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Commentary & Opinion

Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 10/12/20

Scientists have discovered a great white shark in the Pacific  which they believe is about 50 years old, and have dubbed her “Queen of the Ocean”.  This shark  was covered with scars which meant she had been through many travails in the course of her lifetime.  The age of the shark is impressive, the fact that these scientists were able to get close enough to tag her, equally impressive, and we hope that she has a long and fruitful life.

The unemployment numbers were better last week, and those will be the last numbers that will be published before the election.  The one thing that is not a positive is that new claims for unemployment (meaning people are recently laid-off) are staying steady in about the  800,000 range.  In addition, more and more people are being permanently laid-off which will ultimately alter the statistics.  One of the other big issues is that many of the folks who returned  to work were in the hospitality industry which is somewhat roiled by the increases of cases of Corona virus around the country, and the fact that those people may be only temporarily working, depending on how Corona develops  through the fall and winter months. 

The stock market continues its up and down swings,  impacted by the President’s health,  and the likelihood of a new stimulus package. 

The polls are also beginning to strengthen in the favor of Joe Biden, although I have to say it is unclear to me where the swing states are going in terms of this process.  I read one story about  a poll and that indicates that he is ahead in most of those swing states, I read another, and they say  it is tightening up, so absent having inside poll information which the parties do not share with the public, it is very difficult to know what the actual status is.    We certainly learned that in the last election when the public polls were quite a bit off, and I have noticed that in many polls they are now factoring in what they refer to as the “16” effect, in the hopes at getting closer. 

The events of the past weekend with the President’s hospitalization were striking in many, many ways, but in particular, the inconsistency between his Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows and Dr. Conley .  Mr. Meadows is an ideolog who lacks the skills and background to be doing the job of Chief of Staff , so he is perfect for POTUS. 

POTUS’ statement on leaving the hospital, that people should not be afraid of Covid-19 was greeted with horror by medical professionals.  This was exacerbated by the removal of his mask once he returned to the White House and demonstrated his total disregard for others.  I wonder if the 210,000 people who have succumbed to Covid so far, and their families would believe you shouldn’t be afraid.  Any rational person would be afraid because you don’t know how the virus will treat you if you get it.  It appears that Mr. Trump forgets he received state of the art treatment that was available only to someone in his position, at  enormous cost, and he forgets the stress it puts on hospitals and first responders.  He, like our Congresswoman Ms. Stefanik, constantly praises first responders but don’t want to do anything to make sure that they stay healthy and safe, like wearing a mask and social distancing.  At the same time, as the flurry of activity was surrounding POTUS and his hospitalization and return to the White House, the White House also quashed vaccine guidelines which are intended to deliver a safe vaccine, again, POTUS doesn’t care about the public safety, only about what works for him for re-election. 

There have been several articles recently about moving to Canada (I wonder why).    Among the highlighted programs is   Express Entry, which is a Canadian government program, allowing  people with  skills in need in Canada to, in fact, apply and receive a relatively quick turn around for immigration purposes.  This has been a long-standing immigration policy in Canada, to allow those who have needed skills to immigrate.  This makes a great deal of sense because what is needed changes over time, and is constantly in need of readjustment as the economy changes,  changes in demographics, etc.  This is a sensible policy, and should be explored by the United States.  If you have an interest in immigrating, take a look at Canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-Canada/express-entry.

Reports have come forward, including from the Wall Street Journal, indicating that as the result of Covid  there is a deepening  divide between the haves and the have nots.    Unemployment is at 11 million and holding steady, many layoffs are becoming permanent  and the $600 payment lapsed, while the stock market soars.  Not a complex syllogism. 

Foreign trade zones may be making a comeback due to the need to focus on quick responses to changes in market focus.  David Showingford is quoted in Supply Chain Management Review  and states “The creation of FTZs may lead to the development of logistics and industrial clusters which generally means fewer miles needed to be traveled between  plants reducing transportation risk”. Although at the same time this could increase the impact of a major natural disaster.  Under the USMCA FTZ’s are now eligible, for the first time, to benefit from the rules of origin, and to receive the same tariff benefits for products  made in the FTZ for the US market that companies in Canada and Mexico enjoy when exporting products to the US.  FTZ’s can also become a major source of benefits for those who want to re-shore their manufacturing.  It may help to develop alternatives to sole sourcing from China, and by creating alternate sources, will result in numerous benefits to those who utilize FTZ’s for this purpose and to the overall American economy. 

The US trade deficit increased to the highest level  in 14 years at $67.1 billion for the year .  This is obvious evidence that the President’s trade  policies aren’t working .  In case you have forgotten, negative balances of trade or deficits in trade are not good for the US. 

Many Pentagon officials are in quarantine as a result of the super-spreader event hosted at the White House  to announce  that the President was nominating Judge Barrett.  

POTUS also terminated talks about a new stimulus package on Tuesday, and on Wednesday said he was amenable to certain portions of it.  It appears he particularly likes the stimulus checks because he gets to put his signature on them.  Chairman Powell has indicated that in the absence of a significant stimulus package, the economy is in for a slow, tough road.  Again, POTUS seems to ignore expert advice, and go with whatever he thinks might help his re-election. 

Judge Barrett’s confirmation hearings start Monday.  For most who feared JFK’s election due to his Catholic faith, they should be deeply troubled by Judge Barrett’s confirmation.  She is an idealogue whose  thinking is grounded in right wing dogma. 

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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