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Commentary & Opinion

Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 10/26/20

A recent story in the Press Republican, my local newspaper, talked at great length about the decision to keep the border closed, but never mentioned what Prime Minister Trudeau said.  There was much commentary about what a bad situation it is, etc, which it is.  Prime Minister Trudeau indicated the reason that the border would stay closed was the United States failure to get COVID under control, which we clearly have not done, irrespective of what Mr. Trump is now touting on the campaign trail.  This is very problematic for our region, and I fully concur with the elected officials and Mr. Douglas who are deeply concerned about this, but I think sharing the information with the public as to the reason why is very important.  Statistically, the US had about 80,000 new cases on Friday and Canada is running about 4,100 cases a day, now their populations are not comparative since the US is approximately ten times larger than Canada, but even if you applied that multiple you would see that the US is over 100% above the Canadian numbers.  There is no practical way to screen people at the border unless you had a test available that could be read in 15 minutes to make the decision as to whether or not to let someone enter.  Sticking with COVID, Governor Christie after he exited intensive care said “We have treated Americans like children, not adults, and everyone should be wearing a mask.”  The only solution here is to see a requirement for universal mask wearing so that we can get some control of this virus, and get everything opened up, including the border.  Mr. Trump continued to treat us like children with his comments at the debate and at Rally’s to the effect we’ve turned the corner and it’s going away. 

Senator McConnell advised the White House on Tuesday of last week, not to enter into a stimulus agreement with Speaker Pelosi prior to the election.  He indicated strongly that many Republicans were against it, and he may not have the votes to pass it in the Senate.  My suspicions are that he is afraid that a sufficient number of Senators who are in tough races will, in fact, vote for a large stimulus joining with Democrats to pass the bill, leaving the majority of Republican Senators having voted against it.  I also suspect that Mr. McConnell has now concluded that Mr. Trump is going to lose, and he needs now to curry favor with the base by putting limits on spending, although they seem not to have much of a problem earlier in 2020.  The shifting sands of politics.

New York State has suffered a 17% decline in sales tax revenue, and $2.8 billion overall decline in tax revenue.  These are significant events relative to the New York State budget. It does not look like they will recover during the rest of the New York State fiscal year ending in 2021, and thus, cuts are likely in the offing. 

NASA’s landing on the asteroid named Bennu was successful as was the liftoff, and the collection of materials is on its way back to earth.  This is a significant scientific achievement under any circumstances, and may prove to be truly educational when the materials are analyzed.  Science continues to astound. 

Airline passenger screenings reached one million this past Sunday for 2020 which is a recent milestone, but when compared to the same day a year ago, it is a 60% decline. This is obviously a good sign that the numbers are increasing, but also points to the sharp decline in the airline industry and travel in general.  We, of course, run the risk of new spikes in the virus that is likely to drive down the number of people willing to travel by air. 

China’s economy grew at 4.9% in the 3rd quarter from the year earlier, which indicates the Chinese economy is going back towards its trajectory pre-COVID.  The International Monetary Fund expects China’s economy in 2020 to expand by 1.9%, making it the only major world economy to grow this year while ours is expected to shrink by (4.3%), and the Euro zone by (8.3%).

As the conversation rumbles on about the issue of whether or not to wear masks and the assertion by many that refusing is an exercise of a constitutionally granted freedom brings to mind the famous quote by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes, who became known for his analysis of what constitutes “a clear and present danger” and the resulting limitations on free speech holding that you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater.  The failure to wear masks is a “clear and present danger” to others as COVID is surging throughout the U.S.  

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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