By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Stocks are soaring. Last year the major stock market indices all were up over the year and 2013 has been a banner year with the Dow up more than 10% since January 1. That has not translated to small business owners. The National Federation of Independent Business’ monthly Index of Small Business Optimism increased 1.9 points in February to 90.8 an improvement over the past several months but still below the trough of the 1991-92 and 2001-02 recessions.
Rosemary Elebash, state director of NFIB/Alabama, said what’s happening locally is a reflection of national trends. Elebash said, “The bottom line is that small, family-owned businesses still don’t have a lot of confidence. Small-business owners are still wary about where we’re headed.”
NFIB/Alabama is the state’s largest small-business association.
NFIB’s Chief Economist, Bill Dunkelberg, agreed, “While the Fortune 500 are enjoying record earnings, Main Street earnings remain depressed. Far more firms report sales down quarter over quarter than up.”
Dunkelberg said, “Washington is manufacturing one crisis after another—the debt ceiling, the fiscal cliff and the sequester,” he said. “Spreading fear and instability are certainly not a strategy to encourage investment and entrepreneurship. Three-quarters of small-business owners think that business conditions will be the same or worse in six months. The Index gained almost 2 points last month; that was good news. But, until owners’ forecast for the economy improves substantially, there will little boost to hiring and spending from the small business half of the economy.”
Business owners reported that weak sales is still the top business problem. The net percentage of business owners reporting higher nominal sales over the past three months was unchanged in February, at a negative 9 percent. More owners reported declining sales than reported positive sales trends.
13% of small employers reported profits higher quarter to quarter while 43 percent reported profits falling.
Both the Dow and the S&P 500 posted record highs this week.
The gains have come after strong corporate earnings reports, and has been driven by accommodative monetary policy from the Federal Reserve. Concerns remain however over U.S. government gridlock, overseas economic weakness, and the growing federal debt.
Stock mutual funds continued to attract cash in February. Bond funds also drew new money despite near record low interest rates. In January and February a net $32 billion has flowed into stock mutual funds. Net deposits into bond funds totaled $64 billion in the first two months of 2013.
Slow absentee voting in Tuscaloosa sparks outrage, possible legal action
Long lines and slow absentee ballot processing in Tuscaloosa County have left voters outraged and the Doug Jones campaign threatening legal action.
On Wednesday, Jones’ campaign attorney, Adam Plant, sent a letter to Tuscaloosa County Circuit Clerk Magaria Bobo, outlining a number of issues with ongoing absentee voting and promising to take legal action if Bobo doesn’t improve the process on the final day, Friday. Among the issues documented by Plant were incredibly long lines that left some voters waiting more than five hours and an inefficient process that managed to take in fewer than 100 absentee ballots in six hours.
Additionally, Plant noted that Bobo has hired her family members to help process absentee ballots and at least one family member had made disparaging remarks on social media about voters.
“You and those acting on your behalf are suppressing the vote of qualified Alabama voters,” Plant wrote in the letter. “If you are unable or unwilling to execute your duties competently, and allow Tuscaloosa voters to exercise their voting rights without undue burdens, we will take further action.”
In an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser on Wednesday, Bobo noted that her office had received more than 13,000 requests for absentee ballots — a remarkable uptick from the 3,000 or so her office usually receives — and there had been problems in managing that number of ballots while also adhering to social distancing guidelines within the office.
However, as Plant’s letter notes, the massive increase in absentee ballots for this election shouldn’t have been a surprise. Also, Secretary of State John Merrill had made additional funds available to absentee managers to facilitate hiring extra staff, purchasing additional computers and staying open longer hours to accommodate the anticipated increase.
In a press release on Wednesday, the Alabama Democratic Party criticized Bobo and her family members, and the release included screenshots of Facebook posts from Bobo’s daughter lashing out at voters who complained about the long wait times.
“No voter should have to wait in line for hours to exercise their rights,” said ADP executive director Wade Perry. “We should leverage every tool we have to make voting easier, not harder. Also, it should go without saying that election workers should not insult the very people they are employed to serve. If Ms. Bobo is incapable of processing voters quickly, someone else needs to do the job.”
Jones campaign calls Tuberville a “coward” after no-show at Auburn forum
There are only four days left before election day and the Doug Jones re-election campaign is slamming challenger Tommy Tuberville accusing him of “hiding” and calling him a “coward.”
On Wednesday, Jones addressed an Auburn University forum.
“Tonight, the College Democrats and College Republicans at Auburn University co-hosted a debate between Doug Jones and Tommy Tuberville, offering students a chance to ask the candidates about the issues that matter most to Alabama,” the Doug Jones campaign said in an email to supporters. “But Tuberville never showed up – he’s too scared to face Doug… even on his own home turf. Tuberville has repeatedly refused to debate Doug Jones. He’s consistently refused to be interviewed by the press. He’s refused to tell Alabama the truth about who and what they’re voting for – and it’s clear why.”
“Tuberville is hiding because he knows that on every front – policy, experience, character, competence – he loses to Doug Jones. Hands down,” the Doug Jones campaign continued. “If he won’t tell the truth, we will. Tuberville expects to win this race off of his blind allegiance to the President and his party affiliation. But Alabamians know better.”
“People deserve to know who they’re really voting for if they vote for Tuberville: someone who…won’t protect our health care, doesn’t believe in science, has no idea what the Voting Rights Act is, and doesn’t care about the lives and livelihoods of Alabamians,” the Jones campaign concluded. “Alabama will never elect a coward. Pitch in now and help us spread the truth about the man hiding behind the ballot.”
“I am disappointed that Tommy Tuberville is not here,” Jones said. “I think it is important that people see two candidates side by side answering the same questions.”
Tuberville meanwhile is canvassing the state speaking to rallies and Republican groups to turn out the Republican vote for himself and President Donald J. Trump. Tuberville spoke at Freedom Fest in Madison County on Thursday and at the Trump Truck Parade rally in Phenix City.
“It’s time Alabama had a U.S. senator who represents our conservative beliefs and traditional values,” Tuberville said in Phenix City. “It’s time Alabama had a U.S. senator who supports the Second Amendment, the right to life, and putting God back in the classroom.”
Polling consistently show Tuberville with a commanding lead over Jones. Real Clear Politics lists the race on their current board as a likely Republican win.
FiveThirtyEight currently estimates that Joe Biden has an 89.0 percent chance of winning the presidential election. Trump they give just a ten percent chance and there a one percent chance of an Electoral College tie. The website’s models now estimate that the Democrats have a 77 percent chance of winning at least 50 seats in the Senate. They however are predicting that Tommy Tuberville has a 79 percent chance of defeating Doug Jones and they have been criticized in the past for being overly friendly in their predictions to Democrats. They gave Trump just a 30 percent chance of beating Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Tuberville says election is about “the American dream”
Thursday, Tommy Tuberville spoke at Freedom Fest asking Madison County voters to support him and re-elect Donald J. Trump Tuesday.
The former Auburn University head football Coach told the estimated crowd of 350 that, “It is great to be here. This has been a lot of fun for me. Two years ago, my wife and I started to pray on whether or not to run. When we decided to run, she said don’t come back until you win.”
“This is a very serious election,” Tuberville said. “This is not about Donald Trump. It is not about me. It is not about Biden or Jones. It is about the American dream. They are trying to take it away from us.”
“I always told my players this: this country gives you the opportunity to fail and if you fail you get back up and try again,” Tuberville said. “When I was growing up in Arkansas I wanted to be a college football coach. People in high school laughed at me for it and people in college. It takes perseverance.”
Tuberville said that this country gives you the opportunity to succeed, more so than any other country in the world. Most of the rest of the world is socialist.
Tuberville warned that the other side is trying to turn America into a socialist country.
“We are not going to let them ruin this country,” Tuberville vowed.
The 2020 Madison County GOP Freedom Fest was held at the brand new Toyota Field, the new home of the Huntsville Trash Pandas minor league baseball team.
Tuberville praised President Trump whom “I have gotten to know through all of this and we have become friends. He never slows down; and he is sharp as a tack.”
Tuberville said that the President once called him at 2:30 in the morning, “He said sleep is overrated.”
To protect the American dream we need to vote on Tuesday to keep the Senate and get Donald Trump re-elected.”
Tuberville said that he has spoken with, “A lot of people who as nervous as I am about Tuesday.” Coach Tuberville, who is being outspent, urged the crowd to ignore all of the television ads by his opponent, incumbent Senator Doug Jones (D).
Tuberville vowed to defend the Second Amendment if elected, “They ain’t getting my guns….or your guns.”
“We need to get God back in our schools and teach values again,” Tuberville stated. “The other side does not talk about values and morals.”
We are not going to allow them to tear down our country,” Tuberville said. “God will not allow them.”
“We are going to get God back in our country like it is supposed to be,” Tuberville said.
Coach Tuberville was introduced to the crowd by State Senator Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville).
Scofield said that he “is ready to send Doug Jones back to California.”
“Yes I know he is actually from here; but he sure votes like California. He certainly doesn’t vote like the vast majority of the people of Alabama want him to vote.”
Scofield called Tuberville is “A fighter” who will stand up for the values of the people of Alabama.
Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) said, “This is the most important election of my lifetime.”
“Do we believe in freedom and liberty or do we believe in socialism?” Brooks said. “We need to beat them like a drum.”
The general election is on Tuesday. You must bring a valid photo ID with you to your assigned polling place in order to participate.
Secretary of State John H. Merrill predicted that the state would have record participation on Tuesday.
State is cleaning up after Hurricane Zeta
Thursday, the state of Alabama began working on recovering from Hurricane Zeta.
“Zeta gave us a real pounding, and many areas are just beginning the clean up process,” said Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose). “The storm had an especially serious impact in north Mobile County, Washington County, and Clarke County. My staff and I stand ready to assist our city, county, and state partners to ensure folks get the help they need to clean up and rebuild.”
Almost 500,000 Alabama Power customers were without power immediately following the storm, including 163,000 in Mobile County alone.
“Our storm team is working into the evening replacing downed lines and poles to restore service for our customers,” Alabama Power announced on Twitter. “At 9:30 p.m., 258,000 customers remain without service across the state.” “As of 6 a.m. there are 243,000 outages across the state.”
There was damage across much of the state. As Hurricane Zeta moved through Alabama, it left behind many problems. Thousands of trees are down. There are trees down on homes, businesses, cars, power lines, fences, barns, and blocking roadways.
Some school systems are closed or are conducting classes remotely on Friday due to ongoing cleanup efforts and the widespread power outages. The schools plan to reopen Monday.
Flooding from the higher than expected storm surge hit downtown Mobile according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
The National Weather Service said that water in parts of Mobile Bay rose to “major flooding” levels overnight on October 28 to 29.
Rep. Byrne warned constituents to be careful using chainsaws in the cleanup and using generators to power their homes and businesses.
The Alabama Department of Public Health warned that, “It might take longer than normal to get power and water back up after #HurricaneZeta. Take steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning if you’re using a generator.”
Portable generators should be kept OUTSIDE of the home. Carbon monoxide can build up rapidly if you are using a generator inside of a building. Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, and it kills hundreds of Americans each year.
Because the storm was moving so rapidly, it was not just the coastal counties that were hit hard by Hurricane Zeta. Elmore, Butler, Shelby, and Calhoun Counties are among the many counties with extensive damage.
The state was already recovering from Hurricane Sally in September.