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John Oliver: It Shouldn't Take A Pandemic To Show We Need Social Programs

"There is no better argument for a permanent welfare state than watching your government desperately try to build one when it's already too late," the Last Week Tonight host said.

The more I listen to John Oliver, the more persuaded I am that the man is a frickin' comedy genius on a par with Lenny Bruce. To take all these bits of hyperactive whimsy and then weave them into a damning political critique, week after week, without a boring moment, is a skill few comedians have. Like this segment from last night's Last Week Tonight:

"We need to seriously think about whether having our health insurance systems so tied to employment is a good idea, because I would argue it emphatically isn't," Oliver said.

"In fact, while many of the problems we're being forced to confront right now weren't created by the coronavirus, it has thrown a spotlight on some of the biggest flaws in how our system operates, things like paid sick leave and hazard pay are essentially Band-aids and we absolutely need them right now because we're bleeding. But when this is over, this country is going to need more than Band-aids, it's gonna need fucking surgery. Things need to change and not go back to normal.

"Control-z us back to how we were in 2016 is simply not going to cut it and honestly, it shouldn't have taken a pandemic to prove our unemployment system is a mess, that we need universal health care and that workers need benefits, the right to organize and wages that reflect how essential they really are, and we also shouldn't have needed a pandemic to consider whether mass incarceration is tolerable as prisons and jails become petri dishes for the coronavirus or whether our treatment of the homeless is adequate when we've seen photos of them sleeping in a parking lot six feet apart or what we do about the multiple underlying inequalities that are making this virus in some places twice as deadly for black and Latino people as whites.

and what's been infuriating is that some conservatives have seemed worried that we might do too much.

The extension of paid sick leave opens the door you know what's going to happen on the Democratic side, Schumer is gonna want a permanent program, they're gonna try to get another social program out of this. We can't let that happen.

"Really? Why the fuck not? That argument basically boils down to, well, if we help people today, the Democrats are just gonna want to help more people tomorrow -- like that's a bad thing -- and while Dollar Store Bill Nye here has moderated his stance since then, others are still adamant that nothing should permanently change because of this.

"Florida senator Rick Scott, seen here having just learned that enough money was raised at the talent show and he won't be able to shut down the orphanage after all, he put out a statement arguing that this crisis shouldn't be an opportunity for members of Congress to permanently expand the welfare state -- which is weird, because there is no better argument for a permanent welfare state than watching your government desperately try to build
one when it's already too late.

"Because make no mistake, the real test here isn't whether or not our country will get through this. It will, the question is how we get through this and what kind of country we want to be on the other side and if nothing else, this crisis has done what any great Judith Kudlow painting does -- make painfully clear what we've been missing all along."

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