The United States of Amway

How to turn your middle class into a pyramid scheme

RTWRally3I went to see a comic perform in Grand Rapids a few years ago and he said, “So, this is the tip of the pyramid?” And the crowd sighed out laughter, knowing exactly what he meant.

Grand Rapids, Michigan is the city Amway built.

While the company may deny that it’s a pyramid scheme or even a multilevel marketing play, you can’t deny that its model of distributors doing direct selling changes the way you look at your fellow saps—I mean, citizens.

If you only consider your fellow citizens as someone you need to sell to, co-opt or compete against, you’re not in this together. Every other human being is just a place to get a finger-hold as you climb toward a peak that only seems to get further and further away.

When Indiana’s Governor Mitch Daniels was going after public educators, he proudly snapped, “You teachers are all making too much money. You are all making 22 percent more than the taxpayers who are paying your salaries.”

What he didn’t point out is that strong unions also drive up the wages of all workers in the state. Instead, he was looking down from the top of the pyramid and telling non-public workers that the only reason that you’re not at the top is because your neighbor with a slightly newer Ford Fusion earns 22% more than you.

Forget that between 1979-2007—before the financial crisis—income for the richest 1% grew by 275%, more four times faster than any other income group.
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This isn’t by accident. This is a direct result of the Billionaire Rights Movement, which is often called the Reagan Revolution. It’s a movement that’s been so successful that it’s moved past its original agenda of slashing tax rates and deregulating business. The tiny tax increases we’re talking about today wouldn’t put us anywhere near what the rich paid pre-Reagan. We’re not even talking about restoring Glass-Steagall, that New Deal-era legislation that prevented a depression for half a century.

The Billionaire Rights Movement, funded by billionaires like the heirs of the family that founded Amway, Michigan’s DeVos family, isn’t content to grow richer and pay lower tax rates on their dividends and capital gains than a bus driver does on her 40+ hours a week. They want to destroy what made the middle class possible—public schools and unions.

In Michigan, they took a huge step at sapping union power with a bill that was cut-and-paste from ALEC, an organization funded by the Koch Brothers. But they also have school privatization in mind. That’s one of the main goals of the so-called American Federation for Children — as if the only problem with education is that it’s not profitable enough for corporate America.

The Billionaire Rights Movement isn’t content to lower their taxes to an insignificant rate, they want to make sure your tax money goes right back into their pocket.

If America ever goes broke, it won’t be because we tried to give everyone health care. Every industrialized country in the world does that and pays less. It will be because we direct trillions and trillions of taxpayer wealth directly into the pockets of private insurers.

And, despite spending more than any other country in the world, 62% of all the people who declared bankruptcy in the year prior to the financial crisis, 2007, were ruined by an illness they could not afford, according to the American Journal of Medicine.

The “for-profit” insurance industrial complex is robbing this country’s ability to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure or properly educate our kids. The Billionaire Rights Movement now wants to add the same for-profit element to our educational system with so-called vouchers. They say it’s because our system doesn’t work. But of course they have no example of their system working—unlike public education advocates who can look to places like Finland for examples of excellence with little to no private involvement.

Because what’s the use of educating (or imprisoning) someone if you can’t make a profit off it?

There are truly only two ways to look at society. Either we’re all in this together or we’re a human pyramid.

In Michigan, our GOP has been taken over by a movement that won’t be satisfied until our boots are firmly pressed into the top of each other’s heads.

[Photo by Anne Savage]
  • Rob

    your an idiot with a negative perspective about wealth building.

  • http://twitter.com/BexaRaven Rebecca Raven

    Billionaire Rights Movement looking for a permanent underclass to consolidate their position. And if there isn’t one yet, they’ll make one.

    • highlydubious

      This is so true, billionaires contribute nothing to society

      • Gregor

        I like that rather that trying to discuss the issue in a meaningful way you fell into the trap laid by the article, and presumed only two (equally ridiculous) possibilities exist.
        The issues here are how the best healthcare and education can be provided; whether billionaires are involved or not is a sideshow that detracts from a real analysis.

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  • Someone

    This is already happening in the netherlands. Healthcare costs are rising, CEO payouts are rising, and I am seeing my insurance package shrink and shrink.

  • Gezzer50

    So where will they go those poor unfortunate billionaires?
    Once they’ve protected their hard earned fortunes.
    Once they’ve used their capital as it was meant by God no less to be used, to earn more capital.
    Once they’ve reached a point where there is no more capital to gain because they have it all.
    Won’t someone think of the billionaires?
    Those poor poor billionaires………..(sob)
    I’m sorry I can’t go on………. (leaves stage right sobbing)

    • highlydubious

      Yea billionaires arnt human beings they are billionaires (duh, right). they dont have families and children and morals, so we should dehumanize them like we dehumanized the Japanese in WW2 . We’re already doing a great job at it.

      • Gezzer50

        Dude!!

        Do you even know about the the record of Japanese atrocities in WW2?

        Do your self a favor.

        1. Google Japanese comfort stations for one.

        2. Learn to recognize when some one is being ironic for effect.

        Man.. last time I try to be subtle for effect, too may face bookers to understand it.

  • Chris Miles

    Its not fair to say insurance is for profit, its so obscenely over regulated that it is closer to being an part of the government then it is an aspect of capitalism.

    • http://eclectablog.com Eclectablog

      Bwahahahaaa!!! Who told you THAT??? Those guys make PLENTY of profits.

    • Ed Merc

      Oh, right. It’s not the profit. It’s not the $5.1 BILLION dollars in profit (not revenue. That was 101 billion. ) they made in 2012. I’m sure it’s hell having to make it on just that.

      http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune500/2012/snapshots/3147.html

      • confused

        Erm, wait…are you actually saying a 5% profit margin is somehow excessive and decadent?

        • highlydubious

          No one seems to actually understand how business works, 5% profit margin is dreadfully low, I agree not decadent and excessive

        • manBoyGenius

          Yes. It is with a business of that size and mostly dealing with costly procedures. Shit, even a pizzeria is shooting for 15% after everything

      • highlydubious

        I don’t cite things often but when I do I cite a reliable source like CNN!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nick.morlock.5 Nick Morlock

    Just so we’re on the same page here. If we go bankrupt, it’s because of too much government spending right?

    And the crazy right wingers are out of their minds for thinking that we need more spending cuts…

    Liberal logic, makes perfect sense.

    • HGWells

      just what I would expect from a Morlock. wanting to keep us Eloi down

  • highlydubious

    This article is written by an ignorant fool

  • highlydubious

    Lets burns the billionaires at the stake!! They’re not human beings, money is horrible and our country was built on sharing our wealth around. I’m glad were continuing to dehumanize these horrible people if you can call them people. All they want is money and to abuse the poor. Thats literally their only goals in life. We should ban profits!! Billionaires contribute nothing to society obviously!

  • mgrlno

    Billionaire Rights Movement? Seriously? Because the person next to you is responsible for you? How, does that work? I want my health care paid by people that i dont know because they owe me (or something)

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