Bill Owens: This Week's Confounding And Confusing Events

Jan 22, 2019

As the shut-down continues, Mr. Trump stands fast as do Democrats, federal workers are not paid, demonstrations and lawsuits are filed, TSA employees are calling in sick at greater rates, federal employees file for unemployment insurance, but the best is for last.  The White House Economic Advisor, Kevin Hassett said that federal employees who were not getting paid are better off because they don’t have to take vacation days.  If they could take vacation days, they would get paid and be able to pay their bills.  What planet is he on?

I commented last week about Congresswoman Tlaib’s comments for which she has yet to apologize.  Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez continues to speak so left leaning that she’s on the verge of tipping over. Hopefully this bright light will turn into a dwarf star.

The US starts moving materials out of Syria, Mr. Trump threatens to decimate the Turkish economy if the Kurds are attacked, and there appears to be little in the way of a plan.  I recall the Republicans angrily denouncing President Obama, for announcing a withdrawal as it threatened the lives of the troops.  It appears the Republicans no longer care about the lives of the troops, since they don’t see a problem with this loudly announced pull-out.

Huawei has been rocked with yet another arrest, this time in Poland for commercial espionage.  The US-Chinese trade negotiations ended with something of a whimper last week.  The US trade representative said that the two sides discussed “ways to achieve fairness, reciprocity, and balance in trade relations between our two countries.”  Sounds fairly obtuse to me; translation, no progress. The next move is to increase tariffs to 25% early in March of this year.  There are reports that companies are moving research and development to China to dodge import taxes (this one is in Rochester, New York); in California - a bio-medical and chip making company is losing money and might have to cut jobs; in Detroit – a metal stamping company that supplies the auto industry is losing business to foreign rivals because of the steel tariff.  Mr. Trump claims that billions in tariff income is falling into the Treasury, but this, if true, represents less than 1% of federal revenue, while the American manufacturers are suffering.  There is irony here, I thought tariffs were supposed to bring back manufacturing jobs.

Numerous stories broke on Russia in the past week, including the FBI counter-intelligence investigation which was reported by the New York Times and the Washington Post; the Supreme Court refused to hear an Appeal of a Motion to quash the Subpoena to a foreign government’s controlled corporation located in the US; Mr. Cohen agrees to testify before Congress and tell all; but again, the best for last, Secretary Mnuchin told Congress to “trust” the President on Russian sanctions.  He must have a very sharp wit.

The steel wall appears to be suspect as it can be cut with a common chainsaw.  Mr. Trump in 2016 said that Mexico would pay for the wall; in fact, they would make a $5-$10 billion payment; on January 11th, 2019, Mr. Trump says he never meant a check, but doesn’t explain how the $5-$10 billion will be paid.  Can Mr. Trump declare an emergency?  At first he says “yes”, then he says “maybe”, then he says “not right now” and then “not going to do that”.  Senator Graham proposed over this past weekend that a deal could be cut for a short-term reopening of the government, then backed away from that, saying POTUS would never agree without wall funding.  A bipartisan group of Senators is purportedly working on a deal; let’s see if they can get 66 votes, so it’s at least veto proof in the Senate.  The House needs about 50 Republicans.  It appears that even POTUS’ friends are unsure where this goes.

Bill McKibben, a noted environmentalist, spoke at the Plattsburgh Methodist Church on January 14, 2019.  Several hundred attended- lots of grey hair- and heard a well-reasoned argument for the need to act to save the environment.  Contemporaneously, scientists reported that the Antarctic ice sheet is melting away.  Not much will happen until coastal cities and vacation spots are flooded.  The question is, will it be too late.

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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