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Commentary & Opinion

Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 12/14/20

At President Trump’s rally in Georgia last Saturday evening, he is quoted as saying “you got to get out and vote.” Republicans are “not nearly as vicious” as Democrats when it comes to stealing elections. The only logical conclusion one can draw from that statement is that Republicans are trying to steal elections but just aren’t as good as Democrats appear to be. Of course, in both instances, that is not true. Have elections been stolen in the last 200 years? Of course, they have, but obviously those were most likely close elections and, in this instance, it wasn’t even close. The President has clearly gone off the rails.

Employers added 245,000 jobs last month, down from 610,000 in October as reported by the Labor Department with jobless claims increasing this week. The employment rate edged down slightly to 6.7% from 6.9%, but that was partly because fewer Americans were seeking work. Obviously, the downward trend in job creation is the result of COVID, as we are now seeing more and more limitations being placed, including “stay at home orders” in places such as southern California. The next several months are certainly going to be very challenging economically.

Continuing on the economic front, China is experiencing a strong economic rebound, while the US saw exports rising 2.2% to $182 billion from the previous month, while imports rose to 2.1% to $245 billion, thus, the trade deficit continues and widened to $63.1 billion from $62.1 billion. Obviously, the widening of the trade deficit is the most significant data point, although it is good to see that our exports are rising. The weakening dollar is no doubt playing into the increase in exports, while China’s resurgence and its suppression of its currency is supporting their exports, at least in part, into the United States.

Prime Minister Netanyahu faced a critical vote which he lost when one of his coalition partners abandoned him. This process must occur several times (three, to be exact) before it would force his government to call for new elections. If new elections are called, this will set off a significant amount of tension in the Middle East, and given everything which is going on, obviously, the region does not need this distraction.

Congresswoman Stefanik finally stepped forward and said she supported President Trump’s efforts, to challenge the elections, even though Mr. Trump, at that point was 1 for 39 with courts tossing his claims. Ms. Stefanik will drop into irrelevance in the House without Mr. Trump. Mr. Barr, as noted last week, also indicated that the Justice Department found no significant issues with the election which would have caused it to have a different result. The Supreme Court threw out two more cases late last week essentially ending any chance of our knowing the election. The Orders issued by the Court were terse and none of Mr. Trump’s appointees sided with him, proving their metal.

For the first time in months, I’ve heard a change to cautious optimism because of the vaccine. Let’s hope we can stay disciplined until we actually are vaccinated.

Pandemic relief wobbled all week as did the market. A one-week continuing resolution was passed along with the NDAA, addressed next. Next week, either real spending bills get passed or more likely another continuing resolution until January 6, so Mitch knows where he stands (or he sits more), in the next Congress.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was passed by overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate, including in both institutions sufficient votes to override the Presidential veto. The veto is not about the substance of the act, but the failure to include a provision that would strip on-line services like Google and Facebook of a level of immunity from liability. Mr. Trump does not like them. It is interesting to note that numerous Republicans voted to pass the bill, whether or not they would vote to override a veto seems somewhat in question, a case in point, Minority leader McCarthy. It appears that Mr. Trump’s vindictiveness at social media continues to hold sway with Republicans, even though there is a 50-year history of passage of the NDAA, mostly in a bi-partisan fashion in both Houses. Unfortunately, the Trump era continues with petty vindictiveness.

President-Elect Biden, likely will be confirmed Monday when Electors vote. He has been filling out his Cabinet, although, I’m a bit concerned with the number of retreads from the Obama Administration and have the same concerns about General Austin as I did about General Mattis.

Republican’s were silent in the face of Supreme Court decision with some exceptions acknowledging “that all reasonably arguable legal challenges have been exhausted” and we need “to play the hand we’re dealt.” None stepped forward to offer a defense to an action the Court deemed pathetic by its decision.

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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