People have all but lost count of the number of times President Trump has taken credit for the roaring stock market. He has tweeted about it. He has boasted about it. He has crowed about the growth of retirement accounts. He talked up the market in his State of the Union address.
He has claimed it is all because of him. Literally. “The reason our stock market is so successful is because of me. I’ve always been great with money, I’ve always been great with jobs, that’s what I do,” the president said in November.
So, surely, you’d think, he would have a few words to say about the recent stock market rout, including Friday’s omen-like 666 point drop, followed by Monday’s 1,175 point plummet, which is, as many on television and radio kept reminding listeners, the largest one-day point drop in history.
Well, no. Donald Trump, a man of many words, Tweets, boasts and threats, is suddenly silent. When it comes to the latest financial gyrations, he’s currently letting various White House factotums do the heavy lifting. “Obviously the president did tout the stock market, but I would hardly say he focused on it,” Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley claimed to Fox Business Network on Tuesday morning.
This is hooey. Trump has long held up the stock market as proof of the strong economic performance of his first year — and has even claimed he has not gotten enough credit for it. Last month, he favorably tweeted a statement from Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney, who said: “President Trump is not getting the credit he deserves for the economy. Tax Cut bonuses to more than 2,000,000 workers. Most explosive Stock Market rally that we’ve seen in modern times. 18,000 to 26,000 from Election, and grounded in profitability and growth.”
So we know Trump wants credit for the stock market — at least, when it’s going up. But why has Trump seized on the stock market the way he has?
One possibility is that it has something to do with his obsession with “winning.” On MSNBC, The Post’s Damian Paletta came to a similar conclusion, and theorized it was a way for Trump to make up for less-than-stellar poll numbers. The surge in the market was tangible, something to grasp onto and boast about.
But Trump’s obsession with the stock market actually goes a long way in explaining why the strong economy has not translated into higher support for him.
Voters understand that Trump is not fully responsible for the market, and that taking credit for it is absurd. The current bull market — yes, it is still a bull market, at least for now — began early during the Obama administration. Over the course of President Barack Obama’s time in office, both the Dow and the S&P 500 increased by more than 200 percent. The trend was well-established by the time Trump took the oath of office.
What’s more, there is a reason that previous presidents did not take credit for the market to anywhere near the degree Trump has. Predicting the direction of the stock market has always been something of a fool’s errand. The same holds for the reasons why markets rise or fall. This is traditionally why the White House occupant rarely wades into this morass.
So in a way, it’s Trump’s constant need to boast about the economy — and the peculiarly absurd way he has done so — that have landed him in his current predicament. It’s going to be hard for many voters to forget his own irrational exuberance about the market performance since he’s been in the White House.
“If you break it, you own it,” is a sign we frequently see hanging in stores selling fragile items. In this case we might need a corollary: If you tell people you made it and are responsible for it, they will think you broke it when it looks like it might be shattering.