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Commentary & Opinion

Bill Owens: November 2018

This election season has many interesting components to it.  We have a strong economy, including low unemployment and a stock market that surged and has now leveled off, the Mueller investigation, tariffs, a socialists’ faction on the Democratic side, the typical anti-Pelosi rhetoric, and, of course, the anti- Trump rhetoric.  These factors have generated enormous polarization.

It is clear from the recent special election in Ohio where Mr. Trump’s twelve point victory, turned into a victory of approximately 1% for the Republican candidate, that means somethings afoot.  Congressman Collin’s indictment feeds the narrative the Trump administration is corrupt, which is evidenced by Secretary Pruitt’s departure, Secretary Price’s departure, and numerous departures from the White House staff. 

Then, of course, we have the tapes.  Ms. Omarosa’s taping of her conversations with Mr. Kelly and Mr. Trump, the Cohen tapes of Mr. Trump, with the promise from both of them to produce more tapes, whether those relate to or confirm misdeeds, criminal activity or some additional extramarital affairs, we will have to wait and see.

You don’t hear Republicans trumpeting the economy, which I think is due, in part, to the desire to distance one’s self from Mr. Trump in certain Congressional districts, as well as the fact that wages have largely stayed stagnant, so the promise to the working men and women has gone unfulfilled.  Then, of course, we have the imposition of tariffs against many countries on steel and aluminum exports to the U.S.  We also have what is becoming an all-out trade war with China, which is having an impact on production costs and production processes, because in many cases it is difficult to get the raw materials and/or finished products necessary to include in a U.S. manufacturing operation.  One of the more quizzical impacts from my perspective from the tariffs is certainly the impact on farmers, in particular, soy bean and hog farmers.  These are people who strongly supported Mr. Trump, and if you listen to their interviews on the news, they struggle to continue to support him on the vague hope that his strategy will pay-off in the end.  This, of course, assumes there is a strategy, and is not merely just shooting from the hip in the hopes of hitting some target. The reality is Mr. Trump had no choice but to impose tariffs and move to renegotiate or end NAFTA in order to keep his promises to those working class Americans who lost jobs over the last forty years due to there flight to China and other low cost production centers and who voted for him.  Note, Canada is not one of them.  The question is, will jobs return, but maybe that doesn’t make any difference since it is viscerally satisfying to both Mr. Trump and those who support him, just to strike out. If my $30 an hour job in a factory in Ohio left and I have been out of work for a substantial period or taken a low paying job with another employer and now I see wages moving to the $15 range, then maybe I can forego that extra $15 an hour, because President Trump did what he promised.  Started a trade war.

Ultimately, the American public will need to weigh these and vote in November.

Mr. Owens is a former member of Congress representing the New York 21st, a partner in Stafford Owens in Plattsburgh, NY and a Senior Advisor to Dentons to Washington, DC.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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