Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

A Fool and Their Money?, Part I: Fields of Gold

Donald Trump is still the biggest star on Fox, even though he doesn't have a show there, and he uses his platform to engage in grift from his supporters. As it turns out, Fox News is also into grift, but in a different form. It takes lots of ads from the gold coin industry and they pay a pretty penny (in regular dollars) for the ads. The total ad spending of the industry is about a billion dollars a year, and Fox has a sizeable chunk of it.

Basically the companies are either selling the gold coins at way more than their actual value, sometimes as much as three times it, or are selling them at cost, but charging a huge commission. Either way, the sucker—er, sorry, the customer—is ripped off and the company and Fox do very well, thank you.

The ads say that the dollar's collapse is imminent and the only way to safeguard your assets is to buy physical gold and store it at home in a safe. Anyone who has taken Economics 101 knows that "collapse" means "against the euro, yen, yuan, and other currencies." If all your assets are in dollars and all your expenses are in dollars, the dollar-to-euro exchange rate doesn't matter to you. As an aside, (V) actually took Economics 101 from none other than Paul Samuelson, who wrote the book for it. But the folks who watch Fox News didn't take it from anyone.

The article linked to above cites a disabled senior who put her life savings into gold coins and lost half of it, which she can ill afford. She said that she assumed Fox must have approved of the ad, otherwise they wouldn't have run it. Actually, they approved of the ad very much, but not the way the woman thought.

Several attorneys general have filed lawsuits against the gold companies, but none have gone to court yet. Assuming their lawyers vetted the ads carefully and the ads don't make any claims that are illegal, the companies will probably win them. Saying: "gold coins are a great thing to have in times of inflation" is probably legal. Saying "gold coins are FDIC insured" is not. The companies' lawyers know this very well.

When asked about this, Fox pointed out that Wells Fargo paid a $3 billion fine for opening fake accounts in their customers' names and then charging them monthly fees for them, yet mainstream companies still accept ads from Wells Fargo, even though they are crooked as the day is long. And the gold coin companies haven't been convicted or fined, so they are presumed innocent for the time being.

Most of the coins themselves are manufactured by the Royal Canadian Mint, which says they are bullion, meaning their value is simply the number of ounces of gold in them times the price of gold per ounce. The mint sells them at the current bullion price plus a markup for handling and a profit. It has no control over people who buy them directly from the mint and then resell them at triple the price they paid. Krugerrands are another popular item since they contain exactly one troy ounce of gold, making it easy to look up the true bullion value every day on the Internet.

It is worth noting that Fox isn't the only right-wing media outlet to be guilty of this. To take another example, if you look at the Rumble page for the GOP candidates' debate, you will see that the sponsors are: (1) a right-wing coffee company, which is a little weird, but OK; (2) a group that sells precious metals to "investors"; and (3) a group that sells survivalist supplies at a hefty markup.

Similarly, Donald Trump is not the only right-wing individual to aggressively fleece the flock. Sean Hannity's $34 million salary apparently isn't enough, so he pitches "Wealth Protection Kits" on the side. Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich both hawk useless "home title lock" insurance. Mike Huckabee served, for years, as pitchman for a "natural sleep remedy" that is so dubious the manufacturer just settled a class-action lawsuit.

We did our best to see if there is any lefty equivalent of these things, and we simply couldn't come up with... anything. There are absolutely scammy products that appeal to people across the political spectrum. And there are scammy products whose user base skews somewhat lefty, like pretty much all the stuff put out by Gwyneth Paltrow's company Goop. But we cannot find any grifty product or service that is being pushed hard, and basically exclusively, by left-wing media outlets or by current/former left-wing politicians. If we are wrong, please let us know. And if we're right, well, we don't know exactly what it is about the right-wing media environment, or the right-wing fanbase, or both, that makes them particularly prone to scamming, but we're certainly interested in any theories readers might have.

The one thing that is clear is that P.T. Barnum was wrong. There isn't a sucker born every day. There are thousands of them. But even then, there are only so many fools to be parted from their money, and so much money to be grifted. While it is slightly macabre, the more money Fox viewers pour into solid-state snake oil, the less they have left over to give to Trump. Maybe the non-Trump scams we outline above are part of the reason that the Trump grift isn't nearly as lucrative these days. (V & Z)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates