Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 3/1/21 | WAMC

Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 3/1/21

Mar 1, 2021

It was recently reported in the Press Republican that the Democratic and Republican County Committees have agreed to hold a joint event for the signing of petitions in Clinton County.  This is an excellent example of a mature common-sense activity that is in the public interest by political parties.  If this could be extended to voter registration and other voting related activities it would certainly be extremely beneficial.  Kudos go to the two County Committees and their Chairs Clark Currier (R) and Jerry Marking (D) for their actions, and we can only hope that other counties take-up this unique approach which can only benefit Parties’ local citizens’ and democracy, in general.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Trudeau had their first virtual meeting this week, and it appears that we are back on track in terms of our relationship with Canada.  It doesn’t mean smooth sailing, but it certainly means that there will be conversations, and that name calling and other high school nonsense will be abandoned in what is a very productive and important relationship at so many levels with our neighbor to the north. 

Economists have been reporting that there is at least the potential for a boom post-COVID.  This is based in large measure on the enormous amounts of cash that have been accumulated, as well as the pent-up demand.  Currently, unemployment claims are stabilized at a relatively high level, in the range of 730,000 new claims a week, which evidences a lack of job growth.  Nonetheless, many economists are now speculating that we could have a super-charged rebound, which is hinted at by stronger than expected retail sales in the month of January, the latest round of COVID checks have arrived in individual bank accounts, business investment has picked up which is a sign of confidence from corporate leaders.  There is a consensus that US output will increase by 4.5% this year, which would make it the best year since 1999, with others predicting an even stronger bounce up to the range of 6.8%, as forecast by Goldman Sachs, with a drop in unemployment to 4.1% by December of 2021.  This optimism is certainly welcomed, but also makes some logical sense when one thinks about the amount of cash that has been accumulated, in individual bank accounts, as well as Corporate accounts, the fact that people have not been traveling, nor going to stores even though they have been obviously buying on-line, it is different dynamic because you don’t get the same kind of spontaneous purchases on-line that you get in a store.

The Biden Administration is developing its Trade strategy with some surprises. It looks like it will keep tariffs on 350B of Chinese goods as part of retaining the Phase One deal negotiated with China. We can also expect a methodical approach from an experienced trade hand Katherine Tai as opposed to the chaos of the Trump Administration. We’ll see which approach gets real results; Trump’s got very little.

Bond yields are surging, talk about relative terms. The yields rose to 1.494 from well below 1%. Pundits predicted this upward tick could eventually result in a move away from stocks and generate higher interest rates.

Governor Cuomo has been accused by two former aides of sexual harassment, and of course, as can be anticipated, his opponents are piling on.  In particular, Congresswoman Stefanik who has been a constant critic of Mr. Cuomo for the last year, or so, immediately called for his resignation, and of course, asserted that sexual harassment is unacceptable.  I agree, and I suspect almost everyone else does.   Governor Cuomo has denied the allegation, and he is entitled to due process in the form of an investigation to determine whether or not the allegations can be verified.  The irony of all of this, of course, is Ms. Stefanik has made only limited criticisms of Mr. Trump after the disclosure of his having paid-off a variety of women after having had sex with him, his comments on the famous Hollywood tapes, and his general demeanor towards women.  The hypocrisy leaps out at you, and it is hard to believe that Ms. Stefanik can make these assertions with a straight face.  Having said that, she seems to be able to make outrageous assertions with a straight face.  It is very difficult to tell if she has any understanding of reality.

Continuing with Governor Cuomo, it is clear he has got some issues.  Certainly, the nursing home question lingers.  It is also worth noting that as he moves through his third term, and thinks about running for a fourth term, his father, of course, lost his bid for a fourth term to George Pataki.  Mr. Pataki was a surprise, Congresswoman Stefanik could be a surprise candidate, her baggage in terms of her shift to the far right, does not fit with New York State on a statewide level.  As I noted before, Ms. Stefanik may have some issues when it comes to redistricting and certainly picking a fight with the Governor does not put you in good stead in terms of how your district turns out.  Taking big risks can have big rewards, but it can result in embarrassment 

Lumber prices have spiked as the result of the pandemic due to home improvement activity, as well as new construction.  The forest products industry, has not benefitted from this surge in pricing due to the fact that over the past decade they have increased the number of trees that have been planted, and thus, created a supply which exceeds, not necessarily the demand, but rather the ability of sawmills to process the product.  The end result is, the forest products industry is not doing nearly as well as one might anticipate under the circumstances. This is one of those situations that is counterintuitive, but demonstrate how ultimately the law of supply and demand really controls pricing in virtually any industry.

The stock market hit another record high this past week, and has pulled back a bit at weeks end.  It is worth noting that economists believe that this may be the set-up for another big advance in the stock market, as we come out of the COVID crisis.  It is equally worth noting that Mr. Trump consistently predicted that the stock market would fall apart if he were not reelected, another not so true statement.  Although the stock market is doing well, the rest of the economy is still somewhat fragile, as pointed out by Chairman Powell and Secretary Yellen as they call for a big package.  The stimulus will help those at the lower economic levels, while the stock market helps those at the higher economic levels, who don’t need assistance.  Ultimately, the stimulus will have a beneficial impact on everyone, in the same manner as has been debated for years, if you put money in the hands of people who are spending it, that it has a stimulating effect to the overall economy, whether you are a local merchant, or Wal-Mart, we all need it.  I refer back to Henry Ford who stated that he increased his employees’ wages above the norm because that allowed them to buy his cars, a very direct stimulus.

On the science front, scientists were hunting for a Great black hole, but found a Nest of darkness known as NGC 6397. That Nest contained baby monsters, maybe 5 dozen in a space slightly bigger than our solar system. These babies are moving around which scientists believe is evidence of an invisible mass in the dense core of this cluster. NGC 6397 is one of 150 spherical clouds that orbit the Milky Way. Get out your telescope to see what you can learn.

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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