Portfolio of Poison: Trump’s Investments Range from Big Tobacco to Big Oil

As part of running as a presidential candidate, Donald Trump was required to disclose his financial assets to the Federal Election Commission. Thanks to dutiful reporting by publications such as The Motley Fool, it is now understood that he controls between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock in Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, which is the corporation behind the Dakota Access oil pipeline. Recently Trump has been actively pushing for the project to move forward (despite international opposition) and for the civil resistance at Standing Rock to be quelled.

Also included in the disclosure were stock holdings between $15,001 and $50,000 worth of the chemical research leviathan Monsanto. Over the next four years consumers can expect to see major increases in modified crops, the use of pesticides, and more sickness, infertility and birth defects. If what’s good for Big Ag will be good for the President’s pocket book, Monsanto will also succeed in keeping labels off products that are genetically engineered.

Even more dangerous, The Motley Fool reported that Donald Trump’s filing shows that he owns between $500,001 and $1,000,000 worth of Altria stock, the largest U.S. tobacco company and the manufacturer behind the Marlboro brand. Adult smoking rates in the U.S. have fallen below 18% from 42% five decades prior, but  Altria continues to reap astronomical profits. (Net income is up from $3.2 billion in 2009 to $5.1 billion in 2014.) After January 20,  profits for Big Tobacco will continue to soar with increased deregulation across the board.

What is more, Trump’s investments in drug manufacturers such as Gilead Sciences  should also be disconcerting to anyone who believes in social justice. The President-elect owns between $100,001 and $250,000 worth of Gilead stock in a Deutsche asset management account and between $250,001 and $500,000 in an account with Oppenheimer. According to journalist Sean Williams, “Gilead’s Harvoni, the standard of care for genotype 1 HCV, can be administered without the need for IV interferon or a ribavirin, both of which can cause terrible side effects.” Tragically, this cure comes with a $1,125-per-pill price tag- leading many to wonder if life saving medicines will be practically impossible to afford by ordinary patients under a Trump healthcare system.

The bottom line is that Donald Trump is perhaps the most compromised President-elect in recent memory. This matters because history has shown time and again that where there is a conflict between ethics and economics, victory is always with economics. In the words of the Indian politician B.D. Ambedkar, “vested interests have never been known to have willingly divested themselves unless there was sufficient force to compel them.”

Who will have the sufficient force to compel Donald Trump to do anything let alone divest from his fortune? Not the Congress. Not the Supreme Court. Not the Army? Not Big Business. Not the Church. Who will have the power to place checks and balances on a man who can not allow himself to be checked by anyone and lives in a constant state of creative imbalance to survive? Who will have the authority to regulate the one who seeks to demolish all regulation? After-all, Trump has carefully studied the rise of Putin and has adopted his brand almost verbatim. It is a nasty mix of race baiting nationalism, political cronyism, media exploitation, ruthless patriarchalism, and a need to make money. Putin has made billions of dollars as the supreme leader of Russia. How much will Mr. Trump look to make while he still can? Has he ever reeled himself in? Has he ever shown the capacity to be restrained? Has he once demonstrated to the people of this nation that he knows how to put personal matters aside and govern for the good of the people? No. Why do we think that he will have the capacity to resist the unbelievable fortunes to be gained by selling everything from military equipment and diplomatic aid to real estate and trade agreements.

Article referenced: Motley Fool. January 30, 2016. “3 Surprisingly Controversial Stocks in Donald Trump’s Portfolio.” http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2016/01/31/3-surprisingly-controversial-stocks-in-donald-trum.aspx

George “Casey” Payne

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