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Commentary & Opinion

Confounding And Confusing Events 9/7/21

There have been a number of recent stories regarding the GOPs increasingly hostile position relative to Afghan refugees. Initially, many GOP members who were bullish on the war and wanted to keep fighting, were clamoring to protect those Afghan’s who had assisted U.S. Troops during this 20-year period. It seems now that the reality is upon them with tens of thousands of refugees coming to the United States, that they are having second thoughts and reverting to Trumpian anti refugee rhetoric. They are asserting that no vetting process has taken place so that we are allowing in people who may decide to do harm to us in the future, and other equally outrageous claims. They also have ignored, although they claim to be tight with the military and supportive of soldiers, many veterans and current active-duty personnel who have personally supported the application of Afghan translators and individuals who fought with us. There is a process that we are going through, and it’s not perfect, but we have an obligation to take care of these people which Republicans again, choose to ignore.

Gas prices dropped 2 cents per gallon on average across the Untied States and is the first decline in gas process in 9 months. The 9-month figure is actually important because almost 2 months occurred during Mr. Trump’s term of office, yet Republicans are attempting to pass the entire blame for increases onto Mr. Biden. It is also important to note that like many things, gas prices have been impacted by the laws of supply and demand with demand increasing dramatically as COVID ended (or at least we thought so) and to fail to analyze that fact. If a year from now prices are still going up after supply and demand have come into balance, then there is reason to complain. At this juncture, we should be relying on Chairman Powell who indicates that the likelihood is that much of this inflation will subside as supply and demand come into balance.

Consumer confidence fell as a result of increasing COVID cases and inflation. The move was 11.3 points down to 113.8 in August while economists who were surveyed expected a reading of 124. There was also negative movement in the Present Situation Index which is based on consumer’s assessment of current business conditions and the labor market which fell to 147 from 157. All of this makes a great deal of common sense as the Delta variant seems to be incredibly problematic as we see more and more individuals with two doses of the vaccine becoming ill with COVID although there does appear to be a correlation between having the vaccine and being ill but not likely hospitalized and certainly not dying while those without the vaccine fall to the category of severely ill and frequent deaths. We will have to keep a watch on the statistical analysis as we go forward over the next couple of weeks to make sure that these trends continue and we do not see an increase in severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths in those who are vaccinated. A booster is in your future, I suspect.

In reading a piece by Steven Roberts regarding the Afghan refugee situation he points out that the U.S. is facing some problematic demographics. Our birth rate is declining and is at its lowest since the 1930’s and we are seeing the largest decline since 1790 occurring this past census and in 1930. This is the result to some extent to changes in obviously the American birth rate but also the immigration policies of the Trump administration. We need to return to an immigration policy that makes sense because in fact we do need immigrants coming into the country and we need to make sure that we are paying attention to that situation otherwise in the coming years we will face significant difficulties in our job markets.

Social Security has taken a hit as a result of COVID-19 and its projected insolvency has been moved up a year to 2035. Of course, every time the discussion of insolvency comes up it leaves the impression that Social Security will simply run out of funds, that is not the case, the result more likely will be a reduction in benefits that may be shared across the board by current recipients and future recipients, but nonetheless there will be some funding available. Obviously, we need to make changes in the system and make sure we fully fund that so that we have taken care of those who have contributed to the fund during their working lives.

This past week the January 6th Commission tapped representative Liz Cheney as its Vice Chair. The GOP erupted in a round of vitriolic attacks on the Commission and Representative Cheney. This seems to me to be largely a waste of time as the GOP’s core supporters are with them and do not need convincing, the rest of us support Ms. Cheney so there is little to be gained by continuing to rattle those sabers because the core of the GOP is safely ensconced in disbelief about the events of January 6th and many other events. Not much to be gained, and much to be lost.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is pressuring Federal leaders in all parties to begin a discussion about becoming a world power in the production of minerals and rare earth elements. Canada has an adequate if not significant deposit of these critical minerals and metals and the Chamber believes that a strategy should be developed to take into account how to maximize this position. China and Africa are the other two sources of these minerals and metals and China has made it extremely difficult to access them by individuals and entities outside of China as well as putting pressure on the utilization of these minerals and elements within China, in other words the manufacturing that you do has to be done in China. This is a very interesting play and the United States needs to be very careful how it interacts with Canada to ensure that we have adequate access to these minerals and metals.

Have you noticed that your beer costs more? Do you know why? Prior to 2020 and 2021 there was a surplus of aluminum in the world including in the United States. A combination of events has caused the surplus to evaporate and become shortages. Much of the production of aluminum is done outside of the United States and outside of North America. Mr. Trump put in place a 10% tariff on aluminum products and Mr. Biden has kept it in place. There is now an inadequate supply, while demand increases causing prices to rise and when coupled with a 10% tariff on top, you’ve added significant cost to your can of beer. It seems to me that there should be a significant lobby of individuals interested in seeing those prices go down. Beer drinkers, arise.

Job creation in August came in significantly lower than anticipated at 235,000 when expectations were for 720,000 jobs. Likely causes are COVID and some supply disruptions. As we see the Delta surging, what will this month bring us?

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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