In an extended segment on HBO’s Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver turned his gaze on income inequality, noting that Americans overwhelmingly believe that the system favors the rich while, at the same time, accepting it, believing they too will somehow be rich someday.
“Our main story tonight, is income inequality.” Oliver began. “A good way to figure out which side of it you’re on, is whether you are currently paying for HBO, or stealing it.”
Noting that President Obama recently delivered a speech where he used the expression ‘income inequality,’ twenty-six times, calling it “the defining issue of our times,” Oliver pointed out that Democrats immediately retreated on the issue in the face of accusations of class warfare.
“So basically, income inequality has become just another topic of conversation we prefer to avoid in America, like Japanese internment camps or that time we gave Roberto Bengini an Academy Award. National tragedies, equally wrong,” he said.
Pointing out that income inequality is not exclusive to America, Oliver explained that it “rising faster here,” with the average income of the richest ten percent now sixteen times as large as the poorest ten percent.
“At this point, the rich are just running up the score,” Oliver said. “If our economy was a Little League game, someone would have called it by now.”
Noting that economic policies that benefit the few at the expense of the many shouldn’t be acceptable to Americans, Oliver attributed acceptance to “America’s greatest quality — optimism.”
“Here’s the key. Sixty percent believe that most people who work hard enough, can make it,” Oliver explained. “Or, in other words, ‘Yup, I can plainly see this game is rigged which is what is going to make so sweet when I win this thing.’”
He continued, “America now has a system where wealth is essentially dispersed as a lottery of birth and maybe the reason we seem to accept that is that, even though we know the odds are stacked against us, we all think we’re going to win the lottery.”
Oliver then showed clips of “experts” appearing on TV giving advice on how to handle future winnings from playing state-based lottery games, including putting them in a trust.
“Absolutely,” Oliver added. “It is never too early to start protecting your imaginary lottery winnings from crippling estate taxes. It’s crazy, you might as well do an eight-minute segment on how to handle being attacked by a shark while scoring the winning touchdown at the Super Bowl. Or things to say on your third date with Beyoncé .”
Watch the video from Last Week Tonight below:
Tom Boggioni is based in the quaint seaside community of Pacific Beach in less quaint San Diego. He writes about politics, media, culture, and other annoyances. Mostly he spends his days at the beach gazing at the horizon waiting for the end of the world, or the sun to go down. Whichever comes first.
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