John Oliver's Economic Analysis Is No Joke

Published Wednesday, April 7, 2021 at: 9:59 AM EDT

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Comedian John Oliver's analysis of the impact of the mushrooming federal debt is no joke.

Mr. Oliver, a pioneer of the satirical TV news genre, was senior British correspondent at The Daily Show from 2006 to 2013. Since his HBO Sunday, 11 p.m., show 2014, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, has won 13 Emmy Awards, which is an entertainment industry award.

More to the point, the Peabody Awards, which recognizes distinguished achievement and meritorious public service in mass media, has been awarded twice to Last Week Tonight in the past six years. That's serious.

Mr. Oliver has taken satirical news to a sublime level. He's making fake news really serious and substantive but funny to more than four million viewers weekly. It's almost unbelievable that the “fake news” has become a source of real news about economics.    

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On Sunday, Mr. Oliver almost made the exploding government debt funny. The long-term debt of the United States, in the 12 months since Covid hit, soared from $21 trillion to $28 trillion. Larding debt on generations to come  is obviously nothing to laugh about, but it's also not so grim. Which was Mr. Oliver's main point.  

As we reported two weeks ago, there is some really great news about the debt: the expected cost of servicing the interest on the debt is not growing as fast as the economy overall, Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, said in Congressional testimony on March 24.  When the cost of debt results in growth to the economy, debt is a good investment. 

This is incredibly unfunny.  The U.S. debt is boring and complicated. Moreover, given the human proclivity for avoiding bad news -- and debt is most definitely bad news, Mr. Oliver, despite sometimes outlandish political views, is no joke. Last Week Tonight is not as funny as it used to be, but it is hilarious for a serious news show.

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This article was written by a professional financial journalist for Advisor Products and is not intended as legal or investment advice.

This article was written by a professional financial journalist for Advisor Products and is not intended as legal or investment advice.

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