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

screen_shot_20140714_at_11.21.12_am
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.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

The Ludicrous Claims You’ll Hear at This Company’s “Egg Freezing Parties”

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM Going Private To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 1 2014 10:32 AM The Corpse-Lined Hallways of the Capuchin Monastery Catacombs
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 8:46 AM The Vintage eBay Find I Wore to My Sentencing
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 10:27 AM 3,000 French Scientists Are Marching to Demand More Research Funding
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 7:30 AM Say Hello to Our Quasi-Moon, 2014 OL339
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.