May 15, 2019
John Oliver Laughs At Your American Dream (Video)
Here’s what we love about John Oliver and the writing staff at Last Week Tonight: they have a real knack for taking issues that seem dry and unfunny, and then exploring them creatively and in depth, all the while bringing the ha-has, too. And so this week he tackles income inequality, or as Fox News calls it, Class Warfare. There’s a simple test to see where you fall on the income inequality spectrum, he says: Are you paying for HBO or stealing it? What’s especially galling in America is the extent to which people who are never going to be in the top tax brackets are so willing to support policies that are designed to help the rich get even richer; Oliver notes that our willingness to act against common sense is rooted in one of our best national traits, our optimism, which makes us susceptible to a huckster like Marco Rubio saying that there are no “haves and have-nots” in America, only “haves and soon-to-haves, people who have made it and people who will make it.” And so we simultaneously think that our system is unfair and we can’t wait until we get to be rich exploiters too: “I can clearly see this game is rigged. Which is what’s gonna make it so sweet when I win this thing, whooo!!”
As an aside, Oliver also notes that this is why Americans are so happy to line up to appear on “TV talent shows for talents you objectively don’t have” so that a reality show host, inevitably British, tells contestants that they’re terrible — after all, Brits are used to a rigid class system where you’ll never rise above your station.
Yet for all our impulses toward democracy, we all really, really expect to be filthy rich some day, which is why even though fewer than 1% of us will ever pay the estate tax, lots of us want to abolish it, for “fairness.” You’d think that conservatives would be OK with the estate tax, since it’s “the government literally taking your money over your dead body.” And that’s why we have regular appearances on local news of people advising us how to plan for winning the lottery, even though it makes about as much sense as planning for “how to handle being attacked by a shark while scoring the winning touchdown at the Super Bowl.