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Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 8/17/20

Bloomberg reported that small businesses are dying by the thousands even as large business bankruptcies are growing.  Larger companies have the resources to file a Chapter 11 proceeding which means they can reorganize and effectively stay in business even if they lose some of the equity in the business, small businesses frequently do not have the capital and thus wind up liquidating the business with or without bankruptcy court protection. This leaves small business owners in many of those cases exposed to creditors depending upon how the business was structured including the loans which they have taken out from lenders and whether or not they have issued guarantees to lenders and vendors. Bloomberg also points out that the federal government is not, and I emphasize is not, tracking these small business closures. This is a wonderful way to hide the reality and make it appear that things are much better than they actually are.  This is a regular Trumpian tactic, and no one should be surprised, but you may be able to observe it on Main Street in your town.

The stock market on Tuesday the 11th was surging threatening to break new records for the Dow.The activity of the stock market is certainly befuddling to me given where we are with COVID, our relationship with China, our relationship with Canada, the enormous amount of unemployment (although there has been some recovery), rising deficits and now the increasing closure of small businesses. How does this make any sense? I am surprised we are not hearing more from “bears” about the imminent reversal of this trend. It may be that in fact we will see no significant change until after the election or until such time as COVID is corralled.  Nonetheless, very confusing.

John Hume one of the Catholic leaders in Northern Ireland who along with John Trimble, the Protestant leader, brought peace to Northern Ireland through what is known as the “Good Friday” accord. It has held relatively stable for over 20 years. Mr. Hume and Mr. Trimble won the Nobel Peace Prize for their very significant work. I had the opportunity to attend the Al Smith dinner in New York City which occurs the day before St. Patrick’s Day about 15 years ago, and at the end of the meal after he had given his speech, Mr. Hume, without any pause, or break in tone of voice, began to sing Danny Boy and I can tell you that roughly 3,000 Irishmen stood and sang along with him and cried with him as well.

Canada imposes $2.7 billion in tariffs in retaliation for Mr. Trump’s imposition of tariffs on Canadian aluminum. The Canadian border remains closed till September 21, 2020.

Mr. Trump, in a campaign activity attacked President Obama’s eulogy for John Lewis because it included a pro-voting rights theme.  It must be that Mr. Trump assumes that those who have an interest in voting rights will not be voting for him.  Yet, he himself voted using a mail-in vote in Florida.  And as I mentioned last week, Vice President Pence thinks that mail-in absentee ballots and mail-in ballots are distinguishable in terms of potential fraud. 

The COVID crisis has truly brought to the floor the anti-science mantra of the Trump administration.  Mr. Trump regularly attacks Dr. Fauci and other members of his administration’s scientific community with seeming impunity, as none of the non-medical officials who surround him will challenge him on this issue.  It is striking given how the COVID virus is raging in many parts of the United States, that some additional thought is not given to analyzing the science.  Then again, look at the players.

The intelligence community has concluded that Russia continues to interfere in our elections in an attempt to help Mr. Trump.  They also indicated that China has taken some steps to interfere, but not nearly at the level of the Russians, and although they appear to have some desire to see Mr. Biden elected, the nature of the steps they are taking are much less aggressive and focused. That is not to say that in the future that may not change. I am waiting for the administration to cry another hoax, but given the fact that Mr. Trump has changed the upper echelons of national security to have his people again conclude that the Russians are taking this action makes it much harder to call this fake news or a hoax, but just because it is harder, doesn’t make it impossible. 

Archeologists have discovered in a cave in Mexico, spearpoints and other implements indicating that people were living in North America much earlier than previously believed, with the evidence leading to a conclusion that North America was populated more than 30,000 years ago.  The real significance of this finding is that scientists will have to revisit the origins of the people of North America.  Many scientists believed that a land bridge from eastern Russia created the pathway for people and animals to come to North America.  We clearly may have to rethink that and try and figure out where these people came from. 

POTUS took a dangerous step this past week, issuing an Executive Order to cease withdrawing the 6.2% of payroll tax from wages.  These taxes focus heavily on Social Security funding, and in their absence, Social Security will be further weakened, no mention was made of that by POTUS.  You certainly don’t want to share with the American public all of the facts.  He has also made statements to the effect that he intends to take steps to reform/reduce Social Security, which has long been known as the 3rd rail of American politics. President Busch in 2004-2005 learned that lesson big time. He couched the tax change as a suspension with recovery of those funds happening in December of 2020. Obviously, that is post the election, so he may not care one way or the other. If he is still in office, the outcry will be huge as employees see their salaries dramatically reduced just in time for Christmas. One other comment on allowing employees to keep 6.2%, in order for that to come close to the $600 payment, a person would have to be receiving pay of about $10,000 a week in income.

Former Vice President Biden selected Kamala Harris as his running mate.  Of course, she was immediately branded as a left-wing socialist by POTUS, his campaign and Ms. Stefanik.  If one looks at GovTrack.us, what we see is Ms. Stefanik in the far-right corner, while Senator Harris is in the left corner.  Neither is in the middle which reflects the basic problem facing us.

In Florida the sheriff of Marion County banned all sheriff office employees and anyone entering the premises from wearing a mask except in certain limited situations.  Now I can understand giving people an option, I can understand that position intellectually.  He, of course, stated that the science was split on the issue.  Obviously, he doesn’t read much, or he reads only what is produced by the right-wing media, as that is not a factually accurate information.

I found this posted on Facebook and given all of the criticism of the U.S. Postal Service, I thought that this contained some interesting, and provocative thoughts. “The post office is secure enough for millions of Americans to send taxes to the IRS every year, secure enough for the government to mail out $1,200 stimulus checks, secure enough to send credit cards and passports and driver’s licenses and absentee ballots but not secure enough for mailing in ballots.”

Friday POTUS asked for a mail-in ballot for the Florida primary after blasting mail-in ballots for weeks.  Go figure?

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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