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Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 7/27/20

The deployment of Federal Law Enforcement Personnel to Portland, Oregon is troubling on many levels.  The threat to send them into Chicago, New York, etc. is also problematic.  Do I think that the authorities in those cities have done a good job containing the riots – probably not, but it is a difficult balancing act to deal with rioting interspersed with peaceful and lawful demonstrations.  I would note POTUS and Mr. Barr make no distinction.  In their minds, anybody who disagrees with them, is a rioter.  

One likely outcome which I am sure is going to be counter intuitive to those two gentlemen is the fact that the cities to whom they are deploying these people and the tactics being employed will adversely effect mostly Democratic voters.  The fact that there were some scenes on T.V. and some news reports that might satisfy his supporters, he will nonetheless do more to turn people off then he will accomplish by having the troops invade.  There are other ways to accomplish the goal and the Federal Government and the Local Municipalities, including the States, need to be cooperating in finding a way to solve the problem.

The Wall Street Journal on Saturday, July 18th, printed an article bearing the headline, “Face masks really do matter, the scientific evidence is growing”.  The article includes several pictures of face masks in use, and generally concludes that the CDC’s recommendation about wearing face masks with the possibility that in 4 to 8 weeks Covid-19 could be under control, is in fact, valid.  Let us remember that this is the Wall Street Journal, a generally conservative newspaper that is siding with science (actually not a particularly striking fact as they tend to report factual data accurately).  The fact that the editors would allow this to be published is probably not without risk to the newspaper given that many of its readers are probably anti-mask.  The logic here seems very simple to me.  The goal of everyone is to be open again, you can only be open if the virus is contained, the most likely way to contain the virus at this point is wear a mask, the conclusion should be wear a mask.  Nonetheless, many will stand on their constitutional right to kill others.  As an aside, POTUS now says it is patriotic to wear a mask, such drivel.

The US budget deficit hit an all-time high in June of $864 billion for the fiscal year, as it surpassed the previous record of $738 billion in April.  The first nine months of the year have resulted in a budget deficit of $2.74 trillion, also a record which creates the likelihood that we will surpass the $3.7 trillion dollar deficit of the last fiscal year.  Obviously, these deficits surpass anything incurred during the Obama administration, and if you recall, Republicans and in particular, Tea Party folks howled at the deficits under Obama.  Now, silence.  A few Senate Republicans are talking about how to get the deficit under control, but they have no plan. 

Flowing out of the deficit conversation is, of course, whether or not we will get another version of the “Care Act”, and it seems to me that given the fact that we are now moving into a situation in which many businesses will be forced to close again in those miracle states like Florida, Texas and Arizona.  If many of these businesses are to survive, and it looks like it could take several months for COVID to get under control, it appears to me that we need to have a different kind of aid package.  Many of these businesses have let go employees, have cut expenses to the max, and now need to be a position to receive grants to at least maintain the core business by paying rent, insurance, utilities, etc., plus startup capital so that, in fact, they can reopen.  This is going to require some innovative thought from Congress in order to give these businesses a chance of survival.

The second prong is increasing unemployment and the loss of the $600 special benefit.  How and when this plays out is unknown at this juncture.

The White House is now attacking Dr. Fauci and attempting to pass blame for the Corona Virus situation to him.  Although this is a typical POTUS activity, it has become more confusing because he and his people are pushing for schools to reopen.  There is conflicting medical advice. The American Pediatrics Association appears to be in conflict with many other experts.  In my view, this is a classic clash of competing goods, not good and evil.  Would it likely be healthier for young children to go back to school, have in-person instruction, to have interaction with their classmates, and get back to some level of normalcy?  Absolutely.  Is there danger? Absolutely.  The difficulty here is we can’t accurately measure what that danger is because there isn’t enough scientific knowledge about how this virus moves through society.  This is another one of those situations that requires people to sit down, gather data, and make the best call they can.  Will it be the right call?  Who knows, all we can ask is that it be done in a thoughtful analytic fashion.  Those screaming about Democratic conspiracies and constitutional violations associated with masks are (you fill in the blank). 

It appears that the Chinese have decided to play a little bit in the POTUS pond by sanctioning Senators Rubio and Cruz over recent sanctions by the US for alleged Chinese rights abuses.  Simultaneously, President Trump is saying that he has many ideas about how to proceed with the Chinese since it appears that the first stage of the trade agreement is not going particularly well, even though the Chinese recently bought substantial amounts of corn and wheat, but nothing near the agreed upon amounts.  Mr. Lighthizer and Mr. Navarro are, of course, touting all of the President’s successes, including, interestingly enough the Chinese 1st Stage Agreement.  The circular thought process of this administration is truly astounding.

Israel has not been in the news of late after months of turmoil as it experienced 3 inconclusive elections and an indicted Prime Minister.  Now, it is back in the news after early success in fighting COVID-19 as infections spike and the economy tanks.  Mr. Netanyahu is experiencing demonstrations by young Israelis and his response Trumpian.  So maybe a 4th election is in the offing.

Bill Owens is a former member of Congress representing the New York 21st, a partner in Stafford, Owens, Piller, Murnane, Kelleher and Trombley in Plattsburgh, NY and a Strategic Advisor at 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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