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Confounding and confusing events 1/17/22

Chairman Powell’s comments last Tuesday eased investors concerns about how hard the Fed would push to control inflation, and whether or not it would have a balanced approach in an effort to ensure that the economy continues to grow while raising rates and discontinuing its purchases and would not create a recession. This appears to be a sensible approach and is well within the bounds of moderate economic policy.

Last week I mentioned Karl Rove and Holman Jenkins. Then we have Ed McBroom, a Conservative Republican dairy farmer and State Senator, from the Michigan Upper Peninsula who as head of the Senate’s Oversight Committee. He led an exhaustive, eight-month investigation of alleged fraud in Michigan’s presidential election. He stated “Our clear finding is that citizens should be confident the 2020 election results represented the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan.” Patriots and responsible people are speaking out.

While reading the American Legion Magazine, December issue, I came across a letter to the Editor from a disabled military veteran. He indicated that he had serious health issues as a result of his service, and wanted to point out to veterans who visit VA hospitals and clinics, and refuse to wear masks, that standing next to him in an elevator created a serious health risk for him. He called upon them to recognize that they don’t know who they are standing next to, and that they need to take into consideration the needs of all veterans.

As we reflect on the events of January 6, 2021, one can’t help but recognize the hypocrisy in claiming to support law enforcement while denying and denigrating the attacks on the Capital police and Metropolitan police. Republicans including our Congresswoman wear that shameful mantle apparently with pride. If I was a member of law enforcement, I would be thinking very carefully about whether or not those who denigrate my brothers and sisters in law enforcement are simply waving the flag, but not truly supporting it.

I participated in a Canadian American Business Council White House round table recently. Many participants raised questions about the economic impact of the vaccine mandate whether imposed by Canada on the truckers. All acknowledge the difficulty of the situation, but were clearly concerned with the economic and logistical impacts on trade. My personal reaction to this was that it is difficult to exempt a group of people who come in contact with large swaths of the public from being vaccinated, when we all know that the absence of vaccination allows Covid, and now Omicron to spread rapidly and create its own level of disruption. This is a balancing of negative economic and operational consequences creating a series of hard choices. Bottom line is, get vaccinated.

The New York Times published a series of graphs in an article on January 11th, entitled, “A Growing Gap”, which refers, of course, to those who are vaccinated and those who are not. The graphs were taken from data generated in New York City and Seattle. In both cities, the disparity between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, whether you are talking about number of cases, hospitalizations or deaths, all reach the only conclusion that can be drawn which is that your risk is so much more elevated when you are not vaccinated. The data continues to belie the claims of the anti-vaxxers and makes little or no sense.

CNN had a report recently about how our ancestors slept going back hundreds of years. The researchers indicated that the idea of getting eight straight hours of sleep is a modern phenomenon, probably largely brought on by the industrial revolution and the development of electricity; think lights in the home. Our ancestors slept in two shifts, with a period of wakefulness in between where they might have engaged in eating, reading and other activities and then returned to sleep. It is interesting that the researchers believe that these periods of sleep were broken up into relatively similar lengths of time of approximately four hours which, of course, has evolved into our eight hours of sleep. Given all of our electronic connections, it may be that it is appropriate for us to rethink both how we sleep, and how we work. Obviously, our working from home would facilitate segments of sleep as we travel less to work, thus facilitating different potential sleep patterns.

Home sales headed for their best year since 2006, as we close-out 2021. The market continues to boom with home sales and prices increasing in the last several months on a month over month basis, and certainly year over year. As I have pointed out before, this alone is a substantial inflationary pressure, that gets ignored and we only focus on goods like gasoline, groceries, and cars, when, in fact, many more people are being priced out of the housing market than are likely being priced out of buying food and gasoline. Just saying.

One interesting note on the electric vehicle tax credit, it appears it is going to have a direct negative impact on jobs in Tennessee and Arizona. One has to assume that that credit will have an aggregate positive impact on jobs in the United States, if that is not the case, then this is a far worse policy than I even imagined.

A recent article listed the top 20 exporting cities in the United States, and interestingly enough, none of the cities in our listening area made it. I focused on Detroit because it was listed in the middle of the pack, and the article mentioned the fact that there are a lot of auto parts traversing back and forth across that border. In fact, car parts are now moving back and forth across the border in the Detroit/Windsor area an average of nine times. You think that inflates their export activity/level; I suspect it does. Maybe we, in Plattsburgh and Albany should be evaluating what our export contribution is, as the result of our supply chain activity. I suspect this is something that people have not paid attention to, and might create some very interesting information and potentially some new business opportunities.

China’s ruling communist party has determined that it will utilize the skills and finances of the Alibaba Group, which is the largest company in China to take on the task of designing its own processor chips. This is an extremely important development because that would make China self-reliant and not in need of importing chips, nor importing the production technology from the west. In particular the United States, Japan and other suppliers. One of the fears of business leaders is that such a change, if successful, would disrupt global trade and ultimately make the world poorer because of the lack of innovation.

It was recently reported that large ocean fossils were discovered in Nevada, which could hold key information to aquatic evolution. The skull was 8-feet long and discovered in the Augusta Mountains, and is the largest fossil ever found from its time, which dates back to 246 million years ago. According to the research team, it is the largest animal found from this time period, both in the sea and on land, and as a result, holds the title as the first giant animal to ever inhabit the earth. The fossil includes the skull, along with parts of the creature’s backbone, shoulder etc., and indicates the creature was more than 55 feet long which is the approximate size of a large sperm whale. These discoveries always fascinate me as it gives us a look back in time.

As we continue along our COVID journey, it’s looking more and more like COVID will follow much the same course as the flu has, meaning it will always be with us in some form or another and require a vaccine each year. It is interesting to note that the surges have occurred when people go indoors, whether that is in the south in the summer, or the north in the winter, and whether or not there is anything that can be done to modify that process will likely take significantly more study by scientists.

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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