Years ago, I visited Maine with a friend whose parents lived there.
Several memories. First, buying a thick flannel plaid shirt from the L.L. Bean discount store.
Second, Maine seemed exotic to me, a native New Yorker and city dweller for my entire adult life. A lot of pine trees and no railroad line. Flat. Very flat.
Third. My friend’s mother told me, with the glowing face of a natural saleswoman, about her venture in selling Amway products. She showed me the products. They seemed no different from products I could buy at home, and–if I remember correctly–not less expensive.
Then she told me about the DeVos family, and how Amway worked.
Two things I grasped. First, Amway was, in my view, a kind of cult, a Christian cult. Very Christian.
Second, it seemed to me Amway was a pyramid scheme. Quite literally; my friend’s mother showed me how it worked and the pattern she sketched was an actual pyramid.
I didn’t know much about pyramid schemes in those days–although I was able to identify a pyramid shape–but as it turned out, I was instinctively right, or very close to being right. As Joe Nocera at the New York Times reported in 2015:
In 1979, the F.T.C., after investigating Amway, a multilevel marketing company with a vast product line, decided that the company’s business model passed muster — even though recruitment was at the heart of it — because it claimed to take certain steps that (among other things) supposedly showed that its recruits were selling the company’s products to real customers, not just to other recruits. Very quickly, other multilevel marketing companies adopted the “Amway rules” to stay on the right side of the F.T.C.
Yet the Amway rules have never been codified into regulation — they’re really more like suggestions — nor have they ever been proved to mitigate the harm pyramid schemes do in taking advantage of recruits or lying to them about the potential to get rich. (A vast majority of those who sign up for pyramid schemes lose money, sometimes lots of money.)
So let us put ourselves in my place as I read that a woman bearing the DeVos name has been nominated by NMP as Secretary of Education. I had bad memories of that name, DeVos. And what I read in the Times about this woman caused me to dislike her even more. Because she is one of these very rich people who, despite no genuine experience in education or teaching, thinks she knows best how public school kids should be taught.
And, as a sidebar, you need to know who her brother is. You will not be happy.
My parents and all their friends were public school teachers. Yeah, and union members. I went to public schools until college and all of my teachers were public schools teachers.
So what do very rich capitalists like DeVos intend to do when they, with blithe disregard for the teaching profession but buoyant belief in yet another scam like Amway, promote charter schools, falsely, as vastly superior to public schools? Well, what do you think it’s all about?
They want to destroy unions. In this case, the Teachers Union. That’s what it’s all about.
Mother Jones, a non-profit investigative magazine, does terrific work. And immediately upon the announcement of DeVos’s nomination, they published this exposé:
They beat Big Labor in its own backyard. Next up: your state?
Given the near-apocalyptic struggle between news media and the vast mass of conscientiously unformed people in this country, who get their fact-free brainwashing from the Alt-Reich, it’d be a good thing to support Mother Jones, either by subscribing or donating. Or both.
It’s Mother Jones, among a few other major publications, we’ll need to depend on to pierce the wall NMP and his people will be throwing up to block the news media from telling us what is really going on in this dreadful administration dominated by amateurs and paranoids.
P.S. And of course let’s all boycott Amway, while we’re boycotting the Trump label.
UPDATE 11/25/16 11:23 pm. And then there’s this about DeVos via the Times. Critical, but much kinder than Mother Jones:
Donald Trump’s choice to be education secretary was an architect of school reforms in Michigan. The results were terrible.