Speed Reads


John Oliver uses airlines, beer, and eyewear to show why rampant corporate consolidation is bad for you

If you don't believe that small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, watch John Oliver orchestrate politicians of all stripes saying that phrase in sync. "It's true, 'small businesses are the backbone of our economy' is that rare thing that every politician agrees on," along with "support the troops," something NSFW about Ted Cruz, and Sen. John Thune's (R-S.D.) good looks, Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. But despite what you might have heard, America is not in a "golden age of small-business startups," thanks, he argued, to rampant corporate consolidation.

Decades of virtually unchecked "merger activity has helped make some sectors of our economy ridiculously consolidated," Oliver said, citing airlines, rental companies, beer, search engines, and other industries. "In fact, look, full disclosure here, even our own parent company, Time Warner, is currently trying to merge with AT&T, which makes this story a little dangerous for us to do," he said, adding to the danger by savagely insulting AT&T multiple times. The U.S. has had antitrust laws on the books for more than 100 years, and there is some benefit to consolidation, Oliver explained, "but since the late 1970s, that balance has tipped decidedly in favor of being merger-friendly, which has led to real problems," for workers and consumers alike. It is past time to more strictly enforce those laws, he said, suggesting that should be a political no-brainer.

"The point here is, we seem to have forgotten how important antitrust is, and now we're all being forced to live with the consequences," Oliver said. "Because this issue affects almost everything you do." You can watch his examples below, including the "menacing tone of a Bond villain" Luxottica's CEO used in describing his acquisition of Oakley. Be warned, some of it is NSFW. Peter Weber