Video Duration 25 minutes 10 seconds
From: Counting the Cost

Trump vs America: Presidential conflict of interest?

On the eve of his inauguration, we explore concerns about Donald Trump’s financial conflicts of interest.

As US president-elect Donald Trump counts down to his inauguration on January 20, the American public – and the world – is watching closely as Trump’s financial conflicts of interest remain a point of concern.

According to Trump, US law states that both the president and the vice president are exempt from even having a conflict of interest at all – a comfortable resolution for the vast Trump business empire. 

When he appoints his cabinet, is he making those choices to help the United States or is he doing it to help his own pocket book?

Norm Eisen, fellow, Brookings Institution

The Wall Street Journal, however, says that The Trump Organisation and its numerous subsidiaries happen to owe hundreds of millions of dollars to hundreds of Wall Street institutions.

As president, Trump will have the power to regulate those lenders, and the American people only have his word in stating he will not use his office to favour his business interests. 

“With every one of those business activities comes the potential for a clash with official activities,” says Norm Eisen, a fellow at the Washington DC-based Brookings Institution and former chief White House ethics lawyer under President Barack Obama.

“Unfortunately, the president-elect has demonstrated that his word is not always his bond … his penchant for inaccuracies in this statement that federal law of conflicts does not apply to him – that’s not true. The most fundamental federal law in the United States is the Constitution and the Constitution itself has a no conflicts clause,” Eisen adds.

What can be done to ensure that the future US president complies with the actual laws, rules and regulations governing business ownership and accepting money and goods from foreign governments?

“For four decades, every president has done it: appoint a trustee – and this would be easy for Mr Trump to do – the trustee’s instructions are to sell the business as quickly as you can, liquidate it, put it in other conflict-free holdings,” suggests Eisen as a possible solution.

Also on this episode of Counting the Cost: 

Smart robots and the future of home care: The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has kicked off once again in Las Vegas, shining a light on all the latest technological advances from around the world. This year, the focus is on the concept of “home connectivity” and how to make daily, mindless tasks more conveniently completed.

Home robots are one solution hundreds of creators are currently developing. However, with the complexities of reality, such as dozens of different fabrics that might make doing the laundry difficult for a home help robot, it appears that a walking-talking robotic helper may still be some time away for CES participants.

But with the World Health Organisation forecasting that the proportion of the world’s population over the age of 60 will have doubled by 2050, the urge to create a robot that can help care for the elderly is evident.

Finland’s social experiment: Finland has officially become the first European country to try and execute the concept of a universal living wage. Selecting 2,000 random unemployed people, Finland will pay $587 to each for a two-year period – a wage which will continue even if employment is found.

But where is this money coming from? Can the Finnish government afford this experiment? And how likely is it that this makes any kind of impact on helping to minimise issues of poverty in the country and get people off welfare and into the world of employment? 

“This is an experiment and the government has reserved 20 million Euros for this experiment. Depending on what happens with this experiment, we can then decide whether this is feasible or not. This is an experimental model, which means we cannot implement it directly to the whole population,” says Olli Kangas, director of government and Community Relations at KELA, the organisation that runs Finland’s social security systems and the pilot scheme.

“It’s a really controversial idea,” continues Kangas. “For some, it’s a dream, for others, it’s a nightmare. The problem is, we have very little evidence in favour of or against basic income. That’s what we are trying to do, in order to build a strong argument.”

China’s wine market ties: China has become one of the world’s largest importers of wine and is the biggest consumer of red wine. As demand grows, Chinese investors have been eyeing up vineyards around the world – including the western Canadian province of British Columbia.

With rising property values and political stability, Chinese investment in Canada isn’t likely to slow down any time soon. As incomes rise in China, the taste for wine is also growing as consumers expand their experience with different wines.