These aren't backwoods yokels screaming at fancy city folk jobs, but humans who enjoy movies and football and getting drunk and watching Space Ghost, and who would welcome weed and renewables with open arms. They could go from an economic hellhole to leading the country in industry, for fuck's sake. And while I hate to go there, there was kinda one person who was saying this a while ago, but we didn't like the way she did her emails, so I guess we went with the guy hate-tweeting about wind farms on his unsecured Android instead.
Hate Poverty? Turn Federal Post Offices Into Banks
Being poor is often odorous and surprisingly expensive, like tabletop gaming or maintaining an all-ferret diet. When you only have $30 for the week, buying anything in bulk isn't an option and you end up paying more in order to get less. For this reason, nearly 30 percent of Americans don't have the time or bulk capital to deal with banks, paving the way for payday loans and check-cashing services.
Also advancing: customer blood pressure.
We're talking predatory hell-sucks that offer 500 percent to 1,000 percent interest rates and target areas where banks are unavailable or impractical to use. When legitimate bank branches move out of town, these fuckos take their place, creating a horrendous circle of debt.
But you know what is still in every neighborhood? United States Post Offices -- aka that place where people used to send paper emails and analog sexts. There was usually a person with a blue hat running the joint, and currently they are at an annual loss of $5.5 billion, thanks to the reason you're not reading this in a magazine. In other words, they're pretty much the perfect location to merge with a federal banking system to offer a baseline financial service for the poor. How do I know that would work? Because we already did it before.
Pictured: an idea so obvious, we were able to come up with it before sound films, polio vaccines, and rock 'n' roll.
This bill, passed in 1910, created the United States Postal Savings System. This was stupid popular with the poor while not posing any real threat to other banks still luring in the middle and upper classes. By the 1930s, they had $1.2 billion in assets across the country. By 1949, 68 percent of America had a postal bank available and was damn happy about it.
So What's The Goddamn Holdup?
The Savings System eventually came to an end at the start of the 1970s, when things began looking up, which coincidentally happened to be around the time payday loans became a terrible thing. And for the fuck of me, I have no idea why we stopped. Even now, there's very little public pushback from the banks. And no one is talking about it beyond a few politicians like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
Not only was it a great service, but it's also something that most of the world still offers. Also, government bank accounts would potentially pave the way to a universal basic income, in which everyone gets a default amount of money automatically put in their government bank accounts. That sure beats owing your life savings to some place called "Cash n' Blow."
Scared Of Climate Change? Support Family Planning And Birth Control
Nothing on this list ultimately matters if the world turns into a sprawling wasteland where children are traded for Snapple bottles half-filled with the highest of alkaline urine. That means we need to nip this whole "climate change" business soon. And while that's a task I certainly can't solve in a few hundred words on some goddamn comedy site, there are some ways we could begin to make a dent.
"How?" you ask, jaw agape in awe of my manly determination. Well, all we have to do is look at stuff that causes the biggest carbon footprint and reduce that thing. You know, like one of these:
That's something we call a "baby" in my professional field. And depending on where the vagina they come out of is located, it can produce literal tons of carbon dioxide as time goes on. Amounts tend to be at their highest in rich or developing areas like Asia, Saudi Arabia, and the US of A.
So one way to slow climate change is to reduce how many of these exist. And while I know I'm starting to sound a little, uh, Hitler-y, it doesn't count as genocide if the babies we're talking about never exist in the first place.
Worldwide, about 85 million babies were "happy" accidents -- the highest occurrences being in Latin America, North America, and the Caribbean -- otherwise known as places where proper family planning and birth control is still an issue. Going by the average amount of CO2 an American produces in a lifetime, that's an accidental 1.7 billion tons to start. But considering that humans sexily beget other humans, ultimately the average cost of having an extra child is an additional 9,441 metric tons of carbon dioxide, making that number more like eight trillion tons of CO2 from the domino effect of unwanted pregnancies.
All of this points to a world in which even a little more effort toward voluntary family planning and birth control could go a long way -- especially since more than 200 million women worldwide want, but don't have access to, contraceptives. According to the latest estimates, merely providing access to those people would decrease emissions by 30 percent. We're not talking about abortion or mandatory population control or the Thunderdome or even handing out pamphlets, but simply providing rubbers to the areas of the world that need them most.
So What's The Goddamn Holdup?
Putting aside the political debate around birth control, politicians talking about "population control" will often set off a lot of red flags. After all, how many times did I stress the voluntary side of this? This is why most politicians don't want to talk about it, and why when they do, they get criticized for proposing we start on the slippery slope toward eugenics. And even if we did manage to talk about birth control like adults, we'd still need to find the funding needed to properly provide options around the world. And we'd still need to convince some politicians that climate change is a real thing, and that giving poor people access to birth control isn't an affront to the ceremonious trajectory of sperm.
But in a world where our population is exploding at an alarming rate -- where scientists are estimating that even a catastrophic disaster or city-wiping nuclear war won't do the trick -- any objection to birth control is an act of Earth treason the likes of mass genocide or inventing the circus peanut.
Want To Fix Our Bridges And Roads? Raise The Gas Tax
No one wants to drive on shoddy pavement. So until we learn how to make cars fly or harness the power of dolphins, we need to fix our roads and bridges so as to avoid the crushing embarrassment of our shitty infrastructure, as well as the literal crushing of our shitty infrastructure.
And since the leading problem for cities is funding their roads, this sure seems like something that should be handled on a federal level. In fact, why the hell is this even a problem? We've had roads for like, a while, and so you'd think we'd have some plan for keeping them funded, right? There's no way I'm not right.
Well, we did. Back in the 1930s. And we called it the "gas tax."
Under the watchful eyes of Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, the Revenue Act of 1932 introduced one of the first of many taxes on gasoline in the U.S. Over time, that tax was raised from the original 1 cent per gallon to 2 cents in 1954, to 4.5 cents under John F. Kennedy, all the way to 18.4 cents in 1993. That's about 16 percent of the $1.15 per gallon that gasoline cost at the time. So going by that math, can you guess what the federal gas tax is today?
Still at 18.4 cents.
Despite everything in the world costing way more, no president since Clinton has pushed to raise the federal gas tax. And so that 18.4 cents per gallon is now half of where it should be today. This means that the only hope cities have for fixing their roads is within their own state's gas taxes, which aren't nearly enough and are even nonexistent in many areas.
This isn't even close to a political argument, but one of logic. Here are those panda-fucking socialist turtlenecks at The New Yorker advocating for it ...
And here are the blood-faced choler-fucks at Breitbart also advocating for it ...
Everyone wants this ...
So What's The Goddamn Holdup?
... Except us.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose increasing a tax that we need to increase, which means that politically, the gas tax is poison. Saying "gas tax" gets a candidate the same amount of goodwill that comes with suplexing a baby deer. It's the verbal equivalent of giving an elderly war veteran a wedgie on the Super Bowl Jumbotron. So despite being the most logical solution to a very real problem, everyone has to stupidly dance around it like it's lava in a discotheque.
Trump's infrastructure plan to privatize roads is being criticized for increasing the rate of tolls across the country (private investors don't fund roads for free), but the money has to come from somewhere. Roads and water pipes and bridges don't make money; they are an investment designed to make America function as a whole. So we have to pay for them. All of us. Either we do that by taking the long, clumsy route through private businesses and toll roads, or we bite the fucking bullet and raise the stupid goddamn gas tax.
And while we're at it ...
Hey, Maybe Raise Taxes For The Rich A Little Bit?
Back before the darkness, in a year called 2015, The New York Times published an article speculating the various ways we could help the country by raising taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent.
For example, raising income tax to 45 percent on households earning an average of $2.1 million would create $276 billion in revenue for the first year. That number alone could pay for a high-speed rail system, fix roads, and fund Medicare. But if that seems too much, raising taxes to 40 percent on the 0.1 percent of people making $9 million a year or more would get us $55 billion in extra revenue, which is a few billion shy of being able to send everyone to college for free. 45 percent would get you $100 billion -- enough to build and maintain at least five Jurassic Parks, provided those asshat geneticists start pulling their goddamn weight.
We needed this like yesterday, you clowns.
While this idea has been criticized for its vague simplicity and not solving inequality as a whole (the rich would remain stupid rich, even with increased taxes), both assessments seem to be missing the point. For starters, we don't necessarily need to "solve" inequality or even our national debt in order to help the unfortunate, and the fact that taxing the rich more won't put a dent in their wealth seems like a good thing. It means that there's a way to create a baseline quality of life while not waging class war.
And if the concern is that of vagueness, it should be noted that once Bernie Sanders laid out a way more detailed plan for raising taxes to help the less fortunate, those same critics found it to be solid, albeit still not perfect. So while there's room to push and pull over how much to tax vs. what benefits to offer with that surplus, the overall conclusion has been that sliding that tax scale a tiny bit more would make very little difference for the rich, but a huge difference for the poor.
So What's The Goddamn Holdup?
Like ... society, man. For starters, politicians are fucking obsessed with the idea that poor people are going to take advantage of the opportunities we give them. So much so that the latest GOP health care bill spent a tenth of its girth focused on what happens when a poor person wins the lottery. And if you think Democrats are any better, try to remember that the richest and least economically equal districts are run by them. (Fun fact: In 2014, Michele Bachmann's district had the lowest level of income inequality in the U.S.)
Goddamn bleeding heart Tea Party socialists.
No matter which side of the political coin you subscribe, you've likely been conditioned to make things easier on the people running the show. Think of movie heroes like Tony Stark and Captain America having all the power and zero accountability, or truck drivers and factory workers being told that working the hardest jobs for little reward is real American work. We're taught that being a success means starting as an underdog and earning your keep, despite most of America's wealthy never having to experience that themselves. We're taught that teachers and police officers should make less money than the entertainers telling their harrowing bootstrap-pulling stories. We're taught that there's some kind of shame or tyranny in taking from the well-off and helping those in need.
And so all we have to do is, like, change that entire culture of America, and perhaps we can start talking about raising taxes for the rich. So OK, I guess it's not that simple after all.
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