Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 3, Episode 10 - Episode #3.10 - full transcript

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LAST WEEK TONIGHT
WITH JOHN OLIVER

SEASON III
EPISODE 10

Welcome to Last Week Tonight.
I'm John Oliver.

Thank you so much for joining us.
Time for a quick recap of the week.

And we begin in Saudi Arabia.
The Mecca of meccas.

President Obama visited Saudi Arabia
for a summit of gulf leaders,

but right from the moment he arrived,
it seemed something was a little off.

The king did not greet Mr. Obama
at the airport,

instead sending
a lower-level delegation.

He was met at the airport,
by the governor of Riyadh,

who is a royal, but is not
a senior figure in the government.



That is a snub.

You send a governor to meet
the president of the United States ?

Imagine if King Salman
arrived in America

and was greeted at the airport
by Arizona governor Doug Ducey.

That would not be acceptable even if
he was moonlighting as a limo driver.

And, and just in case the snub
was not clear enough,

the Saudi king had been shown
on television earlier in the day,

greeting the leaders
of neighboring states at the airport.

It's like finding out

your parents didn't forget to pick
you up from soccer practice.

They showed up, bought an ice cream
for a bunch of other kids,

and then intentionally left
without you.

It does seems pretty clear
at this point,

the Saudis cannot wait
until this president leaves office.



They believe that the next president,
Hillary Clinton or even Donald Trump,

will be able to restore
Saudi Arabia's status

as America's key ally
in the Mideast.

That makes sense: Donald Trump
has a lot in common with the Saudis.

They both inherited wealth,
hate neighboring countries,

and have a decorating style
best described as

"King Midas and Elvis
design a brothel".

But despite all this tension,

the president tried to smooth
things over during his speech,

although judging by the camerawork
on the Saudi news feed,

it may not have gone over great.

When we look back on the past year,
a lot has gotten done.

I'm confident that a year from now,
we will be able to say that

because of these actions,
all of our nations are more peaceful

and more secure
and more prosperous.

And it underscores the enduring
friendship and partnership.

It's like the camera actually said:
"My god, Obama, shut uuuuup !"

"You are so boring !"

So let's move on to the UK,

a country that gave the world Beatles
and punished it with Coldplay.

The UK also got a visit
from the president this week,

although their royals gave him
a somewhat warmer welcome.

The queen herself in an extraordinary
gesture of friendship

coming out with Prince Phillip
to greet the Obamas.

94-year-old Prince Phillip
even drove them to lunch.

I have never been driven
by a duke of Edinburgh before,

and I can report
that it was very smooth riding.

Sure. Although, let's be honest:

any ride with a 94-year-old
man behind the wheel

that doesn't end with your skull
shattered against a tree

counts as a "smooth ride".

And those were not the only royals
greeting the Obamas on this visit.

A royal handshake
from little Prince George,

up past his bedtime
to meet the president.

The toddler in a spa robe,
matching pajamas and slippers.

All of it shared
on the young royal's Twitter feed.

"That robe, OMG, so sweet",
one follower wrote,

and "the most adorable
display of a power dynamic ever."

Is it, though? I would say it's
a little demeaning for the president

to have to crouch down and greet
a toddler dressed as Hugh Heffner.

Although, to be fair, this trip
was not all royal photo ops.

The president also spoke out
in favor of Britain staying in the EU,

something that enraged
London's mayor Boris Johnson,

and he did not hold back.

In an article for a right-wing tabloid,
Johnson slammed Obama

for taking a bust of Winston Churchill
out of the oval office.

Johnson wrote that Obama was
compelled to oppose the UK due to:

"the part-Kenyan president's ancestral
dislike of the British empire."

Holy shit !
Or to put that another way:

"he may not like us because
of our history of racism,"

Boris Johnson said, racistly.

And, I'll say this:
it's a little hard to hear a man

reduce Obama's views to him
being "part Kenyan"

when that man is himself
clearly part Cabbage Patch Kid.

And lastly this week,
we turn to, Norway,

the left testicle in the frigid
sea-penis of Scandinavia.

Norway's current government
has come in for criticism recently

for its response
to the Syrian migrant crisis,

which has included
drafting an asylum policy

they call
"one of Europe's toughest",

and deporting nearly 10,000 people
since the beginning of last year.

This has been overseen by their
immigration minister, Sylvi Listhaug,

perhaps the most Norwegian-looking
human being who has ever lived.

In an attempt to soften her image,
she traveled to the Mediterranean

and jumped into the water to experience
what it was like to be a migrant.

Which already sounds stupid.
Then you see what she was wearing.

Okay. I think the most ridiculous
part of this stunt

is that this looks
genuinely pleasant.

I would happily
spend my next vacation

gently floating in the Mediterranean
in a giant pumpkin suit.

Listhaug did insist that she had
learned something from the experience.

Safely onboard the boat again,
Listhaug has a new perspective.

To see a boat like this when you're
drowning, that must be amazing.

But how is "seeing a boat
when you're drowning is nice"

something
you did not already know ?

And for the record:
that is not drowning.

That's floating around giggling
dressed like an aquatic Cheeto.

There is no doubt:

European policy-makers
need a better understanding

of the dangers
faced by migrants and refugees.

If belly flopping around Mediterranean
like a dolphin on Quaaludes

helps you do that,
maybe it's a good thing.

Because until now, Listhaug has been
pretty tone-deaf on this issue.

Back in November,
she justified Norway's decision

to turn refugees away
by invoking Jesus.

I think that Jesus would see that
we have to help as many as possible.

That was what Jesus
was concerned with,

that you should help
as many as possible

and that's not about
helping many in Norway.

Obviously, she's living by one
of Jesus' most remembered sayings:

"Do unto others as you
would have others do unto you,"

"offer not applicable in Norway,
a country that does not exist yet."

And now this !

And now, everyone likes
mispronouncing "Target".

Target...
Or should I say, Target ?

Our sophisticated Vicki says "Target".
What do you think, Vicki ?

I think they're upscale Target.

- That's Target.
- Some people call it Target.

- You remember Target ?
- It might be back to Target now.

Everyone was crazy
about Target or Target.

They are a long way
from Target.

It doesn't have Target
cache that it once had.

Our next one, from Target.
Target, as we like to say.

- How do you feel about Target ?
- I love to hear that, Gayle.

Moving on: our main story tonight
concerns Puerto Rico.

The island that, for decades,

has been marketed to us
as a beautiful vacation spot.

The commonwealth of Puerto Rico,
a land of song and laughter.

Coconut milk,
that delicious Puerto Rican rum.

This is really living.

It's the revival of an old
coconut mask festival at Loiza,

just 45 minutes from San Juan.

And how'd you like
to see this the morning after ?

Wait ! Did that 1950s narrator
just make a sex joke ?

"If you've got the moxie,"

"you can fuck every crazy
masked stranger on the island ! "

"But Puerto Rico is an island
of 3 and a half million people."

And they are currently facing

a horror even greater than
a demonic slipknot coconut mask.

Puerto Rico
is in desperate financial trouble.

Puerto Rico is facing a $70 billion
public debt amid a 10-year crisis.

Considering the state of our economy,
the debt is not payable.

This is not politics.

This is math.

That is bad.
Because "this is math"

is one of the most dreadinducing
sentences in the English language,

even when it's uttered at the start
of an actual math class.

It's right up there with
"It'll never grow back"

and, "Mommy, whiskers has been
napping for a really long time".

Puerto Rico is currently
around $70 billion in debt,

and it is wreaking havoc
on the island.

The poverty rate
is a staggering 45%.

Last year alone, over 80,000
people left for the mainland US.

Puerto Rico has shut down more
than 150 schools in the last years.

The cash-strapped government
has dramatically hiked sales taxes,

from 7 percent to 11.5 percent far
higher than any in the United States.

Yes, right now Puerto Rico
is like the last Tower Records.

Everything's overpriced,
everyone's being laid off,

and there's still a weirdly large
number of Ricky Martin CDs.

And remember,
Americans have a personal stake here.

Puerto Ricans
are American citizens.

And they and their descendants
include some of our finest judges,

both of our laws, and our idols.

They're some of our top athletes,
and our top Guzmans.

Just this week, just this week,
Lin-Manuel Miranda,

the son of Puerto Rican parents,
won the Pulitzer Prize for "Hamilton",

the Broadway smash
he created and stars in.

Last month, he made a heartfelt plea
to congress on Puerto Rico's behalf.

If I can leave you with anything today,
our island is in crisis,

and if I can help in any way,

if I can get more eyeballs to
this crisis, it's a fixable problem.

I'm urging congress...

if Hamilton tickets will help,
I'm happy to do that, too.

That is incredible, 'cause I'm amazed
even he can get tickets.

It is easier for a meerkat
to get into Harvard Law School

than it is to get in to that show.

And quick side note here:
congress should take him up on that.

The show is amazing.

Have you seen that clip
from when he performed

a work-in-progress version
of the opening song ?

The word got around,
they said, his kid is insane, man.

Took up a collection just to send him
to the mainland get your education,

don't forget from whence you came,
and the world is gonna know your name.

What's your name, man ?
Alexander Hamilton.

It's so fucking good !
It's so good !

We owe Puerto Rico for that man.

How did we get to the point
where members of congress

are being offered Broadway tickets
to save Puerto Rico ?

Much of it has to do with the fact
that as we have talked about before,

Puerto Rico is not a state, but rather,
as a 1901 Supreme Court case stated,

it is a territory that is "foreign
to the US in a domestic sense".

Which sounds
like what a liquor store clerk says

to try and sell surplus cases
of Miller High life.

"You're looking
for a quality foreign beer ?"

"I'd call this foreign
in a domestic sense."

We don't need to settle tonight
the question of Puerto Rican statehood.

That is a complicated issue on which
many Puerto Ricans disagree.

But one thing is for sure:
because it's a territory,

many laws that apply to the states
have loopholes concerning Puerto Rico.

And as you will see time
and time again in this piece,

those little legal quirks
have had massive consequences,

some good,
but many utterly devastating.

And let's start with a quirk
many Puerto Ricans liked: Section 936.

It gave tax breaks
to encourage businesses

that would otherwise
have moved overseas,

to move to Puerto Rico,
and it worked.

In the 1970's, the US government
helped attract business to Puerto Rico

by granting generous tax breaks.

That led to a booming
manufacturing sector,

particularly pharmaceutical companies.

At its peak, the island was home
to 89 drug manufacturing plants.

All of a sudden, Puerto Rico
was a pharmaceutical paradise.

At its peak,
the small city of Barceloneta

even housed
14 pharmaceutical and other plants,

including one that produced Viagra.

That plant was such a source of pride
that the town's mayor has said,

"We're responsible
for a lot of good moments,"

which is one step away from
outright changing the town's motto to,

"Barceloneta:
you're welcome for that boner."

Unfortunately for Puerto Rico,
congress got rid of those tax breaks

to offset a tax cut on the mainland,
phasing them out completely by 2006.

Between that,
and the US recession,

Puerto Rico lost
over half its manufacturing jobs,

putting its economy into a state
that no amount of Viagra could fix.

To pay its bills, their government
started issuing municipal bonds.

And a municipal bond
is basically an IOU...

Puerto Rico borrows money, promising
to pay it back later with interest.

And for years,
people lined up to buy those bonds.

Because thanks to some other quirks
in the law they were very attractive.

Congress decided bonds from
Puerto Rico would be triple tax exempt.

Those who buy them

don't have to pay federal,
state or local taxes on the bonds.

The money you earned
on them was triple tax exempt,

anywhere in the US, and triple
is the best you can have,

like triple fudge brownies !

Because double fudge is shit
and quadruple fudge doesn't exist,

because what would
the fourth fudge be ?

Wall Street loved those tax breaks,
as well as the fact

that thanks to yet another legal quirk
they themselves lobbied for,

they stash bonds in funds without
putting "Puerto Rico" in the name.

You might even own Puerto Rican
bonds and not even know it.

Oppenheimer's Maryland municipal fund

is made up of 50.4 percent
Puerto Rico bonds, which is insane.

If you are more than half something,
that is what you should be called.

Even Taco Bell makes sure
their ground beef is

less than fifty percent
squirrel lips.

The rest is a combination of raccoon
dicks and weasel knees.

Puerto Rico even went
a step further to entice Wall Street

writing into constitution, language
suggesting that certain bondholders

would be paid first,
ahead of anything else,

including funding
basic government services.

Which is pretty fucked up.
The US owes $1.2 trillion to China,

but if you called 911,
you would not expect them to say:

I'm sorry. We chose to send our
fire truck money to Beijing.

Have you tried blowing
on the fire really hard ?

Provisions like that
kept the money flowing in,

and as their former governor puts it,
Puerto Rico got hooked.

They were attractive
in the marketplace

and Puerto Rico actually got addicted,
I would say, to it,

and so it was a lot easier to borrow
as opposed to making tough decisions.

That is true, but you were governor
for many of those years.

Hearing you complain
about addiction

is like hearing Keith Richards complain
about Rolling Stones' drug problem.

It was you, Keith !

You're the only Rolling Stone whose
blood was a controlled substance !

There was one more quirk here,
which made Puerto Rico a time bomb.

Unlike states, Puerto Rico cannot
authorize chapter 9 bankruptcy.

Which is huge,
because think about that:

if you are in debt and you can't
declare bankruptcy, you are stuck.

And this happened because of
a tiny amendment to a law in 1984.

And the crazy thing is,
no one can say why it was written.

Interesting that chapter 9 applied
to Puerto Rico from 1933 to 1984.

And then mysteriously,
Puerto Rico was exempt from chapter 9.

A provision was stuck into a larger
bill with no explanation or debate.

No legislative history to explain
why Puerto Rico was singled out.

He's right. So the next time
your obnoxious friend tells you

"everything happens for a reason",
you can simply say:

No, Dan. Not the 1984 provision
exempting Puerto Rico from bankruptcy.

So shut the fuck up.

We even tried to find out why
that amendment got attached.

We knew Strom Thurmond
had proposed it,

we asked an archivist at the library
to go through the relevant papers.

And they came up with nothing.
Might be the best-case scenario,

because usually when it comes
to Strom Thurmond,

the answer to the question:
"where did this come from ?"

is either his testicles
or fervent racism.

With massive debt promised to pay
ahead of government services,

and no access to bankruptcy,
Puerto Rico was fucked.

But wait: because we're only
getting started here.

Four years ago,
in an attempt to turn things around,

they embarked on a disastrous plan
to lure in wealthy individuals

by exempting them
from capital gains taxes,

which you have to admit,
is pretty good rich people bait.

It's right up there with tiny dogs
in bags, and big dumb round ice cubes.

"They're colder
when they're round, you know".

The government even created
a video to sell mainlanders on moving,

featuring a businessman talking
in condescending tones

about how unexpectedly
civilized life in Puerto Rico is.

What we found, first of all,
was a thriving business community.

Established, solid,
like the United States.

In terms of family, I must say
I was skeptical at first.

But in the end, the island
has everything you might need.

Great possibilities. I visited schools,
top level, in English.

I saw living alternatives up
to our standards, I felt safe.

There's so many little treasures
you want to explore,

complemented with all the necessities
you and your family are accustomed to.

That level of colonial tone makes me
cringe, and I'm fucking English.

The buildings had roofs,
the cars had wheels on them, but wait:

they also had indoor plumbing
and the printed word !

While those tax breaks were part of
a plan to create 50 000 jobs,

a study later found they only
directly created 5 800.

That's twelve percent.
If an ER doctor told you:

"Congratulations. We got 12 percent
of the GI Joe out of your rectum !"

You would not consider that
a job well done.

While those who relocated have gotten
out of paying $420 million in taxes,

Puerto Ricans have been suffering
the effects of savage government cuts,

including hospitals
struggling to keep the lights on.

Puerto Rico's debt problem
has gotten so dire,

the power authority cut off
a hospital that's behind on its bill.

The electric power authority waited

until surgeries were done
before pulling the plug.

That's nice. They waited
'till surgeries were done.

Only the people on life support

have to worry about the switch
to bicyclepowered generators.

Pedal faster, Louis,
we're losing him !

And with working
conditions like those,

is it any wonder that
one doctor a day leaves Puerto Rico ?

That is an attrition rate
rivaling that of Grey's Anatomy.

How have so many of you died ?
You work in a hospital !

The truly tragic thing here is,

Puerto Rico may soon need
those doctors more than ever.

They expect the Zika virus to
infect 1 in 5 people in Puerto Rico.

The island of Puerto Rico has seen
450 confirmed cases of the virus.

So, on top of debt,
industrial collapse, school closures,

and a sudden influx
of tax-dodging assholes,

now Puerto Rico has to worry
about deadly mosquitos.

It's like the island is being hit

with all the plagues that god
felt were too 'thinky' for the bible.

Puerto Rico could rightly
cry out to its creditors for mercy.

A lot of its creditors are
now hedge funds,

who thrive on this kind of chaos.

Hedge funds often invest
in debt-ridden economies,

buying up bonds at low prices and
looking to flip them for profits.

And Puerto Rico
is their latest target.

The strategy has earned them
a reputation as "vulture" funds.

30 percent of Puerto Rican debt
is now held by vulture funds.

And if you are alone in the desert
and see vultures perched above

your first thought is never:
"the vultures are coming to help !"

These funds
lived up to their name,

with a group of them producing
a report titled:

"For Puerto Rico,
There's a Better Way",

suggesting budget cuts like cutting
excess Medicaid benefits

and reducing the number
of teachers on the island.

So shaving money out of medicine
and education is your better way ?

At least change the title to:
"Puerto Rico, Fuck You, Pay Me."

Congress is currently considering
a bipartisan bill

that would give Puerto Rico breathing
room to negotiate with creditors.

If this is done well, it could
be a real help to Puerto Rico.

Unfortunately, there is now
a coordinated campaign to kill it.

Who will bail out Puerto Rico ?
Washington says you will.

Retirement accounts crushed,
a bailout on the backs of seniors.

Tell congress, stop the Washington
bailout of Puerto Rico.

Everything you just saw
was bullshit.

First, it's not a "bailout."
No one is suggesting a cash infusion.

That ad wasn't paid for by
"savers and seniors",

but by "the center
for individual freedom",

who've spent
nearly $2 million on ads like that.

A dark money group. Impossible to say
where that money came from.

Hedge funds gave them
the money.

It's impossible to say.
Hedge funds. Impossible.

Even the sad old people
featured in that ad are bullshit,

because they're all
stock footage models.

And if you let the stock footage
of the man with the mustache play out,

he's not even sad because
he starts fucking smiling.

You can make him react !
Stock footage man !

You've been used
in a manipulative attack ad !

Don't be sad,
let's get some ice cream !

Bad news, they're out of ice cream !
But they have cake !

Pound cake, though.
With strawberries !

Stock footage man, you're
America's greatest living actor !

This is not to say that regular
bondholders have not been hurt.

Some Puerto Rican bondholders may
have got the worst of this.

Some of the bonds were underwritten
by the investment bank UBS,

which sold them to one of
its own divisions, to itself.

UBS then off-loaded those bonds
onto Puerto Rican customers,

even though its own sales force,
felt they were so risky,

they came up with a list
of 22 reasons not to sell them.

And 22 is a lot of reasons to ignore.
If a waiter at Bennigan's

says she has 22 reasons she doesn't
want to sell you the Cobb salad,

you listen to her, and you go
across the street to a Sizzler.

UBS says they did nothing wrong
and technically they're right.

UBS should never have been able
to sell those bonds to themselves,

it's illegal to do that under the
Investment company act of 1940,

but that doesn't apply
in Puerto Rico.

Because apparently, no laws
apply to businessmen down there.

I would not be surprised if,
in Puerto Rico,

hedge fund managers can fly,
due to some bullshit exemption

to the law of gravity Strom Thurmond
wrote up in the fucking 1980s.

3.5 million Americans are facing
a dire crisis. The clock is ticking.

Their next debt payment
is due on May first.

They need
relief from hedge fund lawsuits

and an opportunity
to restructure their debt.

We need to stop treating Puerto Rico
like it's just a tax haven

or a place to have terrifying sex with
a stranger in a coconut mask.

And start treating it like an island
of American citizens

whose fate is interwoven with ours.

There are better voices than mine
to speak on behalf of Puerto Rico.

Luckily, there is someone
with Puerto Rican parents,

and an amazing voice
and he is here tonight.

Please welcome
the great Lin-Manuel Miranda.

My family's from Puerto Rico,
the tropical destination

where you spend your Washingtons,
spot where you vacation.

A commonwealth with not a lot
o 'wealth, a not quite nation.

70 billion dollar topic
of conversation.

Hopin' to god John Oliver's
comical dissertation resonates

with the congress
that got us in this situation

with suicidal tax
incentive declarations.

"We pay your bonds first,
fuck the patients."

This is an island,
a hundred miles across,

a hurricane is coming
and we're runnin' up a lossý

We got here through
misguided loopholes

giveth, take away business
n' poop in our soup bowls.

Crapped in yours ?
Crapped in mine, down the line

Thurmond's ghost busted
a cap in a chance at chapter 9.

The great debate
over statehood has to wait.

Rose and Jack on Titanic
askin', "when's our next date ?"

Ship is sinking, we have
to pay shit that matters,

we'll figure out
Facebook relationship status.

Will they or won't ?
It's Rachel and Ross.

We have to help our island
just a hundred miles across.

Three point five million American
civilians are on the hook for billions.

Vulture funds circling
and lobbying for payout,

there's nothing left to tax or cut,
we need a way out,

there's no structure for what happens

if you let this crisis play out,
May is a day out.

It's non-partisan, the hard part
is in convincing congress

Puerto Rico matters so their
heart is in fight for relief.

Not a bailout, just belief you can
pass legislation to ease our grief.

Paul Ryan, I'll sing
Hamilton at your house,

do-si-do with Pelosi,
wear my Hamilton blouse.

Your citizens are suffering,
stop the loss.

Help Puerto Rico,
it's just a hundred miles across.

Thank you.
Alex Lacamoire on keys.

Lin-Manuel Miranda,
ladies and gentlemen !

That's our show, we're off next week,
thanks for watching, goodnight !

LAST WEEK TONIGHT
WITH JOHN OLIVER

END OF EPISODE 10,
SERIES III