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Confounding and confusing events 8/8/22

The Senate recently passed, with significant Republican votes, what is referred to as the “chip bill”. The surprise here is that it has been disclosed that one of the primary reasons the reluctant Republicans got on board was because of a national security briefing which they received, which one can only assume indicated that the Chinese has leapt far ahead and were leaving the US behind, and thus, vulnerable. The fact that this was not obvious to Republican Senators goes a long way to understanding how they act generally. It appears that many of them must not read even the Wall Street Journal as a source of information, but only right-wing ignorant publications and talk shows where everything is reduced to a political slogan.

The Chinese economy is contracting due to the zero-tolerance policy that has been imposed by Beijing due to COVID. Home sales have fallen off dramatically, and there is some level of frustration amongst the educated and wealthy about the policies being employed by their government.

It has been reported that food prices are falling, and its obvious at the pump that gas prices are falling. The balance of inflationary factors, with the exception possibly of the housing market where there appears to be some slowdown in housing sales, also appear to be stabilizing. For instance, there appear to be more cars on the lots of car dealers, the hidden areas of inflation, like transportation costs, both within and out of the United States seem also to be stabilizing, but not decreasing. The faltering of the Chinese economy may also have a negative impact on our desire to see inflation come down, since that would mean that less product would be being made and shipped from China, upon which we still rely heavily. All these factors create a gap between supply and demand which equals inflation.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Exon Mobile Corp., Chevron Corp. and Shell all collectively reported $46 billion in quarterly profits as of June 30, 2022. They note, of course, that this is fueled by the highest energy prices in over a decade, and lucrative oil refining margins. It is virtually impossible to believe that gas prices couldn’t come down with profits at that level unless these oil companies were gauging the consumer. Unfortunately, they are Republican backed and supported, and the same people who were complaining about high prices see nothing wrong with these companies generating huge profits. There is clearly something wrong in the system, and understanding that those companies also lost huge sums over the last several years, nonetheless, the boom bust cycle for the oil industry has existed as long as I have been alive and able to read the news.

The economy generated 586,000 jobs last month, so questions continue as to whether or not we are in a recession.

It appears that Alex Jones will pay approximately $50m for his miscreant activities relative to the Sandy Hook massacre. His testimony during his trial can only be characterized as absurd and insane, and yet, he continues the process with very little, if any, remorse. I am sure that Mr. Trump and our Congresswoman fully support him.

The recent take-out of the al-Qaeda leader al-Zawahiri is a significant milestone for the Biden administration. It appears that it was a clean operation, meaning there was no or very little collateral damage, and we have taken out a person who caused great pain to many Americans. It is important that we can keep searching for these terrorists just like it was important for the Nazi’s to be tracked down for their crimes during the Holocaust.

This year, for the first time, we have reached the lowest level of uninsured individuals in the United States, at less than 8% without health insurance and less than 2% of children are without health insurance which is a significant milestone, and hopefully leads to better health for all of us.

The vote in Kansas, against a constitutional amendment was very revealing in that it clearly demonstrated that polling broadly in the United States appears to be accurate in terms of the public’s view of abortion rights. It was obvious that there was broad support for retaining rights to abortion beyond just core Democrats, given the percentage of the vote against restricting abortion, there had to be substantial numbers of Republicans and male voters who supported this outcome. Polling nationally indicates support for abortion rights amongst a similar percentage of people even though there is some variation in terms of the specifics about abortion rights, nonetheless, the basic concept is that as it relates to incest, rape, saving the life of the mother, and a period of time that will be applied - six weeks is not acceptable.

From the animal kingdom, we hear that a Greenland shark was spotted off the coast of Belize, which is causing scientists to rethink their ideas about where these sharks reside and just how wide their geographic region is. If you think about the distance from Greenland to Belize, deep in the Caribbean that gives you pause about just how far these sharks are traveling, and also, causes one to think of the different water temperatures that they must be experiencing, and yet, do not appear to be adversely affected. Scientists have studied these sharks in depth, learning that they live up to 400 years, are ancient creatures from the Artic, and that frequently they are blinded by parasites that attach themselves to the shark’s cornea. Most of these discoveries have come as a result of an accidental catch off Belize, while a Florida International University team was tagging tiger sharks but came up with this deep-sea creature. Nature never ceases to surprise, and the stories emanating from the animal kingdom also continue to amaze me.

Recently there have been reports that the end of the snow pack in the west could impact as much as 76 million American lives. The west is suffering a historic drought, and there has not been any effective response from government. Of course, unless you can produce rain and snow, there may not, in fact, be a response. This problem is compounded by the extraordinarily high temperatures in the Pacific northwest, along with California’s drought, although not necessarily causing enormous fires which have further exacerbated the problem of water retention in the aftermath of the fires. The snow pack has shrunk between 1995 and 2022 by 23%, and it is anticipated that California could lose as much as 79% of its peak snow pack by the end of the 21st century. These are obviously catastrophic numbers and don’t take into account the spin-off effect of the loss of farm land in California because of its large-scale food production. We also are seeing the drought impacting cattle, pigs, and other sources of food in the mid-west and southwest. These are all issues which government is ignoring, partially because of the Republican aversion to the idea that climate change is man-made, and that there are things we could actually do to offset this process. We need to take a hard look at this, and stop with the blinders.

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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