John Oliver explains special districts on Last Week Tonight (VIDEO).

John Oliver Explains Our Nation’s “Ghost Governments,” and Why You’ve Never Heard of Them

John Oliver Explains Our Nation’s “Ghost Governments,” and Why You’ve Never Heard of Them

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Slate's Culture Blog
March 7 2016 10:15 AM

John Oliver Explains Our Nation’s “Ghost Governments,” With Help From Some Adorable Kids

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Still taken from the video.

For those who thought John Oliver’s recent Donald Trump takedown signaled a potential shift to flashier topics, think again. On Sunday, Oliver once again tackled a story that’s extremely important but at first seems very boring: special tax districts. (At least they have the slightly sexier nickname of “ghost governments.”) You’ve probably heard of fire districts or school districts, but the United States’ special districts spend roughly $100 billion in tax dollars each year—as Oliver points out, that’s billions more than Russia spends on its military—on far more obscure causes: e.g., Litchfield, New Hampshire’s  “Mosquito Control District.” Meanwhile, they “can be created seemingly out of thin air,” operate with an obscene lack of oversight, and are very difficult to shut down.

But as with many of the show’s takes on complex or dry topics, Oliver found a way to make this one both simple and entertaining—enlisting the help of some very cute, very articulate schoolchildren to break it down so that anyone could understand it (the kids even do a pretty good impression of Oliver himself).