Speed Reads


John Oliver explains how Trump's budget would, ironically, turn red states into literal 'flyover country'

Last week, President Trump unveiled his first budget. On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver ran through why that does and doesn't matter. "This budget is simply a blueprint, what's known in Washington as a 'skinny budget' — which sounds like a line item that Trump might have included in one of his pre-nups," he said. But while it's "very unlikely to pass in its current form, it is worth taking just a few minutes to look at it — partly because it gives us a clear sense of our president's priorities, but also because it gives us chance to get to know yet another one of the Trump administration's key characters," White House budget director Mick Mulvaney.

Mulvaney said he came up with the budget figures by going back through Trump's speeches — essentially treating "Trump's past statements the way Trump treats women: randomly singling out a few of them and then reducing them down to numbers," Oliver said. But "translating the noises that come out of Trump's face into hard policy prescriptions is almost impossible," he added, playing some of Trump's relevant musings, describing the language as "toddler psychopath."

"Look, there is nothing wrong with cuts in principle, but with budgets, as with haircuts, it's where and how you cut that matters," Oliver said. For example, you don't slash the EPA, State Department, USAID, public broadcasting, and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities as a cost-cutting measure — together they make up 1.62 percent of the federal budget — you cut them as a proffered middle finger. "It is the budgetary equivalent of inviting Mitt Romney out to dinner at Jean-Georges before not offering him a Cabinet position — and I will say, that was awesome, by the way," Oliver said, appreciatively. "Trump is so consistently monstrous, sometimes out of sheer coincidence he happens to do something amazing."

But "the weirdest thing of all here: Some of the cuts in Trump's budget heavily impact groups that voted for him," Oliver said, noting in particular the proposed existential cuts to rural airport subsidies. "Think about that," he said. "Trump's rise was fueled by people in red states who were justifiably irritated that liberals sometimes refer to them as 'flyover country.' But this budget could literally turn some of them into flyover country, because there would be no other option." Watch below — with the caveat that there is NSFW language throughout. Peter Weber