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Confounding and confusing events 8/29/22

The recent primaries and elections in New York resulted in some positive outcomes for Democrats, not just because they won a number of races, but that more center leaning candidates were elected in and defeated more radical elements of the party. On the Republican side, probably the most noteworthy was the loss of Mr. Paladino in the election in western New York. Again, to a more traditional and establishment Republican who happens to be the chair of the New York party. Equally significant was the fact that Mr. Paladino had received the support of Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, and our own, Elise Stefanik. Placing Ms. Stefanik with Ms. Greene and Mr. Gates is not a compliment.

Matt Castelli won the primary in the New York 21st, and will have a face-off against a well-funded Congresswoman Stefanik who will be difficult to beat.

Natural gas futures last week reached a 14-year intraday high, which unless you are in the business of trading futures, might not mean much. The important information flowing from that fact is that there is virtually unlimited demand for US gas across the Atlantic, which is likely pointing us towards rising prices and market volatility ahead. This may not be good news for US consumers of natural gas, although it is somewhat difficult to tell because of the plentiful supplies generally in the US.

Those incredible Ukrainians are continuing to make life miserable for the Russians, and we only hope that they are able to continue. The toll on the Ukrainian people, as well as its economy and infrastructure, has and continues to be enormous. The US is doing more than I thought that we would, and I for one hope that it is sufficient to substantially sustain the Ukrainians in what I think will be a long battle.

Overall, economic growth in the US, Europe and Japan fell in August, and it appears to be a sharp decline. This, again, is difficult to parse because of the continuing inconsistent readings which we get from the US economy looking at corporate earnings, open jobs, low jobless claims, and the continuing spending by the American consumer. Hopefully, we will see some clarity in where we are going in the near future.

The measure of inflation has been looked at carefully and the four countries included China, Mexico, the United States and Greece which are reflected in ascending order of inflation rates. China has the lowest, and the EU, the highest. One of the striking issues is, of course, the fact that the Chinese economy is controlled and has tumbled dramatically since 2020, with Mexico doing well in managing inflation, the US, slightly less and Greece is at the high end. Greece is probably not a good source because it has suffered tremendous economic woes over the last 15 years, as it has struggled with debt, inflation for a long time, currency issues, etc. Nonetheless, this is an interesting analysis done by the Wall Street Journal, and is worth taking a read to see if there are things that we need to be doing in the United States differently than we are currently are.

It has been reported that the US and Taiwan are in talks to enter into a trade deal. China continues to respond negatively to these types of discussions between the US and Taiwan and it is an interesting dynamic which one could reasonably analyze as China taking a strong position visa vie Taiwan because of its own domestic economic issues. It is exacerbated by Ms. Pelosi’s visit, another Congressional delegation, of course, and now an announcement of these talks. I would truly love to be a fly on the wall both in the Biden administration and in the Chinese government to see what they are both thinking, and the real motivations behind these activities.

It is being reported that scientists have discovered the ability to destroy PFAS chemicals. The process that scientists have developed permits the harmful molecules to be broken down, and thus, more easily disposed of. A typical circumstance from which PFAS chemicals flow is a tanker trunk filled with chemicals that contain PFAS. This happens on a daily basis, and if, in fact, these harmful chemicals can be essentially neutralized it would be certainly beneficial to the environment, to human beings, but also reduce the cost of the disposal of these products, thus, providing a tremendous benefit to all of us.

The announcements keep rolling that US firms are bringing home overseas jobs. Micron Technologies recently announced it planned a $40 billion expansion of its current headquarters and investment in memory manufacturing. This is one of many and part of the nearly 350,000 jobs that are in the process of being re-shored this year. Obviously, these types of significant investments are very important, but also the broader picture of returning jobs to the US will help the US economy, the individual companies and the employees and their communities. If this can be accomplished, it would be a major turning point for the US economy, and should be supported by the government at all levels, and will help our national security by making us more independent in a greater number of manufacturing areas.

Canada has returned in June to being our No. 1 trading partner, slightly ahead of No. 2 Mexico. This is, of course, very beneficial for the Canadian economy and for those of us who live along the border it has tremendous benefits, as well.

I read this on Facebook: “If you have a problem with the student loan cancellation because you already paid off your loans, just pretend it’s a tax cut for the rich that you also never got but mysteriously didn’t complain about. – Katelyn Burns”

Continuing with student loan forgiveness. PPP loans for business which were forgiven were well in excess of $450 billion and student loans are about the same. Both are economically driven, one to save jobs, the other to help create the educated work force we need for today’s economy. I support both.

The Northern Border Regional Commission supported projects in the North Country with well over $2 million. Congresswoman Stefanik slyly claims credit, but voted no on the legislation. Hypocritical, just a bit.

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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