My Facebook feed is agonizingly, painfully full of broke-ass Detroiters pitching each other MLM schemes.
Eye on the Pyramids (Part 4: The Incredible Bread Machine) | The Nation
I’ll start with a story. When I was in Tampa, Florida, reporting on the 2012 Republican convention for The Nation, I happened upon a nice fellow, a Mormon, named Walt. (Utah has the most network marketers per capita by far; “MLM,” Utahans joke, stands for “Mormons Losing Money”; Mitt Romney is implicated in the hustle from his Mormon head to his Mormon toes.) He spoke of his affection for Romney and the Republican Party (he’d seen my press pass, and asked how he, a lowly cellphone salesman, could get inside the convention); he talked about Obama’s passion for giving free money to lazy, shiftless slackers (“That’s Obama’s thing: entitlement.”). We reached an impasse when I tried to argue him out of his Fox-fed propaganda, and we started talking about taxes instead. That was when he told me, “Anyone who doesn’t have a home-based business is ignorant.” I asked him what kind of home-based business he had, which was when he revealed himself as a passionate MLM devotee.
Ignorant? Oh, really. As I quoted in part one of my series, according to a study of 22,281 distributors for an MLM company called Trek Alliance, “Under several optimal scenarios in which the distributors do exactly what is needed to obtain the rewards proposed by the Pay Plan, approximately 98.8 to 99.6 percent fail to achieve any earnings,” and “in all likelihood more than 96 percent of Trek distributors experience business failure.”
So why do MLM distributors do it? And why do they proselytize that you should, too? Well, it’s easy to explain the proselytization piece, in part: recruiting new distributors is what old distributors have to do in order to try to make money. But I don’t think my friend Walt in Tampa had any illusions about recruiting me. His passion came straight from the heart. And where did this passion come from?
Walt was wearing his work uniform: he was a middle-manager at a a major national cellphone company. But when I returned to the arena for the evening’s convention session, I heard nothing that might speak to cubicle drones like Walt. Or at least it seemed that way, on the surface. Instead, I heard the same theme over and over again from the Republicans onstage—deconstructing Obama’s famous, out-of-context line, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” Remember?
A small-town mayor (from Utah!) running for Congress: “This is the America we know, because we built it.”
A country singers crooning a brand-new ditty he wrote for the convention: “I Built It.”
Janine Turner, who played Maggie on the TV show Northern Exposure, saying “President Obama, I’m here to tell ya, government didn’t build it. God and the American people built it!”
As I wrote from Tampa, according to its entire rhetorical thrust, “If you’re not among the small percentage of Americans who own a business, or don’t aspire to become one, you were invisible to that convention.” You had no moral claim the rest of us were bound to respect.
. . .