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Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 9/23/19

Where do the Democratic Presidential candidates stand on POTUS’ trade wars. A review of the US News and World Report article sheds light on the tight rope those candidates are on. Even if they want to be known as pro-trade Democrats like Senator Booker, they are walking a very, very thin line relative to how unions view free-trade agreements. The classic line of free and fair trade, (both Parties use it) of course, is something which sounds good, but doesn’t get to the substance of what one needs to do in order to make sure it is fair; and, of course, as we have learned from our various trade wars particularly with China, what the other side views as fair and what we view as fair, is very rarely in sync. There is no doubt that most Americans feel China has mistreated us over the years, and that is likely true, as they have manipulated their currency to make their goods more competitive, and of course, they start with a much lower level of cost, due to what they pay their employees. Thus, it is difficult to set-up an algorithm which will result in fair trade. President Trump has placed himself in a position where he has injured many groups with his trade war, so what a Democratic’s position is, may not be quite as threatening as it might be.

Speaker Pelosi recently announced that she believes the USMCA must be greatly improved before it is placed on the floor for a vote. It has become obvious that the administration has not done enough to convince the Speaker, who as I have indicated many times previously, controls whether or not the USMCA gets to the floor of the House. It seemed for a while that there were quiet negotiations going on, which might lead to some of the improvements that the Speaker and other Democrats were seeking. The next move will clearly be up to the President leaving him with two paths; the first, obviously, is to have Mr. Lighthizer develop proposals that will satisfy the Speaker and other Democrats, or secondarily, he could move as he has threatened, although not recently, to tear-up NAFTA which would trigger a whole swath of outcomes. We’ll see.

John Bolton was fired, as we all now know, but something that I was not aware of until very recently, was that he did not serve in Viet Nam. He believed that the war was not winnable, and therefore, not worth his sacrifice. What is troubling to me is he is a hawk on almost every issue, and willing to send others into battle, irrespective of the likely outcome. Former Vice President Chaney and our current President all suffer from the same delusion. It is okay to send others, but not me.

Election news in the US, Israel and Canada. It appears that the two major parties led by Prime Minister Netanyahu and General Benny Gantz have seen their seats diminish with General Gantz, however, securing thirty-three (33) seats and Mr. Netanyahu thirty-one (31) seats. The question is, who will be able to form a coalition government due to the minority Parties holding the balance of power, and if not, will that result in a third election? I thought Mr. Netanyahu had a strong position due to the crises facing the Middle East and President Trump’s support, or in favor of General Gantz who had almost an equally good positioning because of Mr. Netanyahu’s likely indictment and his military background. Notably, Mr. Trump has distanced himself from Mr. Netanyahu, always good to show loyalty to one’s friends.

In the US, it appears that Senator Warren and Vice President Biden are pulling away from the pack as they now have about 56% of voters in the aggregate. If this trend continues it may quickly whittle down to a 2-person race. What I am watching most carefully is who each proposes to select as a Vice Presidential candidate.

In Canada, until the blackface disclosures of Mr. Trudeau polling showed the Liberals and Conservatives neck and neck with neither securing a majority. The next polling is likely to turn the election on its head.

Senator Murkowski has taken great pains to protect salmon fisherman and processors in Alaska, with her latest attack accomplished by placing language in an appropriations bill which requires more testing, similar to what would be done for drug tests as opposed to food, thus, delaying the launch of a company that has spent years perfecting technology to allow salmon to grow faster and consume less feed. What she really appears to be protecting is foreign imports, and not her constituents. One can only guess the “why”.

On September 18, the Fed cut rates again from 2% to 1.75% with significant discussion. It’s now obvious, Chairman Powell is a coward.

Bill 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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