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Nevada Today

Nevada Today is a nonpartisan, independently owned and operated site dedicated to providing up-to-date news and smart analysis on the issues that impact Nevada's communities and businesses.

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This Week in Corona Scams: Dollars and Pence

This Week in Corona Scams… Not another debate??!! Yes, we’re breaking down what happened in Salt Lake City last night and how it relates to the actual truth. 

Also, I explain why I can’t stop talking about MLM’s and other shady “business opportunities”.

Why did this debate even happen in-person?

Even before last night’s vice presidential debate, Vice President Mike Pence caused quite the scene. With ample evidence that Pence himself has been exposed to COVID-19, multiple medical experts have questioned why this debate was still happening in-person. And then, Pence started a fight over the proposed plexiglass barriers until he finally relented and agreed to them.

Considering what we know about crowded indoor venues being high-risk environments for spreading COVID-19, and considering the evidence on COVID-19 spreading via aerosol (it’s a complicated picture, but not something to blithely dismiss), it’s not a given that the plexiglass barriers provided any meaningful protection. Everyone likely would have been better off debating outside with extensive social distancing. Or even better, they could have found a way to conduct the debate via online video-conferencing.

But since that obviously didn’t happen, let’s shift focus to what did happen. What the hell did they talk about, and what was the truth behind their answers?

So what did they say, and who spoke more truth? 

At last week’s presidential debate, President Donald Trump repeatedly lied about COVID-19 while Democratic nominee Joe Biden tried to find the right balance of aggressiveness and polity to get his own message across. Unlike last week’s debate, this one actually featured more discussion of COVID-19, the Affordable Care Act, and America’s health care system in general. Yet just like last week’s debate, this one featured Mike Pence continually lying about his and Trump’s refusal to contain COVID-19. At one point, Pence even mischaracterized then President Barack Obama’s handling of the 2009 H1N1 outbreak to give a more flattering spin to his and Trump’s approach to COVID-19.

In addition, Pence repeatedly refused to answer moderator and USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page’s questions on how his and Trump’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act and support for the lawsuit to completely overthrow the Affordable Care Act square with their repeated promises to “protect people with pre-existing conditions”. If Trump and Pence succeed in installing Amy Coney Barrett in the U.S. Supreme Court and convincing the Court’s other Republican-appointed Justices to overturn the 2010 health care law that this same Court previously upheld in 2012, in 2015, and again this past April, what’s left to stop insurance companies from denying coverage and/or raising costs by labeling COVID-19 as a pre-existing condition? Pence never actually answered that question. 

Pence occasionally hyped up “Operation Warp Speed”, but he declined to address the growing concerns that he, Trump, Jared Kushner, and the rest of this administration have turned their “COVID-19 response efforts” into another cesspool of corruption rather than any good faith effort to address this public health crisis. And while U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) also repeatedly evaded Page’s questions, Pence’s mendacity last night was just as severe as Trump’s was last week, even with Pence delivering his mendacity and his misogyny in more “charming” packaging.

Trump has since chimed in with his usual character assassination of Harris, and Trump is now threatening not to show up to next week’s town hall debate because the Debate Commission finally decided to make it virtual to protect public health. Keep in mind that Trump himself has COVID-19, and that the White House is a confirmed COVID-19 hotspot.

Why have all these “Corona Scams” flooded the internet this year?


As the FINRA experts explained during their online forum with U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) in August, and as comedian and actor Laci Mosley regularly explains on her podcast Scam Goddess (seriously, it’s very binge-worthy!), people are particularly vulnerable to scams during times of crisis. That’s a huge reason why I continue to do this series here: We must remain hyper-vigilant amidst all the shady swindlers and crispy critters who’ve crawled out of the woodwork to promise all kinds of “miracle cures!” and “financial freedom!” for the low, low price of whatever garbage they’re selling.

Even worse, the White House’s ever expanding mendacity on COVID-19 (see above) has only added to the pre-existing condition of widespread societal distrust of the government and other formerly “trusted institutions” like the national media and major health care companies. Do you see yet where we’re going?

It’s become a tried and anything-but-true pattern for “Corona Scammers” to deflect skepticism of their own outlandish claims by shifting focus to “big government”, “big pharma”, and other “big” entities they claim are responsible for all our societal ills. As long as the Trump administration continues to misrepresent the state of COVID-19 vaccine development, it’s that much easier for anti-vaccine activists to falsely declare that all vaccines are “dangerous”. As long as people struggle to get the health care they need, it’s that much easier for scammers to sell nostrums on the promise that they “cure the disease”. As long as people struggle to avoid financial ruin, it’s that much easier for scammers to sell The Dream of “financial freedom”.

Now do you see why I rail against those suspiciously triangular-shaped companies?

As we’ve been discussing for nearly seven months, it’s no accident that COVID-19 and the subsequent recession have resulted in the current outbreak of multi-level marketing (MLM, or “network marketing” and “direct sales”) companies dangling enticing images of “abundance” all over our social media feeds. Even before COVID-19, MLM’s like former Assembly Member Brent Jones’ Real Abundance were popping up and claiming people could “own their own businesses!” by simply “buying the starter kit!” But for 99% of all MLM participants, they ultimately lose money and so much more. 

Yet once we factor in everything else we’ve touched upon today, we can see how and why people rationalize this nonsensical “business model” based on impossible to sustain “endless chains”… And for that matter, other “get rich quick” schemes. When “The American Dream” starts to feel less like an attainable goal and more like a dirty scam, should we really be surprised by the number of people who give these “business opportunities” a chance?


As I hinted in yesterday’s story, our current “K-shaped recovery” should be nothing to brag about. And in order to rein in the “Corona Scams” that are harming so many people, we need to take on both the lack of proper regulation that’s allowed these scammy “business opportunities” to flourish and the underlying cause of severe economic inequity that’s put so many people in the vulnerable position that these scammy “businesses” have proceeded to exploit.

If you’re in need of medical treatment, contact your primary health care provider first. If you fear you can’t afford treatment from a hospital or doctor’s office, check with the Southern Nevada Health DistrictWashoe County Health DistrictCarson City Health and Human Services, or the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services for resources in your area. For additional aid, check the Nevada Current’s and Battle Born Progress’ resource guides. If you can afford proper treatment and you are fortunate enough to help others in need, please donate to larger operations like Direct Relief and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and to local groups like Three Square.

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