Watch John Oliver Explain Income Inequality With a Ridiculous Powerball Lottery

A blog about business and economics.
July 14 2014 12:14 PM

Watch John Oliver Explain Income Inequality With a Ridiculous Powerball Lottery

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Isn't it great to play a lottery you're guaranteed to win?

Screenshot from YouTube

In his latest monologue on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver takes on income inequality. By at least one measure, U.S. income inequality is at its worst since 1928. Yet barely half of Americans think this disparity is a serious concern. Oliver thinks this last point might be explained by Americans tricking themselves into believing they can still work hard and become a modern day Horatio Alger. Some might call that optimism. Oliver considers it a deluded gambling problem.

"America now has a system where wealth is essentially dispersed as a lottery of birth," he says. "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." To illustrate his point, Oliver plays a quick game of what he dubs "America Ball." It's a lottery that consists of two separate drawings: one for people with inherited wealth, and one for people born poor. We won't spoil the ending. And check out the full clip below:

Alison Griswold is a Slate staff writer covering business and economics.

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