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New York Stein Crashed-and-Burned Watch (Financial News Edition)

Felix Salmon says that the employment of Ben Stein as a financial advice columnist is not just stupid but evil--and ugly:

Felix Salmon: Ben Stein, predatory bait-and-switch merchant: How far has Ben Stein sunk? Far enough that I feel compelled to resuscitate the Ben Stein Watch, just to share this unfunny and positively harmful TV ad.... “I went to freescore.com and found out my score for free”, says Ben, while an annoying squirrel holds up a sign with the word “FREE” in some horrible brush-script font.

A few points are worth noting here. First, the score itself is not very useful to consumers. What’s useful is the report — if there’s an error on the report, then the consumer can try to rectify it. Secondly, and much more importantly, if you want a free credit report, there’s only one place to go: annualcreditreport.com. That’s the place where the big three credit-rating agencies will give you a genuinely free copy of your credit report once a year, as required by federal law.

You won’t be surprised to hear that freescore.com is not free: in order to get any information out of them at all, you have to authorize them to charge you a $29.95 monthly fee. They even extract a dollar out of you up front, just to make sure that money is there.

Stein, here, has become a predatory bait-and-switch merchant, dangling a “free” credit report in front of people so that he can sock them with a massive monthly fee for, essentially, doing nothing at all. Naturally, the people who take him up on this offer will be those who can least afford it.

The level to which Stein has now sunk is more than enough reason — as if the case for the prosecution weren’t damning enough already — for the NYT to cancel Stein’s contract forthwith. It’s simply unconscionable for a newspaper of record to employ as its “Everybody’s Business” columnist someone who is surely making a vast amount of money by luring the unsuspecting into overpaying for a financial product they should under no circumstances buy...

The easiest way to fix this is simple: the New York Times is no longer the newspaper of record, for any purpose whatsoever. People who want entertainment should not subscribe to the New York Times but should instead watch "America's Funniest Videos." People who want news should subscribe to the Financial Times.

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