For a man who constantly brags about his success, Donald Trump sure does like to play the victim. In his latest round of self-pity, the billionaire mogul has decried the delegate-allocation system in Colorado, where his rival, Ted Cruz, won the Republican presidential primary contest in a landslide.
Trump’s campaign is built around earned media and stadium-sized rallies, and never established the “ground game” critical to win states like Colorado, where delegates are elected by state convention attendees. Predictably, his spokeswoman Katrina Pierson called the process “rigged” and a “pyramid scheme.”
While “pyramid scheme” may be an odd way to describe Colorado’s delegate system, the word accurately reflects many of Trump’s campaign promises.
Trump the businessman knows a little something about pyramid schemes.
He has endorsed, and in some cases put his name on, companies accused of operating like pyramid schemes, where the first people who sign up reap almost all of the benefits, while the vast majority of people, often lured to buy in with assurances of making huge sums of money, are left in the dust.
The Washington Post reported that one such multilevel marketing company, the Trump Network, “often gave the impression of a partnership that was certain to lift thousands of people into prosperity.” In reality, the alternative-medicine sales company had dismal outcomes and left many people feeling scammed and deceived.
Trump’s pitch for the group sounds like one of his stump speeches, promising to save the American dream from the destructive work of the greedy.
“Americans need a new plan, they need a new dream,” he said while pitching the company in 2009. “The Trump Network wants to give millions of people a renewed hope and with an exciting plan to opt out of the recession. Let’s get out of this recession right now with cutting edge health and wellness formulas.”
In his campaign addresses, Trump likes to remark that “the American Dream is dead – but if I win, I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before.” Add a bit about “health and wellness” and you have a Trump Network infomercial.
In 2009, Trump boasted that the Trump Network had sparked “unbelievable enthusiasm” and was “a phenomena” that was “going to be really amazing, really amazing.” But the group was selling discredited and suspect treatments and ended up as one of his many business failures.
His work with the company resembles his time on the campaign trail, where he pretends to fight the corrupt political process and financial system while making vague, ambitious promises of national and personal redemption.
He tells supporters that we “are going to start winning again and we’re going to win so much, you are going to be so happy, we are going to make America so great again, maybe greater than ever before.” Trump will not only make you rich, he says, but he will even “get rid of your depression.”
But like in any pyramid scheme, with Trump’s proposals, the ones at the very top will benefit while everyone else loses out.
Under Trump’s massive $12 trillion tax plan, “the top 1 percent of Americans will receive an average tax break of $227,000 per year while the bottom 20 percent will receive an average tax cut of only $250,” according to Citizens for Tax Justice, which found that “the majority of Trump’s tax cut would go to the top five percent of taxpayers.”
But the biggest winners of Trump’s tax cut won’t be the top five percent. They won’t even be the top one percent.
“[T]he benefits would be overwhelmingly skewed to the highest-income taxpayers, with those in the top 0.1 percent (who make $3.7 million or more) getting an average tax cut of more than $1.3 million,” says Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center.
Forget about Voodoo Economics. This is Pyramid Scheme Economics.
The supposedly populist candidate also promises to pay off the entire $19 trillion national debt in just eight years — “very easy” — but one estimate found that his huge tax cut for the rich alone will grow the debt by almost 80 percent.
Trump’s plan, if ever implemented, would wreck the economy. And that is not even counting the human and economic costs of his massive deportation scheme.
On the campaign trail, Trump is marketing his candidacy the same way he pitched his bogus health business: I am going to save the American Dream and make us rich.
But like any pyramid scheme, it is bound to fail, and take many people down with it.