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Commentary & Opinion

Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 11/23/20

Mr. Biden has indicated that he will refuse to authorize the construction of the Keystone Pipeline. This is a matter that goes back to virtually the last decade, and it has been through the courts, through Congress, etc. This could be a major issue with Canada, but one that I am certain they anticipated given Mr. Biden’s views on the environment. The question for Canada will be on balance will Mr. Biden be a more friendly President than Mr. Trump. He certainly will be less insulting and obnoxious.

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article entitled, “Is this the End of College as we Know it?” The premise of the article is that a couple, one of whom went through school to get her PhD in psychology and graduated with $300,000 in debt with annual salary of slightly under $100,000, and her husband is going through a union electrician apprenticeship program and will likely make in the same range of income. The question is was her cost worth it, and they have concluded it was not. Now there is another factor that I think wasn’t really addressed and that is does the person truly love what they do, it sounds to me as if the wife in the story was not particularly pleased with her job, and thus, you can understand the disappointment and frustration. Is this the end of College? I don’t think so. Will colleges have to change it up, if you will? I think so, and it makes great sense to me. If you recall in the long, long days ago of the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s we used to have something called shop class where students learned how to do various technical tasks, like plumbing, electrical, carpentry, etc. Those skills are still needed and we need to get back to something that is in between, if you will, a college education for some and trade skills for others.

In a recent article in the New York Times, a headline read, “There was no Knockout, so Democrats and GOP Regroup for Next Round”. I think that is a fair assessment of the election, that neither side knocked the other out, and I think it was particularly bitter for the Democrats as they expected a blue wave which never materialized. There was no red wave either, at least at the federal level. One could argue that there was something of a red wave at the state level. The process, unfortunately, is going to be ongoing until both red and blue states purple up, and exactly how that is going to happen is less clear today than it was even a couple of years ago. We have seen, in particular, a percentage of Hispanics and Asians moving towards Republicans. It shows these two groups philosophically agree with some Republican positions. This means, both parties have to give serious thought to moving towards the middle on a significant number of issues in an effort to bring into their tent these voters who are drifting away from them. My guess is both parties will struggle with this, as there are too many ideologs who lack the ability to understand that because they think their position is right, it may not be.

Mr. Trump fired his Homeland Security Cyber Security Infrastructure Security Agency Head, who had offered numerous statements indicating that the 2020 election had been secure and that there were no significant issues which directly contradicted Mr. Trump’s false narrative of widespread fraud. The termination of Mr. Krebs was not a surprise, and in line with how Mr. Trump normally acts, irrationally and without reliance on the facts.

Please note the silence of most Republicans including our Congresswoman.

Almost simultaneously Mr. Trump announced that he was reducing troop strength in Afghanistan to a maximum of 2,500 troops against the advice of senior military commanders. This has been an ongoing issue for both President Obama and Mr. Trump, as both tried to reduce our military presence, but military commanders, for valid reasons, were urging caution and care in these types of announcements. I recall, during my time in Congress that Republicans would take to the floor to denounce Mr. Obama for giving our enemies the date of our withdrawal, therefore, creating a potential for attacks on American troops. You will note, Republicans are in the main, now silent, including again, our Congresswomen.

On Tuesday, the President’s nominee, Judy Shelton for the Federal Reserve failed to secure the votes necessary to move her nomination along, and although Mr. McConnell, through procedural maneuvers, may be able to bring the nomination to the floor again, it seems unlikely that he and Mr. Trump will succeed. Ms. Shelton is a person of unusual views, and not in the mainstream of members of the Federal Reserve Board. Her notable positions include bringing back the Gold Standard and their being no need for the fed’s political independence. These are two views that are at odds with the vast majority of economists and legislators and are a fools errand. The Gold Standard would be a chaotic reversal of decades of activity since we were last on the Gold Standard and the lack of political independence demonstrates she does not understand how our system works.

Archeologists continue to discover more and more information about our evolution with the growth of information accelerating at a rapid rate. The lead fossil for years was Lucy out of Ethiopia who existed during a period ranging from 2.9 million years ago to 3.85 million years ago. She had many ape-like features, including long arms and curved hands, but she could walk on the ground efficiently. It was thought that human evolution was a relative straight line from Lucy to the earliest members of our genus homo who were taller and had longer legs for walking and running, as well as much larger brains and they evolved into homo sapiens. The straight line has morphed into a mosaic consisting of species who developed between Lucy and us. Currently, the oldest homo fossils discovered were in Morocco and date back 300,000 years with their continued existence across Europe and Asia until about 40,000 years ago. We are all familiar with the Neanderthals, but maybe not so with other groups, the names of which I cannot pronounce. The human record will continue to evolve and hopefully, we will learn our full story.

New claims of first-time unemployment went up again last week. Worth keeping an eye on.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was recently announced and includes 15 nations among them China, Japan, and Australia. This trading group includes 2.3 billion people which is double the combined populations of the nation’s comprising USMCA and TPP. A few other important stats; the USMCA, generates 28% of world GDP while the RCEP generates 30%; tariff rules will be harmonized in the RCEP as in the USMCA. The RCEP will represent an inviting opportunity for investors since it will represent more rapidly developing economies than the USMCA, EU or the TPP. More on this in the weeks to come, but think of it as a force to be reckoned with.

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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