As always, this week’s episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj was well thought out and comically delivered. However, instead of seeing the regular opening to the show, this episode opens with a messy-haired Minhaj waking up in bed to an alarm blasting his show’s theme song. Donning a Supreme night mask and dark blue pajamas, Minhaj smiles at the camera and begins a segment called, “Hasan’s Daily Commute,”. This consumes about one minute of the episode, but approximately eight hours in real time. Anyone who lives in any city knows that commuting is never easy or efficient because of the ongoing problems with public transportation- hence, the name of the episode. After waiting for the bus for way too long and ditching it for the subway, Hasan waits for his stop while the conductor’s voice is made to announce nasty comments towards him, such as “The bus came the second you left,” and “Your wife won’t remember you…” Minhaj finally finds himself at his destination and runs out of the station. As he runs down the street toward the studio, he yells “Just play the intro!”
Minhaj immediately dives into what this week’s topic is: public transportation and why there are so many problems with it. According to Minhaj, there are more tweets directed at how terrible public transportation is then medicare, the IRS and United Airlines. “Do you know how bad you have to be to get more sh*t than United?” Minhaj jokes, laughing. “Do you guys remember when they used an Asian doctor to wipe down the aisle and we were all like, ‘Have you seen the L train though?’.” Minhaj explains how important and incredible it could be to have a strong transit system. He called it our “lifeline” to jobs, education, healthcare and food. However, ridership has fallen significantly in every city as people turn to commuting by car. When fewer people use the system though, the more expensive and the less maintained it will become. Nonetheless, cars have become more popular, with an increase of twelve billion miles driven since previous years. “Now, obviously most of that was Beto taking road trips trying to find himself…” Minhaj jokes.
I don’t think many commuters would be surprised to discover that the American Society of Civil Engineers gave public transit a grade of “D-“. This grade is based on the poor management, overregulation, old systems and zoning laws of the system. These are the reasons that people are turning to driving and it isn’t coincidental. Minhaj details the “hidden forces” in this country that influence the idea that driving is better for their own personal gain. Under the Trump administration, there has been a $1.5 billion increase on highway repair, but nothing for public transit. “…it makes sense,” Minhaj remarks. “Trump doesn’t even know what buses are. The last time he was on one, he thought it was a locker room.” The audience of this particularly liberal show seemed to enjoy that comment. The Department of Transportation could be allotting more money to public transport, but under Trump they don’t, which makes the costly projects that it desperately needs impossible. For example, the gateway tunnel that connects New Jersey to New York is literally on the brink of collapsing and if it does it could injure thousands of people. Additionally, it would shut down transportation in the Northeast from Boston to DC, which accounts for 20% of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). This is a known problem, yet there is nothing being done about it.
The struggle for better transport is ongoing because of the greed of two men: the Koch brothers. The Koch brothers are the “bad guys of every story,” as described by Minhaj, who lists the other instances they’ve had influence in, such as voter suppression, gerrymandering, and climate denial. Showing photos of them costs two hundred and fifty dollars per photo because of their investment in Getty Images, so Minhaj actually replaces the background image of them with two other Koch brothers, reality television stars and restaurant owners Derek and Daniel Koch. Derek and Daniel are a little strange, but comical. The original Koch brothers, though, have a huge stake in all things relating to cars and therefore make more money when people choose to drive. Their company, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), is helping to kill public transportation. 60% of people living in Nashville supported a proposed transport idea, but AFP stepped in and went around Nashville to tell citizens that the public transit was too expensive and would raise taxes, which worked so well that in the end, 60% of the city was against the new transit system. Killing transit, according to Minhaj, takes out the alternative for the Koch brothers, “the same way that launching Billie Eilish into space would be great for Lorde.”
It’s incorrect for the Koch brothers to say that public transit is too expensive in the U.S., though. Minhaj explained that for every one dollar we invest in public transit, we get four dollars in economic output. In addition to that, blacks and Latinos are six times as likely to depend on public transit or not have a car. Minhaj makes two very important statements toward the end of this episode: “When we don’t fund public transit, we are basically saying ‘We care about some people more than others’.” and “We can’t keep letting them win, we need someone to make a case for public transportation.” After being serious for a few minutes, Minhaj can’t help but make the audience laugh by showing a clip of the younger, much more entertaining Koch brothers make a statement for public transit. You can view that hilarious ending to this very informative episode below.
Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj is released every Sunday on YouTube and Netflix.
Featured Image via YouTube