Last night John Oliver beat his head against the wall of the always disingenuous debate over America’s national debt. Here’s the most reliable cycle in American politics over the last 40 years: a Republican president increases the national debt through a combination of tax cuts and increased defense spending, and then when a Democrat gets in office the Republican Party suddenly becomes obsessed with limiting the national debt and opposes almost any new spending. They act like the national debt is an existential threat to America whenever spending might actually help the American people, but are totally okay with blowing that debt out when it comes to starting wars or helping corporations and the 1% pay less taxes. It’s like clockwork.
This isn’t one of those Last Week Tonight segments that educates you—or at least it shouldn’t be. GOP hypocrisy on this issue has been well-known for decades now, and as Oliver points out, prominent Republicans like Ted Cruz and Mick Mulvaney pretty much openly acknowledged the whole scheme at different points in the last year or two. It’s some of the pettiest, most cynical politics being played today, and it’s such a constant and predictable thing that it shouldn’t be effective. And yet if it wasn’t the GOP wouldn’t keep returning to this playbook every time their guy isn’t in charge.
Oliver may not be opening your eyes to some heretofore unfamiliar injustice, but there’s still much to enjoy about his sheer exasperation over how brazen this whole nonsense is. And, y’know, he’s really funny, which is still the main reason to watch his show. You can find the full segment below, and if you have HBO Max you can check out last night’s entire episode over there.