Bill Owens

Bill Owens: The New NAFTA

Oct 4, 2018

The U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement provides a new acronym USMCA which has no flow compared to NAFTA.  I would have been happier had they called it NAFTA II or some other creative name, none the less, we’re stuck with USMCA, sounds like YMCA if you remember that song.

Bill Owens: Quebec Provincial Election

Sep 26, 2018

The Quebec Provincial Election will be held on October 1, 2018 which is akin to our Gubernatorial election this November. There hasn’t been much in the US media about this election, other than the recent broadcast by Mountain Lake Public Television of a debate amongst the four main parties.

Bill Owens: November 2018

Aug 28, 2018

This election season has many interesting components to it.  We have a strong economy, including low unemployment and a stock market that surged and has now leveled off, the Mueller investigation, tariffs, a socialists’ faction on the Democratic side, the typical anti-Pelosi rhetoric, and, of course, the anti- Trump rhetoric.  These factors have generated enormous polarization.

Bill Owens: Is Trade Another Misdirection?

Aug 24, 2018

The answer to that question requires reading the latest tweet.  In terms of the two countries that have the most direct impact on the North Country, Canada and China, the game is still “on”. 

Bill Owens: Has Justice Kennedy Been Trumped?

Jul 6, 2018

Justice Kennedy has carefully constructed an image of an independent member of the court and the “swing” vote.  He has sided with liberal justices and conservative justices to create majorities over his thirty years on the Court. 

The last week has had any number of interesting developments regarding trade issues between the United States and China, as well as its various allies.  There has also been much consternation about the activities at the southern border regarding the separation of children from their families. 

In recent days the President and some of his attorneys have asserted that the President can pardon himself in the Department of Justice’s ongoing obstruction of justice investigation.  These statements are immediately followed by a qualification that the President has done nothing wrong, and therefore, does not need to pardon himself.  Constitutional scholars are torn on the extent of the President’s pardon powers as to him or herself, and whether or not the President can be indicted. 

Bill Owens: What's Up With The GOP And Farmers?

Jun 7, 2018

Maybe it’s not the GOP, but the Trump administration whose proposals on tax reform, trade, immigration and regulation are causing me to wonder, what’s up with the GOP and Farmers.? The latest attack on farmers occurred on May 17th, when the House Freedom Caucus defeated the farm bill. The reason given by the Freedom Caucus was its desire for a vote on a strict immigration law, and, apparently, there was concern that Speaker Ryan would be unable to deliver on the promise, of a vote, if they voted for the farm bill.

Bill Owens: Iranian Gamble

May 17, 2018

President Trump withdrew on May 8, 2018 from what is known as the Iranian Nuclear Deal.  Our European allies lobbied furiously urging the US to stay in, while Israel urged the US to withdraw.  Secretary Mattis and senior members of the military indicated that they believed Iran was in compliance with the agreement, while the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors indicated they were likely to buttress the conclusion of the Department of Defense by concluding that Iran is in compliance with the agreement, and that their inspectors would spot any attempt to build a weapon.

Bill Owens: What's The Plan For Syria?

Apr 19, 2018

Let me note that I have enormous concern for the suffering people of Syria, but ask do we have a strategy to assist them.

Bill Owens: What Is Next With NAFTA?

Apr 10, 2018

In a recent trip to Ottawa with Representative Elise Stefanik, along with Gary Douglas of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, Paul Grasso of The Development Corporation of Clinton County, Ron Kissen of the Franklin County Development Corporation, Jeremy Miller of the Franklin County IDA, Dave Zembeck of the Jefferson County Development Corporation, and Pat Kelly of the St. Lawrence County Development Corporation, we learned in a series of meetings the Canadian perspective on NAFTA. 

Bill Owens: NAFTA - Round 7 With A Twist

Mar 8, 2018

The seventh round of NAFTA negotiations are set to begin in Mexico City in the next several weeks, with the word coming out of Canada that the Canadians are very pessimistic about this process.  In particular, they view the Americans as having little, if any, flexibility due to the policies and rhetoric of the Trump administration. 

Bill Owens: The New Players In Healthcare

Feb 23, 2018

The announcement that Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and J. P. Morgan Chase are combining in some fashion to enter the healthcare marketplace, has the potential to create a new dynamic in healthcare. The number of employees under the control of these entities is significant as Amazon employs 154,000; Berkshire Hathaway employs 257,000; and J. P. Morgan Chase employs 191,000 for a total of 602,000. Tens of millions of Americans are insured through traditional insurance products.

Bill Owens: Law And Order

Feb 22, 2018

The Republicans have always touted themselves as the “Law and Order Party”, I am not quite sure what that means. They have branded themselves as the Law and Order Party and Strong Defense Party. It is always interesting to delve behind the facts and see who has been most supportive of defense and veterans rather than simply listening to the rhetoric. You might be surprised.

Bill Owens: A Weakening U.S. Dollar

Feb 15, 2018

President Trump and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin both recently indicated that they believe the US dollar should weaken against other currencies.  It is important to note that the US Government like all western countries does not control the currency exchange rate as opposed to countries in southeast Asia where the government dictates/manipulates its currency exchange rates.  China is famous for this, and President Trump rightfully has attacked them for this manipulation. 

Bill Owens: So, The State Of The Union

Feb 8, 2018

Reading the right and left’s reaction to President Trump’s State of the Union speech was nothing short of boring.  Go back eight years to President Obama’s first State of the Union speech and re-read the comments, largely the exact opposite from each side.  Go back eight years from then to President Bush’s first State of the Union speech and the comments reverse again, go back eight years to President Clinton’s first State of the Union, and the comments reverse, yet again.  Predictability is boring.  Recently, President Trump said Democrats who didn’t clap for him might be treasonous, so what does he think a Member of Congress who yelled “liar” at President Obama is?

Bill Owens: The Death Of Estate Planning

Feb 6, 2018

Excuse the pun, but with the federal exemption going to $11.2 million per person, one may initially conclude that there is little or any need left for estate planning.  Obviously, for the vast majority of us (around 99%) there would be very little to do in terms of federal estate tax planning.  New York State, however, retains its exemption at $5.2 million, which means there is a spread of almost $6 million, thus, the need for estate planning still exists for those with assets in excess of $5.2 million utilizing, if you will, the standard techniques of the marital deduction, life insurance (presumably using an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust), gifting,  and portability of exemptions.

The recently passed tax legislation known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 contains some significant negatives for New York taxpayers, and potentially for New York State.  Among the most notable are the limitations placed on the deductibility of state income taxes and real property taxes. This may be somewhat offset by the increase in the standard deduction to $12,000 for single filers and to $24,000 for a married couple filing jointly.  For many the increase in the standard deduction will eliminate the loss of the deductions for income taxes and real property taxes, but for others the answer is, it’s not even close.

Bill Owens: So Where Is NAFTA Now?

Jan 23, 2018

More and more commentators on both sides of the border are indicating that they believe Mr. Trump will withdraw from NAFTA. The Canadian government has undertaken a full court marketing blitz including government ministers to reach out to state governors, state legislators, members of Congress and economic developers in the many states with whom Canada does significant trade.

Bill Owens: We Stand Alone

Dec 5, 2017

The Trump administration continues to stand outside the playing field as others move forward with significant trade deals. The most recent evidence is the agreement of eleven nations to move forward with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) without U.S. participation. The new TPP Agreement includes not only Southeast Asian countries, but our neighbors, Canada and Mexico who are currently participants in NAFTA with us.

Bill Owens: Football And President Trump

Nov 9, 2017

This is not about President Trump’s tweeting about NFL players kneeling down during the National Anthem, but in admiration of his punting skills

Bill Owens: Free Speech

Oct 26, 2017

There have been a number of controversies regarding free speech on college campuses, including those at Middlebury and UC Berkeley.  The Wall Street Journal and others have written numerous stories and have opined about the intolerance of the left, conveniently ignoring the same intolerance on the right. 

Bill Owens: NAFTA Update

Oct 19, 2017

It appears that few of the critical issues have been resolved in the first two rounds of negotiations. Most of the press reports and insider commentary indicates that the process is not going particularly well, which was confirmed by two recent events. On Friday, October 6, 2017, the announcement by the U.S.’ chief negotiator that vehicles would have to have a specific level of US content as opposed to NAFTA content is a significant departure from previous positions held by the United States, though no specifics were provided. On October 11, 2017 Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit included threats from Mr. Trump to withdraw from NAFTA.

Bill Owens: Trump And The Democrats

Sep 12, 2017

On the evening of September the 6th, at a meeting with Mr. Trump, Ms. Pelosi and Messrs McConnell, Ryan, and Schumer a negotiation ensued to resolve the debt ceiling, Harvey relief and a Continuing Resolution (known as CR - that essentially extends current spending into the future when Congress can’t agree on specific appropriations bills).  There was a back and forth amongst the assembled with the initial offer from the Republicans being a proposal for an eighteen month CR and debt ceiling raise to be included with Harvey relief of $7.85 billion, this was countered by a three month proposal from the Democrats; the Republicans then countered only to be pushed aside by President Trump who agreed with the Democrats.

Bill Owens: The Health And Safety Land Account

Sep 7, 2017

A common sense Constitutional amendment has been put forward for a vote this November.  The State Assembly with strong leadership from Assemblyman D. Billy Jones and the State Senate with strong support from Senator Betty Little have voted in two consecutive years to move this amendment forward as well as having passed enabling legislation. The amendment creates a 250 acre land bank in the Adirondacks and the Catskills.  These two constitutionally protected areas of the state provide enormous green space which aid in the protection of our environment and are major attractions for tourism and recreation bringing tens of thousands of visitors from outside of New York.  This is the second proposal that I recall which provided for a common sense response to the needs of Adirondack communities.  Several years ago, a land swap occurred in Essex County for the NYCO mining facility, which was a hotly contested amendment to the state Constitution, but nonetheless, it passed and NYCO was allowed to expand in exchange for returning land of equal size to the Adirondack Park. 

A recent story in the Wall Street Journal indicated that Alibaba’s revenue will grow fifty percent (50%) due to an increase in sales to China’s growing middle class.  The dynamics of that reality may well cause a shift in Chinese production towards its own middle class, and thus, a shift in the utilization of resources for that production.  The level of Chinese exports to the United States in 2015 was $483,188,700,000 and 2016 was $462,618,100,000, resulting in a U.S. trade deficit during each of those years of $367,256,700,000  and $347,016,000,000  respectively.

Bill Owens: NAFTA Talks

Sep 1, 2017

The United States, Canada and Mexico had their first day of negotiations on Wednesday August 13th, 2017. Prior to the U.S. Trade Representatives, Robert Lighthizer, remarks it was difficult to determine the direction those negotiations might take and their impact on our region. Most of what takes place in Washington has little direct impact on our region. NAFTA is a major exception to that axiom. 

Bill Owens: What Is Next For Healthcare?

Aug 25, 2017

The Republican Senate’s third failed attempt at repeal and/or replace was a surprise to many, including this writer.  I believed they would get something passed, even for the limited purpose of getting a bill back to the House, and into conference committee.  Senator Graham subsequently announced he had a plan which he would move forward with, but that too seems to have died as Senator McConnell said the Senate is moving on.  President Trump has continued to attack on Twitter those Republican Senators who voted against the last Senate bill, Mr. McConnell and Republicans in general for the failure to pass healthcare reform.       A group of house members from the “Common Sense Caucus” have issued a set of principles to create a framework for healthcare reform.  As yet, beyond the press release, not much has happened.  Will Republicans revisit healthcare, or, in fact, let the repeal and replace mantra die.

Bill Owens: Georgia Six - A Surprise?

Jul 4, 2017

There have been four special congressional elections since Mr. Trump was elected president, and Republicans have prevailed in each instance.  The Georgia Sixth Congressional District election was heralded as an opportunity to take back a district that had been held by Republicans for more than forty years; nonetheless, it went Republican again by four percentage points, while Mr. Trump won by roughly one percent.

Bill Owens: What's Going On With Trade?

Jun 30, 2017

On the Canadian front, on May 18, the Trump administration gave formal notice that it was proceeding toward a renegotiation of NAFTA.  There have been some general hints at the direction the administration will take, including the issues that might be negotiated. Some believe that this will be simply a tweak; others believe it will be a potentially massive rewrite of NAFTA.  Many groups are urging the Trump administration to focus on tweaks rather than dramatic changes.