President Donald Trump’s promise to “make America great again” has fallen on deaf ears to the majority of the nation’s citizens, who voted against him. But there is one constituency that is sure to become, if not greater, at least politically stronger, during the Trump era: the multilevel marketing industry, or what critics (including TV satirist John Oliver) call pyramid schemes in which nearly all participants lose money. These companies are not a tiny portion of the US economy either, with some $36.5 billion in sales in 2015 and more than 18 million Americans caught up each year in promises of financial freedom that often end in financial ruin.
At least five of Trump’s cabinet and advisors have ties to the multilevel marketing industry, starting with Trump himself. Others include Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, of the Amway fortune, and Carl Icahn, his regulatory czar, who owns 24% of Herbalife. This Slate column lays out the connections, and how the economic philosophy of MLMs dovetails with that of Trump.