HBO’s Oliver: ‘America is a System Where Wealth is Dispersed as a Lottery of Birth’

In an extended screed against the horrors of income inequality, HBO’s John Oliver ripped into his adopted home country for its inaction on this supposedly devastating issue. The British-born Last Week Tonight host showed clip after clip dedicated to furthering his point, stating with sarcasm that the “roaring 20s were famously the party that never ended,” in reference to the looming depression that followed.

Oliver accused the rich of “running up the score. If our economy was a little league game, someone would have called it by now.” The former Daily Show contributor continued by claiming that the United States has introduced “policies that disproportionately favor the wealthy,” as if broad-based tax cuts benefit only the 1%, or something. In trying to identify why America is so intent on advocating such policies, Oliver found his culprit: [MP3 audio here; video below]

You would think, you would think in a democracy, policies that benefit very few people at the expense of very many would not be able to succeed. But they have. And I think the reason for that may lie somewhere in Americas greatest quality: optimism.

The English comic then played a clip from Marco Rubio (R-Florida) declaring America to be a “nation of haves and soon-to-haves,” a notion that Oliver found patently laughable. He asserted that the American Dream is nothing more than the equivalent of the lottery:

But, and here’s the key, 60% also believe that most people who work hard enough can make it. Or in other words, yeah, I can clearly see this game is rigged which is going to make it so sweet when I win this thing. Whoo!

The Last Week Tonight host then hit a whole host of conservatives for their opposition to the estate tax, in fact mocking those who label it the death tax – in other words, mocking them for calling it exactly what it is – a tax levied upon a person’s estate after his death. The American Revolution was fought against Brits over taxation without representation. Oliver apparently has no problem with taxation without respiration.

Oliver concluded by asserting once again that America is nothing more than a lottery, where your success is entirely dependent upon the circumstances around your birth and nothing more:

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.

It should not come as much of a surprise that America’s – or in this case, Britain’s – liberals have such a dim view of the United States and the idea that anyone can make it in America through hard work. This apparently includes marginally funny dry comics appealing to a tiny sliver of the country’s television audience.

Rejecting the very idea of the American Dream is what allows the liberal media to walk arm-in-arm with the left in their never ending goal to expand the welfare state.

The relevant portion of the transcript is below.

HBO
Last Week Tonight
July 13, 2014
11:13 p.m. Eastern

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC Nightly News: A new analysis shows the richest Americans, the top 1%, made nearly 20% of all the available income in America last year. That's the widest income gap since the roaring 20s.

JOHN OLIVER, host: Okay, nothing ominous there then! The roaring 20s were famously the party that never ended. That's what made the 30s so great, just more 20s. And the thing is, income inequality affects everyone. It can actually hinder overall growth. And just to be clear, income inequality is by no means just an American problem. Globalization and technology means the gap is rising all over the developed world. It's just rising faster here. In fact, in the United States, the income ratio between our richest and poorest 10% is now 16-1. At this point the rich are just running up the score. If our economy was a little league game, someone would have called it by now. But what sets America apart is that, in this time, we've actively introduced policies disproportionately benefitting the wealthy. Like cutting income tax and capital gains tax rates for the richest in half. As well as that weird tax rebate for orgies with fancy eyes wide shut masks. The password is fidelio. You would think, you would think in a democracy, policies that benefit very few people at the expense of very many would not be able to succeed. But they have. And I think the reason for that may lie somewhere in Americas greatest quality: optimism. It’s basically in how susceptible Americans are to this:

MARCO RUBIO, Senator (R–Florida): We have never been a nation of haves and have-nots. We are a nation of haves and soon-to-haves, of people who have made it and people who will make it.

OLIVER: Yes – I mean no! Hold on! That sounds great. The problem is, it makes no sense. Economically, mathematically, or even grammatically. And yet we believe him. We believe him and there's a poll that I think explains why. A few months ago, Pew Research revealed that 65% of Americans believe the wealth gap is increasing. And 60% believe our system unfairly favors the wealthy. But, and here’s the key, 60% also believe that most people who work hard enough can make it. Or in other words, yeah, I can clearly see this game is rigged which is going to make it so sweet when I win this thing. Whoo! And it’s good, that’s a good thing. That optimism is one of the things I love the most about this country. I love that you line up around the block for TV talent shows for talents you objectively don't have and everyone feels bad when a person who is inevitably and revealingly British does this to you.

[...]

OLIVER: And also, lets be clear. The existence of an estate tax has not prevented Americans from passing on a fuck load of wealth. Of the billionaires on the Forbes 400, 71 inherited their fortune, and another 56 inherited at least a portion of it. That's nearly a third of the list. And our habit of handing money down from generation to generation perpetuates another disparity. Perhaps explaining why, of the Forbes 400, only .25% are African-American. And to answer your question, yes, it's Oprah. Oprah's the person. You're right. Good guess. Good guess. 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.

Connor Williams
Connor Williams
Connor Williams is a contributing writer for NewsBusters.