John Oliver Buys, Forgives $15 Million in Debt

Debt plagues large swaths of the U.S. public, preventing Americans from getting ahead as they work to pay off loans and other forms of debt. Credit card debt – also known as revolving debt – alone amounts to $935.6 billion.

While some of us can afford debt free living, many U.S. citizens fall in debt to get by, working to pay off loans instead of saving to build lives for their families. Some programs aimed at alleviating these gargantuan burdens – such as Obama’s student loan forgiveness program – have provided some relief. Nonetheless, millions of Americans are still haunted by debt collectors.

John Oliver – the host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” and former correspondent for “The Daily Show” during the John Stewart era made history Sunday night in an investigative report that looked into the sleaziness of the debt-buying industry.

He also made a lot of debt-stricken families a whole lot happier.

Oliver revealed just how easy it is to get into the debt-buying business by doing it himself. In April, “Last Week Tonight” spent a mere $50 to incorporate a debt-buying business Mississippi.

“We called it Central Asset Recovery Professionals, or CARP, after the bottom-feeding fish,” Oliver commented on the program.

For less than $60,000, the show bought $15 million worth of medical debt located in Texas. As part of the exchange, the satirical (though legally incorporated) CARP also acquired the names, addresses, and (disturbingly) social security numbers of all individuals with debt inside of the bundle.

Instead of collecting, however, Oliver and the show’s producers opted to break Oprah’s record for the largest one-time giveaway on television by forgiving all $15 million. The show’s generousness – while a one-off affair designed to make headlines – nonetheless pushes us to rethink debt forgiveness as potential avenue for greater economic equality.


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