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Confounding and confusing events 4/25/22

The New York Times recently published an editorial by Senator Warren that posited her theory as to how Democrats could avoid disaster in November. What I found interesting about the article was that it never talked to the issue of what Americans want from their government at this point in time, she only described those things which the left wing of the Democratic Party believes are important to the American public. Until such time as the Democratic Party, particularly the left fringe does an appropriate analysis of what Americans want, they will be unable to deliver a party platform which will, in fact, be acceptable to large groups of Americans. Proselytizing is not convincing.

It appears that American farmers, as I have mentioned several times before, are having a great deal of difficulty moving product out of the United States due to supply chain issues, which in most instances are due to the lack of containers, trucks, or ships. It is ironic that big business which controls those delivery methods is not working closer with farmers since, in many instances, these two groups share many of the same political goals. What this does make clear is that profit overrides philosophy. Business cares little for philosophy, but greatly for profits, as they should.

Sarah Palin is apparently trying to make a comeback and has announced a run for the sole Congressional seat from Alaska. It does not appear to date that she has made any outrageous statements, but how long can that last?

Ted Cruz warns that Disney programs will soon depict Mickey and Pluto fornicating. What planet is this guy from? He becomes more and more absurd all the time. It is hard to believe that an intelligent person, which he is, has so little practical understanding of business that he would assume that Disney would do something outrageous that would be so contrary to their market as to be essentially creating an economic disaster. They are much smarter than Ted.

In another appalling political decision, the DOJ is appealing the Florida decision striking down the travel mask mandate. It was suggested in some news reporting that the CDC was asking for this to be done to protect against this precedent, not to reinstate the mandate. One can only hope that even if the authority is restored that Mr. Biden decides to end the mask mandate as that is what the public wants, even if it is a poor healthcare decision. The political backlash if he were to reinstate the mask mandate, would be enormous.

As we go about evaluating our fellow citizens and their capacity to grasp what is in their best interest from a health perspective, one can only wonder why someone would think it is a good idea to get on an airplane with 100 or 300 people without masks, and not anticipate getting some disease, whether it is COVID, the flu or some other virus. Why would you risk it?

Russia’s war on the Ukraine, as we have been commenting for weeks now just rumbles on with more and more misery, death, destruction and the demonstration of the evil nature of Mr. Putin. It would be one thing if Mr. Putin was demonstrating his evil nature, but it is another that it appears to have been pushed down into the ranks as more and more atrocities are committed, and the Russian people are shamed.

Janet Yellen, the Treasury Secretary recently spoke in Washington, DC and proposed that as a result of the Ukrainian war the contours of the world economic outlook had been redrawn. She offered an alternate pathway from the current Biden administration which is a new trade architecture in terms that work better for American workers, calling out especially China for its support of Russia and that, as a result, we should be doing deals with countries we know we can count on. This could very well have the effect of isolating China which brings with it certain economic risks for both sides as China’s level of trade is such that any disruption could create economic chaos for them as well as us. It would take them some period of time to redirect that trade to other countries, and in particular, if we were successful in rejoining the Transpacific Partnership, and reaching agreements with the EU, the UK and many of our South American neighbors, we may well be able to create a new world order that puts pressure on China. This is an idea that should not go unexplored.

President Biden recently announced that US made steel and iron will be required for infrastructure projects which puts substantial pressure on imports into the United States, particularly from Canada. This relates specifically to the $1 Trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure package which is heavily focused on construction activity. This may well violate the USMCA and is sure to be litigated.

Talking about bizarre, Florida rejects 54 math books for k-12 students because some purportedly support critical race theory. This represents 41% of the 132 books submitted for review to the Florida Department of Education. Hard to believe that government is spending time focusing on the purported utilization of critical race theory in math books. In the interest of transparency, Florida is not disclosing the titles or any other information about these math books. One, apparently Democratic, member of the Florida House says that the reason for the nondisclosure is that the State of Florida and Governor DeSantis are lying.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported on a study that compares outcomes on the economy, education and health under COVID restrictions which was prepared by the National Bureau of Economic Research which purports to be a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting economic research. The list of scholars that is very impressive and the study compared the outcomes in 50 states and the District of Columbia based on three criteria, the economy, education and mortality. The top three states were Utah, Nebraska and Vermont, as they measured lost days in school, mortality, (adjusting for a state’s population age and prevalence of obesity and diabetes) and the economy for which they did a regression analysis in rating the economy in each state based upon the state’s industry composition. Some interesting outtakes include the fact that Florida which opened up much more rapidly, and California were 27th and 28th respectively which raises the legitimate concern about whether or not restrictive actions taken by some states had any significant benefit in combatting COVID. I found this to be a very interesting work and one which is worthy of analysis. As an example, California ranked 27th overall, but it was 40th regarding its economy and 50th regarding in person school, while Florida was about average on mortality, but did far better on protecting its citizens from severe economic harm and its children from lost schooling. What is the answer? I certainly don’t know, but we have to consider all of the facts whether they run contrary to our assumptions or not.

Former President Trump had a habit of picking winners and losers and that depended on his mood more than any factual analysis that had been done and it is likely he ignored much of what his staff recommended. You will recall that he placed 10% tariffs on aluminum imports, much of which came from Canada and his basis for imposing them under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act was national security. This caused the beer industry to pay an equivalent of $1.4 billion in Section 232 Aluminum Tariffs through February of 2022. This is another place where Mr. Trump’s actions caused, or at least substantially contributed to inflation since that cost was likely passed along by beer brewers as it moved through the supply chain to consumers. I would also note that during my time in Congress Republicans continuously accused President Obama of picking winners and losers, yet when Mr. Trump did it, they were silent.

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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