A clip on income inequality from Sunday’s “Last Week Tonight” was making the rounds Monday and if you have as many Upworthy-loving Facebook friends as I do, you have undoubtedly seen it coupled with some assertion about Oliver being “spot on.”
While I’ll admit that Oliver had a few good jokes in his segment, his premise was utterly flawed.
He believes that Americans are so “optimistic” about the American Dream – something that in his view people not born into the 1 percent can’t achieve – they will allow politicians to make policies that are “against your own best interest.”
Instead, he believes, Americans should want the government to help close the wealth gap with welfare and social policies. Not tax breaks for the rich, he said, invoking a popular liberal line.
One of Oliver’s biggest pieces of evidence is a Pew Research Center study from January. It found that about 65 percent of Americans believe the gap between the rich and everyone else has increased in the last 10 years and that the majority of Americans believe the current economic system unfairly favors the wealthy.
It also found that 60 percent of people believe they can still make it if they are willing to work hard.
Oliver spends much of his segment laughing at this statistic.
“I can clearly see this game is rigged, which is why it will be so sweet when I win this thing,” he jokes.
He compares Americans to untalented people who go onto reality shows and don’t win. He also points to the Forbes billionaire list as proof that most wealthy Americans inherited at least a portion of their wealth and that minorities aren’t fairly represented on the list. (The best part of this argument is when he tries to use Oprah as an example. You know, the same Oprah who was born to a single teenage mother in rural Mississippi and who worked her way up from poverty to have her own media empire and her own spot on the Forbes list.)
But here is Oliver’s point in a nutshell: Hard work won’t make you rich. You will only be rich if you were born rich. We should all just give up and stop trying.
It’s true that hard work does not guarantee wealth. But laziness and government dependence does guarantee that you won’t get any closer to it.
Achievement and prosperity does not come from government bureaucracies. It comes from hard work and human innovation. It is not the government’s job to give you a monetary security blanket.
For people who weren’t born into money, hard work is the only way to try and get there.
Watch Oliver’s full rant below: