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Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 5/17/21

Recent elections in Great Britain while resulting in victories for Boris Johnson’s party also brought to the floor a significant victory for the Scottish Nationalist Party.  There is an ongoing debate about whether or not another referendum for Scottish sovereignty will be requested by the Scot’s National Party and many commentators in Great Britain feel that that will not happen in the short term, because there is not much of an appetite for referendums on virtually any issue at this juncture.  There is likely to be though, ever increasing pressure on Boris Johnson and whatever government is in power in the British Parliament over the next several years to move towards Scottish independence.  The current cause here, of course, is Brexit, with Scotland voting against Brexit by a substantial majority and Britain having a very narrow favorable vote for Brexit.  This dichotomy creates obviously the opportunity for some level of chaos in the British union. 

The current opinion of local elected officials of every political stripe of the American Rescue Plan Act passed in March has been unabashedly in favor with universal support as the legislation provides good news to local communities.  Even our Congresswoman who voted against the bill is taking credit for good things flowing from it.  It seems a little bit inconsistent to me to vote against something, and then to take credit for the benefits that local communities are receiving.  She must truly think that her constituents are not bright enough to see through this hypocrisy and sham.  But then again, she claimed to have flipped an overwhelmingly Democratic district which had 1 Democratic Congressman in 160 years.

Popular Mechanics has reported that nuclear fission reactions are happening at the Chornobyl site.  Apparently, the remains of nuclear material are being impacted by rain water which is causing these fission reactions to occur, and scientists are trying to figure out how to manage it.  Clearly, this is a situation in which the nuclear material is dispersed in rusting and collapsed buildings, buried in the soil and likely otherwise hidden from sight which creates serious issues.  This situation was discovered due to increased readings of neutron activity, which is a measurable byproduct of nuclear fission according to scientists in the Ukraine.  It appears scientists are saying that it is possible this process will burn itself out over a few years period, and in any event, doesn’t raise significant risk levels for several years, so at this point, it is a wait and watch scenario. 

Pressure is building to end the softwood lumber dispute as construction costs soar for wood. A logical way to solve this problem is to end the tariffs because demand now exceeds America’s capacity to produce this commodity as pointed out by the LBM Journal.

China has reported a declining birth rate and a much smaller population growth than they have experienced historically.  This is raising questions for the Chinese government with regard to their policy limiting the number of births and how they resolve this issue will have broad ramifications, not only for China but for the rest of the world.  This involves ultimately the size of their labor force, the impact of aging on the population, and a host of other economic and social issues that could be very disruptive to Chinese society and their economy.  This is worth watching. 

New polling by the Alliance for Trade Enforcement finds that a majority of Americans, believe that the United States must hold countries accountable for the commitments they made in trade agreements.  This particular trade group appears to have a Trumpian view of trade which was an animated issue for Mr. Trump.  His methodologies did not result in holding these countries accountable, but it is a philosophy that needs to be constantly monitored and one which I hope the Biden administration pays attention to, particularly as it relates to Brazil, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Mexico and Canada.  Mr. Trump was right on the issue, but his approach lacked focus and consistency.

Many media outlets are reporting a jump in consumer prices which will have a significant impact on the discussion of inflation.  Many economists are saying that this is a short-term bump from the reawakening of the economy, and issues that evolved during the lockdown. In particular the fact that consumer spending was down in certain areas, and now seems to be reviving, and the fact that there have been market shortages which, under any economic scheme, the laws of supply and demand will cause an increase in prices.  We need to let this settle for weeks, if not months, to determine whether or not there is really an inflationary trend.  It must be watched, but in the short-term, not overreacted to.

This week saw a decline in the stock market which has been attributed to inflation fears, even though earnings reports have been good.  Obviously, the decline in employment numbers was troubling and some steps are being taken to decrease unemployment compensation and to reinstitute what I knew to be the rules in the past, which was if you were offered a job and you didn’t take it, you lost your unemployment.  Clearly, that needs to be enforced but other circumstances that people face need to be considered, particularly as it relates to child care, since that problem is not being solved at any level, it must be a consideration in this process. 

The Israeli/Palestinian situation continues to deteriorate.  One can only wonder if Mr. Netanyahu is using this as a diversion from his political and legal troubles in Israel.  It certainly would not be a surprise that a politician of his ilk would react this way. It is costing a significant number of lives, however, and if that is the case, then he really should be gone from office.

I read a story which described the experience of a black homeowner. This woman had her home appraised twice with low values being found. She thought maybe this is prejudice, so being quite clever she had a white stand in for the third appraisal. Viola, a dramatic increase in value which is evidence of ________, I’ll let you fill in the blank.

Retail sales stalled in April after surging in March which may alter inflation fears.

Liz Cheney out, Stefanik in as Republican Caucus Chair. Ms. Stefanik’s anti-Democratic rhetoric continues to be harsh in a clear testament to her bipartisanship.

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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