John Oliver is appalled by debt collectors and dedicated Sunday’s edition of Last Week Tonight to speaking about America’s debt.
Oliver described debt as “the reason that Nicolas Cage has made so many great choices over the years.” He said American households collectively owe more than $12 trillion in debt, and he described the different kinds of unavoidable debt that plague people, including medical debt. He detailed the horrendous tactics used by debt collectors, including threatening to arrest, shoot and eat someone’s dog.
“It is pretty clear by now, debt buying is a grimy business, and badly needs more oversight, because as it stands any idiot can get into it,” said Oliver. “And I can prove that to you, because I’m an idiot, and we started a debt-buying company, and it was disturbingly easy.”
Oliver spent $50 to set up a debt-buying company in Mississippi.”We called it Central Asset Recovery Professionals, or CARP, after the bottom-feeding fish,” Oliver said. For less than $60,000, he purchased $14,922,261.76 of medical debt from more than 9,000 people.
Then Oliver and his team had a brilliant idea.
“Instead of collecting the debt, why not forgive it? Because on one hand, it’s obviously the right thing to do,” said Oliver. “But much more importantly, we’d be staging the largest one-time giveaway in television show history.”
The late night host said that the most anyone has given away on a television show at one time has been Oprah, who gave away nearly $8 million worth of cars to her audience. “We bought nearly twice that in medical debt,” exclaimed Oliver.
He asked the audience if they were ready to make television history.
“You’re about to watch me give away $15 million, f— you Oprah!” he said, pressing a giant red button and forgiving millions of dollars in medical debt.