Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 4/29/19

Apr 29, 2019

As a Trade Deal nears with China, tensions are rising on many other fronts.  One of the big giveaways by the Administration is that the fact that the US will be bound to its commitments which China can enforce.  I suspect that the ability of the Chinese to enforce their rights versus the ability of the US to enforce its will be substantially weighted in favor of the Chinese.  Left and right objected to the enforcement provisions of NAFTA.  So our policy is?

As the USMCA limps forward, we are also seeing delays building at the US Mexico Border as significant resources have been shifted from the movement of trade within CBP to the enforcement of Immigration Laws.  In fact, 545 officers have been moved away from vehicle processing and freight processing in recent weeks.  There is also a threat that officers will be given temporary duty from the Northern Border which could very well mean a slowdown in Northern Boarder traffic.  The Administration does not appear to have a plan or an understanding of what impact these actions will have on the economy of all three nations, but most importantly the economy in the United States.

The release of the Mueller report obviously caused quite a stir.  Irrespective of what was or was not contained in the report, I have complete confidence in Mr. Mueller that he conducted a thorough investigation and one that was within the bounds of the law.  I would note that the standard of proof for Obstruction by a sitting President is different for an indictment versus impeachment.  By the way, don’t forget those 14 referred matters and the New York State Attorney General investigations- more fun to follow.  

Senator Majority Leader Mitchel McConnell made two recent announcements that were something of a surprise.  The first is that he is willing to negotiate an immigration package and the second is he wants to introduce federal legislation which would prohibit sale of tobacco products to people under the age of 21.  The second is a curiosity to me as that seems to be a States Rights issue and a principal that Republicans, at least philosophically, have always held high.  The first issue regarding immigration is equally striking as there is no indication that Mr. Trump is going to move in that direction although he does say that Democrats are holding up that process. Unfortunately, there is really no plan.

The International Trade Commission recently announced that the new USMCA would lift the US economy by a barely noticeable percentage given the 21 Trillion dollar a year in GDP that economy generates and would negligibly improve our current employment levels which stands at 151 million people.   The time effort, anxiety and bad feelings seem to have been of little benefit.  I have mentioned on numerous occasions that I thought this was an agreement with little benefit and it seems the International Trade Commission agrees.

The South China Morning Post has commented that President Trump and his economic aids are wrong with their “managed trade” concept because forced diversion of commerce is neither free nor fair.  They go on to further assert that even if a deal is made, that it will likely ultimately lead to less trade between the two countries because of the attempt to “manage it”.  It appears the Chinese fully understand what Mr. Trump’s goals are and will ultimately circumvent them as they have for years. 

Mr. Trump announced on April 24, 2019 that he had ordered all members of his administration to boycott the White House’s correspondence dinner.  He must be concerned that Ms. Sanders might tell the truth after effectively admitting to Mr. Mueller that she had lied to reporters on several occasions.

Mr. Trump also announced that he will fight all subpoenas.  He couched his comments by saying “These aren’t like impartial people” obviously meaning Democrats.  Seems like he forgot about Congressman Nunes, Ken Starr and Attorney General Barr all of whom are shining examples of bipartisanship.

The most surprising and appalling news this week is that military families of fallen service members are paying higher taxes (thousands of dollars) as the result of the 2017 tax bill.  It’s a somewhat in-the-weeds issue, but it reflects the sloppy way the bill was put together as this is one of many glitches.  Did you pay tax this year rather than getting a refund?

Mr. Owens is a former member of Congress representing the New York 21st, a partner in Stafford Owens in Plattsburgh, NY and a Senior Advisor to 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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