Bill Owens: Confusing And Confounding Events 4/1/19

Apr 1, 2019

Mr. Trump announced that he was revoking sanctions that the Treasury Department was imposing on North Korea.  This is really confusing because the Treasury Department had not announced them before Mr. Trump revoked them.  It also appears that it was a surprise to the Treasury Department, including the Secretary as the revocation had not been discussed with them before it was announced. 

The Mueller Report was delivered to the Attorney General this past weekend with many in Congress calling for transparency, the Attorney General being less clear.  The Report according to Mr. Barr’s four page letter concluded that there was no evidence of collusion by Mr. Trump or his campaign.  The question of whether or not there was an obstruction of justice is somewhat cloudier. Mr. Barr is well-known for believing that the President cannot obstruct justice, although that is not the prevailing view of most Constitutional scholars, nor lawyers.  The recent disclosure that the Report was 300 pages cast doubt upon a four page summary.  Whether the President could be indicted or not, I think reasonable minds could disagree about.  We will learn more in the coming days and weeks, but I do think it is time for a bit of a reset and cessation of the drama.  Senator Graham indicates the report will be released in the coming weeks implying full transparency.  I wonder what we will learn.  We might all think about getting back to the glory days when we fought about policy in a civil and intellectual manner.

Several recent studies have indicated that the cost to consumers of the tariffs imposed by the President on China, Canada and Mexico is in the range of $1.4 billion a month.  These reports indicate that the tariffs have not been absorbed by business, but have rather been passed on to consumers, so it is not China bearing the brunt of tariffs except to the extent of decreased sales in the US, but rather you and I.  Any elemental understanding of the economics of tariffs would lead one to draw this same conclusion even without the benefit of the facts that these reports layout. 

It has now been made very clear by Canada that they will not pass the USMCA without the removal of the tariffs on steel and aluminum.  Mr. Lighthizer, during the past week has indicated the Trump administration, although they may agree to the removal of the tariffs will want quotas on the quantity of steel and aluminum allowed to be imported to the United States from Canada and Mexico.  Obviously, depending on how you structure those quotas, they could, in fact, have the same negative effect on Canadian and Mexican producers as tariffs. 

Mr. Trump continues to battle the news media, even going so far as to call them treasonous. This really does sound like the words of a small time dictator. 

The on again off again China trade deal is being reported to be moving in a more positive direction.  These reports have caused a rise in the stock market which was tamped down by a correction to the 2018 Fourth Quarter GDP results from 2.6% to 2.2%.  The hope is that a trade deal will positively effect the world economic picture.  Mr., Trump will find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Scientists in China have discovered that sun bears are able to facially respond to one another, and apparently able to communicate in this way.  This is a substantial surprise, as it has not been recognized before in other animals.  I note this only because it again reflects the diversity and intelligence of the Animal Kingdom on earth.  Hopefully, we continue to learn from them.

On March 28th, it was revealed that Mueller report is 300 pages and yet Mr. Barr reduced it to a summary of 4 pages.  One can only assume that Mr. Barr is adhering to his earlier clearly prejudiced opinion about this matter.  He is a person who should also be impeached.

For you History buffs.  The historian Herodotus described in 450BC a type of cargo boats that historians didn’t think existed.  Herodotus apparently had a reputation for exaggeration and puffery.  The particular discovery is a type of cargo boat which had never been seen before, and  no ruins had ever been recovered.  In 2000, an expedition discovered the sunken ruins of a ship that very much looks like what Herodotus described.  I share this historical note with you because I think it is interesting, and because I think it is always important to have the facts before making a judgment.  Even if those facts take 2500 years to come to the surface.

Mr. Trump’s greatest surprise of the week was when he announced that Republicans were going to develop a great health plan.  Republicans in Congress are scrambling to figure out what that plan might be particularly since Mr. Trump made mention of covering pre-existing conditions.  This of course raises the spector of a plan which would most likely be offensive to Republicans, and even more so to the Freedom Caucus.  If anything could throw confusion into the process and create additional stress for Republicans, I can’t think of more likely candidate.  This comes on the heels of Democrats making it very clear that Health Care is going to be one of the big issues in the 2020 Election as it was in the midterms, thus POTUS is making an effort to push back on Democrats- a smart strategy if his party was with him.

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.

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