Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 6/22/20 | WAMC

Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 6/22/20

Jun 22, 2020

Let’s start out with something positive, the Clinton County Fair Grounds which will not be open for the fair this year has decided to utilize its facilities for a drive-in theater.  Many of us remember those venues in which we had fun as children and even more fun later on. I am pleased that they are demonstrating their creativity, flexibility and a desire to make people happy.  The first night was a resounding success as reported by the local media.  I am hoping to get out soon to see a movie for some fun in a difficult environment.

In the world of science, a mysterious crocodile that appears to have walked on two legs has been found in prehistoric fossils.  The significance of this find is, of course, difficult to evaluate, but it remains interesting to me that there is a continual process of discovering or rediscovering remains of ancient animals in varied parts of the world.

We continue to hear about the ever-increasing spiking of COVID-19 cases in the United States, which appears directly related to the reopening of the economy.  My belief is it is not the reopening of the economy, but rather the failure of the population to wear masks, social distance and hand wash.   These are inconveniences, but with hospitalizations climbing which is the most dangerous of all of the outcomes since this truly put lives at risk as there is limited capacity to care for people with COVID-19.  The Governors of the states with dramatically increasing cases and hospitalizations.  Florida, Texas and Arizona are pushing forward with reopening not even bothering to make the use of masks and social distancing a priority.  All buds of POTUS.   

Former Secretary of State and retired Army General Colin Powell, indicated he is voting for Mr. Biden and not Mr. Trump, Senator Romney indicating he is voting no on Trump, but won’t say for whom he is voting, while Senator Murkowski and President Bush No. 2 are thinking about it.  Note they are all Republicans.   

Linsey Graham is portrayed in a new Republican commercial praising Biden and slamming Trump in 2016.  The clips shown in the advertisement are all from the campaign when Senator Graham was a vocal critic of Mr. Trump, now he is nothing more than a sycophant for Mr. Trump. 

An opinion piece in Bloomberg Opinions by Stephen Roach predicts the fall of the dollar which he acknowledges has been much criticized by other economists.  His analysis starts with the statement that those who disagree with him rely on the TINA defense or “there is no alternative”.  He focuses heavily on REER (real effective exchange rate), calculated monthly by the Bank for International Settlements.  The Bank assigns a measure of impact to each country, the most significant of which is China – 23%; the Euro – 17%; Mexico – 13% and Canada – 12%.  These countries make up 65% of our trade.  Clearly, his analysis is based upon the strengthening of one or more of these currencies, but in particular, the Euro and Chinese currency. One of the ironic twists to this scenario is if there is a strengthening of the Chinese currency which is something many in the US have sought because it would increase the cost of Chinese exports to the US, has a potential to generate a good result for the US economy.  Whether that is outweighed by the weakening of the US dollar is a more complex analysis.

John Bolton’s book is causing a greater storm than Mary Trump’s tell all.  There are numerous anecdotes that have been reported, one is a quote from Secretary Pompeo about POTUS’ North Korea diplomacy declaring it had “zero probability of success.”  Anyone paying attention knows that except POTUS.

Canadian Aluminum is in the news as POTUS is being pushed by the U.S. Aluminum Industry to restrict Canadian exports to the U.S.   The timing is curious since the USMCA goes in to affect next month and this action would likely violate it. Coordinated trade policy is not the hallmark of this administration.   

The President issued an Executive Order this week in response to protestors demands for action to be taken to change the way in which the police interact with minority communities.  Unfortunately, the Order panders to those who support him, and in fact, does not provide guidance, nor direction to resolve the issues.  It is clear the Mr. President does not want to move the ball forward.  The vast majority of Americans recognize that this is a complex problem that needs to be dealt with at multiple levels so that we are addressing the root causes and thus focusing on the police alone will not change lives much less save them.  Unfortunately, our Congresswoman stands with the President, as usual, and offers no substantive solutions. 

Tulsa officials are asking the President to cancel the rally, or at least hold it outdoors.  Oklahoma is seeing a spike in cases, a request to rethink this rally came from the Executive Director of the Tulsa Health Department.  Given the spikes occurring around the country with individuals who are not wearing masks, and not utilizing social distancing means that there is a strong likelihood that a significant number of cases could develop out of this event.  This is a predictable reaction from the President and his campaign, evidencing his strong held belief that science is junk if it doesn’t agree with him. 

On Wednesday of this past week, Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee to testify on trade issues.  Of course, he began with praising President Trump’s many trade victories (think China, North Korea, the EU and, of course the USMCA) which either ended in failure, largely failed or de minimis. The most outstanding example being the USMCA which will deliver less than ⅓ of 1% of growth in GDP.  We are currently in trade disputes with the EU and China, and the President continues to threaten Mexico and Canada, even in light of the green light on the USMCA for this summer.  It is all about the noise. 

A little musing to windup our visit.  Congresswoman Stefanik takes a sharp right turn about a year and a half ago, Mike Pence is a dud, POTUS needs a woman on his ticket, Elise travels to Tulsa, Tulsa is a dud, POTUS needs to shake up the campaign.  Poof Elise inserted onto ticket. You never know.  

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.

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