How to turn your middle class into a pyramid scheme
I 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.
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]