President Donald Trump has been promoting record high valuations on the Dow Jones industrial average as proof of his supposed economic accomplishments and has attacked news outlets for not covering the stock market gains and steady job creation during the first six months of his presidency. In response to both his boasts and his frequent criticism, journalists have been quick to point out that Trump deserves little credit for positive economic trends that predate his administration given his lack of substantive policy accomplishments while in office.
Trump promotes jobs report, stock market gains as proof of his success
Trump takes credit for steady job creation, business confidence, and record stock market values. In the past week, President Donald Trump has tweeted praise for “record levels” of American business enthusiasm and “all-time” high stock market valuations while bemoaning that “mainstream media seldom mentions” the recent financial surge. On August 4, Trump boasted about the “Excellent Jobs Numbers” released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) while claiming that his work as a job creator had “only just begun”:
Business is looking better than ever with business enthusiasm at record levels. Stock Market at an all-time high. That doesn't just happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2017
Stock Market could hit all-time high (again) 22,000 today. Was 18,000 only 6 months ago on Election Day. Mainstream media seldom mentions!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2017
Excellent Jobs Numbers just released - and I have only just begun. Many job stifling regulations continue to fall. Movement back to USA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 4, 2017
Journalists, experts explain absurdity of Trump claiming credit for economy and whining about inadequate coverage
Wash. Post’s Abby Phillip: When it comes to jobs numbers, “you live by the sword, you die by the sword.” On the August 4 edition of CNN’s Inside Politics, Washington Post reporter Abby Phillip noted that Trump’s constant boasts about the economy could be dangerous for his popularity with his supporters if the recovery he inherited begins to slow, noting, “You live by the sword, you die by the sword.” [CNN, Inside Politics, 8/4/17]
Economist Austan Goolsbee: 2017 economic figures look “almost exactly” like those of 2016, but Trump is taking credit for it. On the August 4 edition of CNN Newsroom, University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee -- a former economic adviser to President Barack Obama -- opened a discussion of the monthly jobs report from BLS by pointing out that the 2017 figures for job creation resemble the same figures from last year “almost exactly.” Goolsbee then noted that Trump had bemoaned positive economic indicators this time last year, calling the job market “phony,” but now amid 83 consecutive months of private sector job creation “he is taking credit.” [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 8/4/17]
CNN’s Alison Kosik: Job creation is positive, but “not quite trending to the 25 million” Trump promised to create this decade. On the August 4 edition of CNN’s New Day, correspondent Alison Kosik briefly summarized the July jobs report by noting that job creation was “better than expected” but still “not quite trending to the 25 million” new jobs Trump promised to create over the next 10 years. [CNN, New Day, 8/4/17]
Economist Jared Bernstein: “Donald Trump doesn’t have much to do with the job market.” On the August 4 edition of MSNBC Live, economist Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) said, “Donald Trump doesn’t have much to do with the job market, which is running off of momentum that was already in place.” Bernstein also added that average monthly job creation under Trump is roughly the same as it was in the last months of the Obama administration. And in response to Trump’s boasts about record high stock markets, he reiterated that the vast majority of stock market gains under Trump have been realized by the wealthiest 10 percent of investors. [MSNBC, MSNBC Live, 8/4/17]
Morning Joe: Trump has no reason to take credit for the economy. On the August 3 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, analyst Steve Rattner pointed out that stock market increases during Trump’s first six months in office actually underperformed stock market growth during Obama’s first six months in office. Further undermining Trump’s boasts, Rattner added that in reality, “the stock market is for wealthy people” and not a good proxy for broad economic gains, which are better reflected by monthly job growth figures that are lagging slightly behind the pace set in 2016. Rattner also reminded viewers that the president had no real reason to brag about his economic record because the Trump administration has had “zero impact” on the economy in terms of policies enacted. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 8/3/17]
Early Start: Wall Street more focused on Apple earnings reports than on Trump. On the August 3 edition of CNN’s Early Start, co-host Alison Kosik called Trump the stock markets’ “cheerleader-in-chief,” but she noted that while the rally at the start of Trump’s administration was prompted by the president’s calls for tax reform, Trump’s agenda has since fallen apart and the market is instead looking toward corporate earnings. In fact, Kosik reported it was Apple’s earnings report on August 2 that surged its stock and pushed the Dow Jones industrial average above 22,000 points for the first time ever -- not Trump. [CNN, Early Start, 8/3/17]
MSNBC’s Ali Velshi: Trump’s claims on the economy are “nonsensical” and “disingenuous.” On the August 2 edition of MSNBC Live, co-host Ali Velshi mocked Trump’s claims that the press never covers the stock market, saying, “I don't know what I've been doing for the last 22 years of my career.” Velshi also took the president to task for claims of exceptional economic growth, noting that 2.6 percent of economic growth for the second quarter of this year was a quarterly growth level witnessed 14 times under Obama. [MSNBC, MSNBC Live, 8/2/17]
Mother Jones: “There’s just no evidence of any kind of serious Trump effect.” On August 3, Mother Jones reported that the stock market has followed the same bull market trend line for the last eight years, since the end of the Great Recession in June 2009, and that there was “no evidence” of a “Trump effect”:
[Mother Jones, 8/3/17]
MSNBC’s Steve Benen: “Roosters like taking credit for the sunrise, but that doesn’t make it so.” In an August 3 blog post, MSNBC producer Steve Benen outlined the problems with Trump claiming credit for the economy and recent stock market gains. Benen reported that the stock market had tripled under the last president, and he cautioned Trump that stocks are not a “presidential report card,” noting that gains can just as easily reverse regardless of the president’s policy agenda. Benen also questioned whether Trump would take ownership of such a market correction in the same way he has tried to take credit for the recent expansion (emphasis original):
1. The stock market is not a presidential report card. Though Trump administration officials have explicitly argued otherwise, to see the markets as a barometer of economic health is a mistake. Sometimes the markets go up during tough economic times, sometimes they go down during good economic times.
2. Live by Wall Street, die by Wall Street. Will Trump World continue to see the markets as the only metric that matters if there’s a correction? Somehow, I doubt it.
3. Obama. Under Trump’s predecessor, the markets nearly tripled in value. If Wall Street performance is a measure of a president’s economic successes, Trump must see Barack Obama as a legendary genius.
4. We still remember Trump’s pre-election rhetoric. As recently as last year, Candidate Trump said the markets were inflated, stuck in a “bubble,” and poised to crash. Whatever happened to those concerns?
5. Roosters like taking credit for the sunrise, but that doesn’t make it so. Yes, the markets have steadily gained this year, just as they’ve steadily gained in recent years. Is there any reason to believe this is a reflection of Trump’s policies? Given that the president hasn’t actually done anything in terms of economic policy, it’s a stretch. [MSNBC.com, 8/2/17]
CNN: Trump should take note that the stock market has hit an “all-time high in 30 of the last 54 months.” An August 2 article on CNN.com reported that Trump should take note that stocks have repeatedly hit new all-time highs over the last several years. CNN reported that the while the Dow Jones did hit 22,000 on August 2 -- a new record -- the same stock index had set record highs in 30 of the last 54 months. [CNN.com, 8/2/17]
Politico: Stock performance has little to do with the economy. In an August 2 Politico article titled “Trump is fooling himself with the Dow,” Assistant Editor Danny Vinik reported that economists have found a weak connection at best between stock market performance and economic growth. Vinik continued that if Trump wanted to better assist his voters he should focus on labor participation and productivity growth:
The Dow, of course, isn’t unrelated to the economy. The index of 30 large publicly traded companies is a popular proxy for the health of America’s largest businesses. If the Dow were crashing, it would be a real sign of trouble. But economists have frequently found little relationship between returns on stock investments and real economic growth. For example, a major 2002 study, from three economists, looked at equity returns and per capita gross domestic product growth for 16 nations from 1900 to 2000 and found little evidence that stronger equity returns correlated with stronger long-run economic growth. [Politico, 8/2/17]
Vice: The stock market is just for rich people. On August 2, Vice staff writer Eve Peyser wrote that the stock market overwhelmingly benefits the wealthiest households and mocked Trump for cheering on the stock market because of “something he saw on FOX & Friends.” Peyser pointed out that the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans own 90 percent of investments, and that would mean Trump’s administration is little more than a boon for the big business and the rich:
Great news, my dear plebians! On Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average traded above 22,000 for the first time. According to the president's analysis of something he saw on FOX & Friends, “Corporations have NEVER made as much money as they are making now,” and if you weren't already aware, Trump wants you to know that the “U.S. Stock Market up almost 20% since Election!”
As Sean McElwee, an analyst at Demos and Demos Action, explained in a 2015 article, “fewer than half of Americans own stocks, and the top 10 percent richest Americans owned nearly 90 percent of all stocks, bonds, trusts and business equity in 2013.” So when Donald Trump repeatedly brags about how well the stock market is doing since he's been in office, the subtext is that the Trump era is very good for the upper class. [Vice, 8/2/17]