Divest Yo Self Before You Wreck Yo Self #1: PayPal and Venmo

One proposed strategy to resist Trump is to divest ourselves from any of his corporations or anyone/any company who either endorsed him publicly, or donated large sums of money in private. I’m going to be honest – this is a hard task. Posts with long lists of places to boycott are circulating and it can feel overwhelming/daunting. I’m going to try to make it more manageable for as many of us to participate at whatever level we are able.

As this is the first in this series, I’ll set a couple ground rules:
1) No one will be able to divest from everything completely; do not fail to participate because you can’t do it perfectly. Pulling ANY amount of money out of the hands of Trump and his supporters is a net gain to those of us who oppose him. Just focus on doing what you can, when you can.

2) I am going to do my best to exclude individuals and/or corporations who donated large sums of money to both candidates/parties equally. While I don’t love it, that comes across to me as hedging bets and trying to grease all wheels rather than enthusiastically supporting Trump’s agenda. I am also going exclude companies where the former CEO, or non-participating-founder (someone who has stepped away from ownership/leadership and is not responsible for current governance of the company, e.g. Home Depot) endorsed Trump. For maximum impact, I want to focus boycotting on companies doing the most harm (via endorsing Trump’s platform and agenda) in the present.

3) When possible, I am going to try to provide an alternative. If I suggest divesting from one product or service that many people consider necessary/important to daily life, I am going to try to suggest a replacement. This isn’t meant to be an austerity project or radically alter the quality/ease of your daily life. It’s just about shifting our moderate resources to more socially responsible companies. In capitalist terms, it’s about creating market demand for products and services made by companies operating ethically and with more than just a profit motive.

4) This won’t always be about Trump. Sometimes I am going to suggest divesting from corporations because what they are doing is wrong or unacceptable, and there is an easy alternative.

5) I’m not going to include Trump-owned products and services (i.e. hotels, golf courses, casinos, ties, clothing and jewelry lines, etc.) as these seem fairly easy and obvious to avoid.

Without further ado … our first divestment is … :::dramatic drum roll:::

PAYPAL AND VENMO 

What?! How?! Impossible! Well … yes and no.

Why: PayPal and Venmo are both companies owned by Peter Thiel who is not only an enthusiastic Trump advocate and financial backer but is also responsible for using his considerable finances to shut down independent media because he was the subject of a series of investigative reports and he didn’t like what they found out. He donated $1.25 million in support of Trump’s campaign.

How: This is tricky. There aren’t all that many ways for individuals to transfer money between ourselves electronically, and with some small online retailers, PayPal is the only option.

Here are a few ideas:

1) If your bank allows you to send money electronically to someone else easily, try out their feature to do that.

2) When paying up at larger online retailers, if PayPal is an option, don’t pick it. In fact, one of the safest things you can do is have ONE credit card that you set aside for online purchases (and online purchases only). If this card is ever compromised, you only have one company to call to shut it down and minimize your risk as opposed to trying to remember which ones you use for what.

3) Get yourself some paper checks. When possible, pay by check. Many banks now have a feature where customers can just take a photo of a check to deposit it. Paying friends and smaller retailers by check is not as difficult as it used to be.

4) PayPal and Venmo make their money in two main ways: fees collected, balances sitting in accounts (that they can use to invest, like your bank does with the money you leave in your checking and savings accounts). If you absolutely have to use PayPal or Venmo, make sure to pick a fee-free option, and don’t leave a balance sitting out in your account for more than a couple days.

Traditional banks don’t make money (and often take a loss) servicing individual checking accounts where the customer has a low balance in their account at any given time, and does not use any fee-based services (ATM fees, account overdraft fees, buying cashier’s checks, etc.), and/or does not have a savings account (or mortgage, car loan, personal loan, retirement account, some other revenue-generating financial product) with the same bank. I would think the same principle applies to PayPal and Venmo accounts but without knowing the nitty-gritty inner workings of PayPal and Venmo, I can’t guarantee it. Seems worth a shot as a last resort though.

INvest: As Thiel effectively shut down independent media, now would be a great time to subscribe to your local newspaper or donate money to public television/radio. Local newspapers are struggling to stay afloat (or not be gobbled up by huge media conglomerates) and “the fourth estate” (journalists) are really key to our democracy. Even if you don’t plan on reading much behind the pay wall, subscribe anyway and consider it a donation toward democracy. If you can afford it, subscribe to both the newspaper for your major metro region (i.e. the biggest paper in your area) and the one for your city/town/county.

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One response to “Divest Yo Self Before You Wreck Yo Self #1: PayPal and Venmo

  1. The problem with a paper check is that you are giving out your bank account number along with knowledge of where you bank and the routing number. That gives potential access to your account and possibly any other accounts that are linked. This is a huge security risk.

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