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Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 8/2/21

The Senate this week reached a bipartisan deal for a $1.2 trillion “hard” infrastructure package, which was interestingly enough announced by the Republican Senators involved in the negotiations.  All reports indicated that the President is on board, as well as Mitch McConnell, so that this legislation has an excellent chance of ultimate passage. Much of what the Republicans objected to has been taken out of the bill, and we now have left a bill which will fund desperately needed infrastructure throughout the country, and at the same time, create a large number of jobs for construction workers and the related suppliers.  A good first step back to common sense legislating. A side note – it still lingers as of today in the Senate.

The Wall Street Journal published an article by Louise Radnofsky and Andrew Beaton addressing Simone Biles decision to drop out of competition.  They supplied interesting and important historical facts about how she is conducted herself over her career, and it became very clear that Ms. Biles has not walked away from adversity, but rather has fought through it, and the fact that she had the courage to take the steps that she did should be applauded rather than criticized.  I always find it fascinating that writers feel free to criticize someone in a high-pressure environment when they could not perform at the same level and thus could not possibly understand the tremendous physical and psychological pressure that someone like Ms. Biles operates under.  Kudos to Simone Biles.

Congresswoman Stefanik at a news conference with other GOP leaders stated that “Nancy Pelosi bears responsibility for the January 6th insurrection because Speaker Pelosi did not adequately secure the capital.” She failed to mention that this authority does not rest with the Speaker.  What was equally appalling, was that Ms. Stefanik would not address Mr. Trump’s responsibility or any other senior Republican who likely were involved or instigated the attack as well as the planning.  Testimony of the police officers was compelling; anyone who continues to believe that there were tourists or a friendly mob if they had a shred of intellectual integrity should now be dissuaded from that belief.  The fact that many are not is very problematic.  Unfortunately, Ms. Stefanik continues to tell big lies, and they are ignored by her supporters. 

Much was made by Republicans of the need to cut unemployment insurance payments early in order to force people back to work.  The actual outcome has been a decline in employment in those states which took that action, there has been a decline in teen employment and an increase in workers over 25, but overall hiring didn’t change, so net reduction in unemployment did not occur.  The fact that workers over 25 return to work more quickly is evidence that some of those workers were holding back because of these payments, and getting them back to work is an important goal.  The decline in teenage employment though remains troubling. 

The New Yorker published a piece this past week by John Cassidy that focused on the potential impacts of the Delta variant, and with cases surging and the stock market gyrating, although it continues to reach new heights, we probably will not know until September what impact this variant will have on the overall economy.  We are all hopeful that it does not result in closures again, or other restrictions on travel, at least for those who are fully vaccinated, and if a mask mandate comes back, that will be a small price to pay to keep the economy moving forward and giving us all the freedom that we are looking for with that minor constraint.  Let’s hope our fellow citizens can put away their pocket copy of the constitution and focus on staying healthy for the benefit of all their fellow citizens. 

In this vein, over 4.7 million of the reluctant were vaccinated last week, including 500,000 on Friday alone.

The House and Senate passed a $2.1 billion bill virtually unanimously to enhance security, and to aid Afghan’s who assisted us as well as spending in a number of other important areas. What is equally important is that the Senate in particular was able to reach concurrence on this bill which means within the last 2 weeks two significant pieces of legislation have advanced on a bipartisan basis. Hopefully this portends good things to come.

GDP grew by 6.5% in the last quarter which is evidence that the Trump miracle was not really attributable to him nor do I believe that this growth is attributed wholly to Mr. Biden. The President and his administration certainly have some impact on these numbers, but they are not the exclusive cause. In any event it is good news and we have to hope that this keeps going although I think we all suspect, at least in the back of our minds, that this Delta variant could be a significant problem.

The U.S. and Western Europe are dusting off an old idea to combat China, known as Industrial Policy. This is one which has governments support industries that are believed critical to a country’s economic and military standing in the world. In other words, we’re going to support some industries more than we do others in order to combat the same activity being conducted by the Chinese. The Chinese have been doing this for decades and we are now only picking up that mantle and using it hopefully to sustain and grow important industries in the Western World.

Murder rates are up in 2021, but crime is not which follows the same trend as 2020.  The rise in 2021 is 15% over 2020, including 12 mass shootings.  Experts are asserting that the cause could be traced to the pandemic, protests over police or guns, but the real reason is unknown at this point.  What is also interesting is that experts are in effect saying that the only solution to this problem, in the short term, is by better policing, not necessarily more aggressive policing, but better policing, and what strikes me is that bringing more police onto the streets would be a helpful first step in most major cities.  This is not to say that there aren’t issues associated with that type of approach, nonetheless, some steps clearly need to be taken immediately in order to gain some level of control.  Other methods of impacting the murder rate will require a much longer ramp-up period, and a longer glide slope to achieve any substantive reduction. 

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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