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Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 4/13/20

Politico observed in recent article that the US is viewed as the culprit in the global scrum for personal protection equipment (PPE).  A recent order directed DHS to prohibit the export of PPE to Canada and South America in particular which is further evidence of the short-sighted view of the Trump administration.  

We all know that had POTUS taken the early warnings in January (recent disclosures by the Times of Peter Navarro’s and Dr. Mecher’s from the VA, memos are most damning) and begun the acquisition of supplies, implemented social distancing, began testing that the crisis would not be as deep and maybe even manageable.  POTUS knew “early and often” yet it appears the Trump public policy favors friends (Senators) who wanted to sell stock and avoid losses, not on the preservation of the health and the economy of the American people at large. 

Congress is talking about a further stimulus as there is belief that the CARES Act is not going to be sufficient to help small businesses and individuals weather this economic typhon.  A number of us in Plattsburgh have been deeply involved in providing information to our firm’s clients, friends and the public in general about available assistance.    It has also become clearer that the funding for the Payroll Protection Plan (“PPP”) is likely to be fully utilized long before all of the applicants can receive financial assistance.[1]  These programs  keep employees at work which means they have money to spend in the economy and will help sustain it and allow it to recover.  A most important function. 

The debate, let me call it “speculation”, is now moving to what the recovery will look like.  This alone evidences positive thinking.  Most economist are talking about a 4 to 6 quarter recovery, or a year to a year and a half, which means businesses will need to be able to continue in operation with diminished revenues over that period.  The need for support from the federal government will likely continue for the duration of this process.  In my view, we are likely to see a modified U shaded recovery as pent-up demand will need to be met (assuming we continue to fund wages and salaries), and the fact that the Chinese economy will likely recover faster, thus, filling our supply chains which we could not do on our own.  I am no fan of what the Chinese have done over the last several decades, but in this instance, they could be the key to our and the world’s recovery. 

Chris Cuomo of CNN is reported to have said that his recovery from COVID-19 is based upon his “will to get better” which in essence is saying that those who have struggled longer with the disease or died had less will.  I suspect if he talked to other coronavirus victims, he might find many of them with an equally strong will, but other factors overcame their ability to recover from the disease.  Supercilious self-aggrandizing comments are unnecessary in this difficult situation. 

Mr. Trump has removed Inspector General Fine from oversight of the coronavirus recovery funds.  Mr. Fine is a well-respected individual within the government, has served in a number of administrations both democratic and republican and no one other than Mr. Trump has found fault.  Mr. Trump asserts that he will oversee the fund.  It must be like working for the Trump organization where there are no internal controls other than the will of Donald Trump.  Fortunately, that is not how government normally works, there are controls because no matter who is in charge democratic, republican, independent, or conservative, there will be abuses.  That is something that is simply part of the human condition.  Another disappointing story coming out of this administration.

My wife and I watched the early release of the new Harrison Ford movie, “Call of the Wild”.  I well remember that book from high school, as it opened up an entire new vista for me as an apparition boy growing up on densely populated Long Island.  The most memorable part of the book and movie was the apparition of black wolf.  In this version utilization of animation was superb, and was a pleasant interlude from our current situation. 

I mentioned previously that there is great humor on the internet poking fun at the circumstances we find ourselves in.  I recently had the following sent to me. “A home schooling mom posted that her son called her on the phone from his room and told her he missed the bus and wouldn’t be in today.” A clever joke, maybe some clever young person really did call their mom. 

The anticipated chaos in the Cares Act has erupted as unrealistic political expectations were set, both as to business and individuals. This is not a problem caused by those who work for the SBA or the Treasury but by creating expectations that could not possibly be met in terms of delivery of checks to individuals and loans to businesses. Let’s hope that these folks working hard in the federal and state government will be able to implement the legislation promptly and accurately.  We all need it.


[1] A snag was hit this week as Republicans want more money for PPP and Democrats for health cares and individuals.  Both goals are important.  Grow up and reach a compromise.

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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