This video will make you mad and jubilant at the same time. Last Week Tonight is fast becoming trans-formative television.
Last night's episode was no exception. The core story was about debt buying companies, who purchase old bad debts at pennies on the dollar, then use collection agencies to collect the debt, even if the statute of limitations has expired on the case. John Oliver even outlines cases where collection agencies specialize in collecting expired debt from the estates of the deceased.
Most telling is the collusion between the debt collecting industry and our own government. Turns out this industry is so unregulated that a cable television show like Last Week Tonight could buy up almost fifteen million dollars of medical debt for $60,000.00.
They did, they really did.
And then they discharged it, breaking Oprah's "everybody gets a car" giveaway by several million dollars to become the biggest "cash giveaway" in the history of television.
A little background: John Oliver shows on the screen behind him the logo for RIP Medical Debt. That organization was founded by two former debt collectors who decided to ditch Satan for the angels, and start helping people crippled by medical debt rather than hound them. Yes! Magazine:
Ashton worked in the debt collections business for more than 30 years. As he learned about its tactics, he was moved to start his own consulting firm with the goal of keeping people out of collections. He said the industry treated debts as “commodities” and sold them for a profit while the debtor struggled to pay off the full amount. “That I find to be unconscionable,” says Ashton.
He was inspired to rethink debt by the Occupy Wall Street movement and its offshoot, Strike Debt, which started the Rolling Jubilee, a program that began buying debt and abolishing it in October 2012.
A modest proposal: How about if a company wants to write off bad debt as a TAX DEDUCTION, they have to truly write it off, and are forbidden from selling the social security numbers (yeah) and debt information to an outside collection agency? Taking a loss means you take a loss, rather than participate in a virtual debtors prison scam against taxpayers.