The news exposes viewers to the times they live in, from small-town crime and weather to national concerns like war, government proceedings and societal issues. There are those who believe everything they see on the news, those who are skeptical of political agendas, and even a large segment of the population that avoids the news because it simply depresses them.
Late-night talk shows have been a way to keep up on social and political commentary for quite some time. From Johnny Carson and David Letterman to more recent mock-news shows like “Last Week Tonight” and “Saturday Night Live” news analysis and comedy often go hand in hand. It’s not surprising that these programs have supplanted traditional news coverage for many Americans.
When it comes to financial problems, everything from consumers’ inability to maintain a budget to national fiscal policy has been analyzed and satirized. Here’s a roundup of financial problems tackled, dissected and put into perspective by the funniest talking heads on late-night television.
1. People Can’t Maintain a Budget (“Saturday Night Live”)
This “Saturday Night Live” sketch simplifies Americans’ issues with debt by providing a clear solution: Don’t buy stuff you can’t afford. The root of the problem is found in the solution, as a bulk of credit card debt could be avoided if consumers saved more diligently, only spent the money they had and put less on credit.
2. Civil Forfeiture Is Legalized Highway Robbery (“Last Week Tonight”)
The days of fearing robbers cloaked in ski masks might be over. John Oliver in a segment on “Last Week Tonight” touched on civil forfeiture, or the process of law enforcement officials seizing property and cash without conviction of a crime. According to The Washington Post, police have seized $2.5 billion in 61,998 seizures of cash “from people who were not charged with a crime.” This seizure is on the grounds that the cash or property could be used for a crime, even if no evidence exists. As Oliver points out, the property is guilty — not the owner of the property.
This process has helped thwart criminals and return cash to victims, but police are allowed to keep most — if not all — of the cash or property seized. Need more context? Philadelphia officials over a 10-year period seized over 1,000 homes, 3,290 vehicles and $44 million in cash, according to CNN.
3. Income Inequality Is Alive and Well (“Last Week Tonight”)
With movements like Occupy Wall Street emphasizing the already obvious wealth divide in America, Oliver touched on income inequality in an episode of “Last Week Tonight.” The infamous 1 percent were found to earn nearly 20 percent of American income. This is the largest income divide since the ’20s.
According to Oliver’s segment, income and capital gains taxes have been cut in half for the wealthiest Americans — and 65 percent of Americans believe the wealth gap has increased in the last 10 years.
4. Payday Loans Are Never a Good Idea (“Last Week Tonight”)
According to Oliver, payday loan offices are more common than Starbucks and McDonald’s locations, with one in 20 households taking out a payday loan at some point. With interest rates as high as 570% APR, these loans are far more detrimental to the finances of those who take them out than a personal loan from a bank or credit union would be; however, these loans are also much easier to qualify for. Often referred to as predatory loans, these products are often advertised as financial life rafts yet usually put those who take them out — who are already in high financial risk — further in the hole.
5. Student Loan Debt Will Haunt You (“Last Week Tonight”)
It’s widely known that the cost of a college education is threatening to outpace the value of a degree. With seven out of 10 graduating college students entering adulthood with debt, totaling $1 trillion, student debt is larger than credit card and auto loan debt in this country, according to Oliver’s segment.
It wasn’t always this way. According to The New York Times, student debt has tripled over the last 10 years alone. Sadly, too, schools can be predatory as well; for-profit colleges claim to help people enter successful careers, though they end up accounting for one-third of student loan debt with just 13 percent of all college students.