John Oliver wants you to know how much corporations are still not paying in taxes after Trump's tax cuts
"Tonight, in honor of upcoming tax day, we thought we'd give you just a glimpse of the lengths that companies will go to to legally avoid paying taxes, both," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. Like Cardi B, "many people are perplexed and mystified by our tax system," he said, breaking down where your tax dollars go, roughly speaking.
When President Trump signed the GOP tax overhaul last year, he "made some clear promises about who stood to benefit," Oliver said, most of them "clearly nonsense, because if this bill were really helping the people that like Donald Trump best, it would exclusively benefit Eric Trump, Rosanne Barr, and anyone who's looked both ways before whispering, 'It was the Jews.' And the truth is, for all Trump's talk of pipefitters, the biggest tax rate cut by far actually goes to businesses."
Oliver walked through the "long and infuriatingly proud history" of corporate tax avoidance, with a special nod to Apple and Google for being top "innovators in weaselly accounting," though GE and other huge companies paid zero federal taxes for much of this century. The new tax bill does force some of those companies to pay taxes on money stashed overseas, but at bargain rates — a gamble that did not pay off in terms of job creation in 2004, and probably won't this time either, Oliver said. "We just had a huge chance to reform our tax code and we absolutely blew it. Because effective tax reform is not just about lowering rates, it's about closing loopholes."
"So, on Tuesday, as you scrape together your taxes and like Cardi B, wonder what Uncle Sam is doing with your motherf---ing money, rest assured that Donald Trump's tax reform continues to let companies engage in sophisticated tax avoidance schemes," Oliver said. And he had a parting gift for those companies. There is NSFW language throughout. Peter Weber
John Oliver revisits Trump's 'ludicrously dramatic week,' from Michael Cohen to James Comey to 'Mission Accomplished!'
John Oliver kicked off Sunday's Last Week Tonight with former FBI Director James Comey's interview with ABC News, and he focused on one of the few parts he'd watched, where Comey discussed telling President-elect Trump about the "pee tape" and other rumors in the Russia dossier. "Yeah, James Comey thought that conversation was 'really weird,'" he said, "and I will remind you that this is a man who has seen Anthony Weiner's emails."
But the Comey interview just capped a "ludicrously dramatic week" that began with the FBI raid on Trump's lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, Oliver said. Cohen kept on making news when it emerged he helped pay off a Playboy model who got pregnant after a consensual extramarital affair with now-former RNC deputy finance chairman Elliot Broidy. Also, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced he's retiring, Trump pardoned Scooter Libby, and it emerged that the National Enquirer paid off a doorman who claimed Trump fathered a secret child in the 1980s with his housekeeper.
"Oh, and on Friday night, we bombed Syria," Oliver pointed out. Not everyone thinks Trump had the legal authority to do that, and some people are concerned that the U.S. is being drawn deeper into a war with no real strategy, "but don't worry on that front, because Trump has already declared 'Mission Accomplished!'" he said. When people questioned using George W. Bush's infamous phrase, Trump doubled down.
"It does not fill you with confidence to have a president who announces, 'I know I'm repeating one of the most notorious political blunders in recent history, I meant to do it, everyone should do it, and I'm going to do it again, forever,'" Oliver paraphrased. "I've got to say, if Trump's intention was to descend so far into self-parody that he somehow burrowed though the Earth's crust and came out the other side, mission f---ing accomplished." That f-bomb isn't bleeped out. Watch below. Peter Weber
John Oliver has already taken a look at abortion clinics — or the lack thereof — "but tonight we're going to focus on the exact opposite of an abortion clinic, something called a crisis pregnancy center," he said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. These are "facilities whose primary purpose is talking women out of terminating a pregnancy — something they don't often make that clear," he said, and they now outnumber abortion clinics nationwide, 2,752 to 1,671 — or 38 to 1 in Mississippi, for example. "If they are that prevalent, people should absolutely know what they are," Oliver said.
"Look, if you believe abortion is immoral, you are of course allowed to set up a center dedicated to convincing women of that," Oliver said, "but what is happening with CPCs is that way too often, women with unplanned pregnancies are being actively misled." And CPCs often appear to encourage that confusion. Lots of them use the word "choice" in their name, something Oliver likened to false advertising, but they also "catfish" women searching for abortion providers online, try to physically intercept women visiting abortion clinics, emotionally manipulated or mislead them, and worse. He had plenty of examples. "And here's the thing," Oliver said. "For all the lengths that CPCs will go to to prevent abortions, many of them don't do a key thing that would really help that, and that's give women access to birth control."
"The real point here is, the tactics that CPCs often use are disingenuous and predatory, and it's absolutely critical that people understand that," Oliver said. "But they really don't." And to show how easy it is for religious organizations to set up legal CPCs, Oliver's legally recognized religious charity/tax shelter, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, set up Our Lady of Choosing Choice, a mobile "Vanned Parenthood" CPC. This isn't a dispassionate or neutral look at abortion, certainly, and there is NSFW language, and you can watch below. Peter Weber
Scott Pruitt has reportedly racked up a $3 million personal security bill at the EPA, including 24-hour security that accompanied him on personal visits to places like Disneyland. "I'm a little torn on this one," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "On the one hand, that does seem wasteful. But on the other hand, if anyone needs security at Disneyland, it's Scott Pruitt — a man who even Mickey and Minnie Mouse would tell to go f--k himself: 'Hey, Space Mountain is going to be under water in 10 years, you son of a bitch!'"
The recent raft of scandals make for "a pretty sudden fall from grace for Pruitt," beloved by conservatives for a "pro-industry stance so aggressive, in fact, that even though he is literally in charge of the EPA, his LinkedIn page still lists him as 'a leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda,'" Oliver said.
And Pruitt's cleanup visit to Fox News ran into the buzzsaw of Ed Henry's aggressive questioning. "That is clearly not the Fox News tone that Pruitt was expecting," Oliver said. "That is the face of a man who thought he was walking into an Applebee's and ended up in an apple full of bees." And his excuse for his $50-a-night rental deal was "frankly pathetic," Oliver said, trying to be "fair" by showing some actual AirBnB rentals that go for $50 a night in D.C. — if you don't mind a lack of privacy, or a bed.
Still, "Pruitt somehow still has a job," Oliver said, speculating that President Trump is standing by his man either "because Pruitt is doing exactly what Trump wanted him to do, dismantling the EPA and wrecking the environment," or because Trump "now knows that if you want to get rid of Scott Pruitt, you're going to have to kick his door down, wake him from a nap, drag him out, and eventually change the f--king locks." Peter Weber
Egypt held presidential elections last week, and while the results haven't been officially tabulated, the winner is strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, John Oliver not-so-boldly predicted on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "And the reason I know that he's the winner is that he had no serious opponents, possibly because one was arrested and three more withdrew amid reports of intimidation." Still, el-Sisi's ridiculous claim that he was devastated by the lack of competition had a grain of truth, Oliver said. "The tricky thing is, if you're going to have something that even looks like an election, you badly need at least the appearance of an opponent. And he did get one of those — kind of."
Mousa Moustafa Mousa, an open el-Sisi supporter, registered to run against him 15 minutes before the deadline, and up until his nomination he had el-Sisi's campaign banner on his Facebook page. "But the key rule of a sham election is make it look legitimate," and el-Sisi's projected 92 percent of the vote was further undermined by the low turnout, Oliver said, despite "a desperate attempt to make it look legitimate" by election officials threatening $28 fines for people who didn't vote and open bribes by government supporters. "Wow, $5 and discount tickets to an amusement park?" he said. "Say what you like about el-Sisi — and if you live in Egypt, you can't — but it is pretty depressing that seven years after the Arab Spring, he's now trying to win over the voters the same way a divorced dad tries to win over his kids." Watch below. Peter Weber
John Oliver offers context for the creepily surreal video of local Sinclair TV anchors warning about 'fake' news in unison
Last year, Last Week Tonight's John Oliver dedicated 20 minutes to Sinclair Broadcast Group, "the most influential media company that you've never heard of," with a notable conservative bent and a penchant for sending its 170 local stations — a number soon to expand significantly, if its proposed acquisition of Tribune Media is approved — "must run" commentary and other segments. Notably, Sinclair hired Boris Epshteyn, a lawyer and campaign surrogate for President Trump, to provide reliably pro-Trump, must-run hot takes.
"Recently, Sinclair took their game to a new level," Oliver said in a brief update Sunday night. "Because a few weeks back, a script leaked for a statement they wanted local anchors to deliver, warning that national media outlets were publishing 'fake' stories — which was echoing one of Trump's favorite talking points." Deadspin compiled a bunch of those clips in a creepily surreal video that went viral over the weekend, and Oliver played a taste. "Yeah, nothing says 'we value independent media' like dozens of reporters forced to repeat the same message over and over again like members of a brainwashed cult," he said. He ended by pulling a Boris Epshteyn on Sinclair. The clip is decidedly NSFW in parts, so watch below at your own risk. Peter Weber
John Oliver uses a grimly hilarious court TV show to highlight the problems with U.S. immigration courts
U.S. immigration courts are "one of those things that you may not know much about, but are actually hugely important to a significant number of people — like gefilte fish or the Insane Clown Posse," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. You've probably seen stories of ICE raids on workplaces and families, but America's immigration court system, where those detainees end up, "is no less troubling," Oliver said. These 60 courts hear hundreds of thousands of cases a year, the stakes can be life or death, and "the system is a complete mess."
Oliver walked through how we got to a situation where, in the words of one judge, the courts are "doing death penalty cases in a traffic court setting," including a surge of immigration from Central America, ramped-up immigration enforcement, and the "glacial" hiring of judges. Also, because these are civil trials not criminal ones, the government doesn't have to provide lawyers for those who can't afford them, so the majority of immigrants — some as young as 2 years old — show up in court without an attorney. To show how ridiculous that is, Oliver played parts of "the single greatest mock trial ever recorded," of a 3-year-old trying to learn immigration law, as suggested by an actual immigration judge.
America's immigration courts need serious fixing, starting with more judges and, more importantly, judicial independence, Oliver said, noting that these courts are part of the Justice Department, not the judiciary. But that won't happen with this Congress or this attorney general. "Immigration courts are a lot like sex," he joked: "The way to improve them is rarely to say, 'Hey, let's do it a lot faster and meaner, and let's have Jeff Sessions overseeing the whole thing.'" He ended with a preview of "the stupidest new court show imaginable," Tot Bench, where 3 and 4 year olds try adults, in this case, H. Jon Benjamin. Watch below. Peter Weber
On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver spent 20 minutes talking about Vice President Mike Pence, the one White House official President Trump can't fire. Pence's constitutional immunity from being sacked is actually worrisome, "because he's synonymous with some extreme positions," especially on abortion and gay rights, Oliver said. "If there are any Mike Pence supporters watching this, I cannot promise that he is going to come out of tonight's show looking great, but I can promise that I will say something nice about him before this piece is over."
"Pence's reputation is as the old, boring, principled contrast to Donald Trump," but he's actually morally pretty wily and "exceptionally good at dodging tough questions," Oliver said. And if you think his impeccable social conservatism — say, his recent opposition to women in the military — is because he grew up in the 1950s, nope, "he's 58 years old," Oliver said. "Pence is three months younger than Flavor f---ing Flav." He is most well-known for his opposition to gay rights, though, and Oliver spent the rest of the time on that topic.
Pence "clearly" believes in LGBTQ discrimination, "and yet, interestingly, one specific allegation he's pushed back on concerns whether or not he supported 'gay conversion' therapy," Oliver said. He found Pence's denial dubious, not least because of Pence's frequent praise for James Dobson, a big promoter of such "therapy" and, apparently, a big producer of gay-sounding double entendres. "Saying you don't support conversion therapy and then calling Dobson your 'mentor' is like saying you're a 'staunch vegetarian and a law-abiding citizen, and by the way, please meet my lifelong friend and mentor the Hamburglar,'" he quipped.
That led Oliver to the one thing he likes about Pence, and since Pence seems set on ruining even that, Last Week Tonight wrote a book. You can watch an excerpt at the end, but be warned: There is NSFW language throughout. Peter Weber