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Commentary & Opinion

Confounding and Confusing Events 10/4/21

Japan has determined that due to its aging population that it will now identify anyone under 75 as pre-old, a gentle designation. I have informed my friends and family that at 72, I would like to be addressed as pre-old, as well, and I am hoping that that phrase will catch on.

Ancient footprints have been unearthed in New Mexico, in what appears to be a long-lost lake front. The tracks show multi-generations living in the area thousands of years before many scientists believe that there were humans in North America, and certainly a surprise that those humans were so far south in the range of 21,000 to 23,000 years ago. It is also interesting that what was found were the footprints of children and teenagers, along with the remains of mammoths, and an extinct k-9 species known as the Dirb wolves. The tracks are 10,000 years older and about 1,600 miles further south than any other human footprints seen in North America. An interesting discovery and we continue to learn more and more about our past.

The closing of the US/Canadian border has continued to disrupt particularly small businesses. These are businesses that had Canadian visitors coming to US business and vice versa. In many cases, they were not set up at the beginning of the pandemic to enter into distribution arrangements in Canada, lacking both the expertise, and the manpower, as well as the capital. Over time, some of these companies have been able to adapt, and reinvent their business to allow them to continue their sales through distribution agreements with Canadian or US distributors. This is another example of the pain that the border closure has caused, and the frustration is now mounting as the Biden administration looks simply inept.

The Hauwei CFO has reached a deal in the US that will see her released from jail in Canada and will also allow her to return to China. This has opened the gates for Canadians who have been held in China, and hopefully, all will be returned to their respective families. This has been a tough slog for Canada, in particular as it was placed in the middle between China and the United States. It is hard to determine whether the actions taken by the US were really necessary given the outcome of the case which will see the CFO not serving any jail time.

The most entertaining story of the week, of course, are the results of the audit in Maricopa County Arizona, which confirmed the accuracy of the official results, and in fact, added votes to Mr. Biden. The report made some findings that questioned results, but in essence, this much vilified report turned out to confirm what most of us believed, even Republicans in Arizona. Mr. Trump, of course, couldn’t see his way through to understand the content and accuracy of the report, and continues pushing his false narrative.

Fox News published a report by Germaine Lopez, dated September 23rd. It is an extensive analysis of why COVID-19 cases rise and fall. The answers are not simple, and in many cases confirm each side’s view of what has happened and what is happening. It reflects the complex nature of this virus, and the difficult analysis that the vast amounts of data are requiring, and as a result, the conclusions are not always consistent. The most important aspect of this article though is that it is a fair analysis that gives significant facts that allow the reader to gain a better understanding, although for the vast majority of us, we lack the background to, in effect, do our own analysis, and reach our own conclusions. In my view, to protect yourself and everyone else requires vaccinations, masks in certain situations, social distancing, etc. Let’s hope we can get through this winter without any additional surges.

US auto sales continue to dive as the chip shortage continues. Not only are there fewer cars on the lots, but prices have gone up in some cases by 19%. Obviously, that is inflationary but it is cause by supply and demand – not government policies.

On the international stage, likely the most important event that has occurred this year is the fact that moderate leftists narrowly won in Germany ousting Angela Merkel’s center right party. She has been in power for 16 years, and this slight shift will likely not result in substantially different policies than she has been employing for many years. In addition, the fact that the election was close and the winner did not garner a powerful governing mandate makes it even more likely that they would stay close to the Merkel line, at least in the short-term. Germany is the most powerful economic force in Europe, and thus, must be reckoned with and so these elections will have an impact on the European political scene, as well as the economy of Europe, and thus, the economy of the world.

A recent article in our local paper, the Press Republican, discussed the issue of child care. The article pointed out that the number of child care opportunities were decreasing rapidly due to COVID, significant state requirements, and the increase in cost of operations. It also pointed out that a family with a $50,000 income would be paying as much as ⅓ of that income for child care. Obviously, that leaves insufficient sums to live on. The larger of the two infrastructure bills pending in Congress contains funding for child care, for senior care, etc. Republicans object to both of these costs, in my view, because they do not see them as benefiting their constituents who they perceive to be large corporations and wealthy individuals. Mr. Biden believes that it would be to the benefit of the US economy and to families to have safe and secure child care that is, in fact, affordable. I agree, we need to be moving in that direction, and hopefully, the childcare provisions will be retained in the larger infrastructure bill if it does pass.

From the hypocrites’ corner, Congresswoman Stefanik voted no on the continuing Resolution. This kept the government open until December. Her actions were hypocritical because this extended with few changes Mr. Trump’s last budget funded Fort Drum, social security, which are also programs she proports to support. Her no votes sounds principled but it only happened because there were enough other votes to pass it.

On the inflation front, EU prices are rising at the fastest rate in 13 years. My point simply is, that this is a world issue caused by the transportation issues, post-COVID demand, and shortages generally. It is an economic issue, not a political one. China is suffering dramatic shortages in power production and delivery of power. This issue is likely to reduce production in China and increase in shortages in Chinese made goods, another factor likely to increase inflation.

Unemployment claims ticked up slight this week, bond yields jumped, and the market was on a small rollercoaster.

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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