Despite the attention lavished on the Dow by President Donald Trump, the stock market is not necessarily a reflection of the economy.

Share story

Addressing what was important on the campaign trail, President Bill Clinton famously said during his 1992 campaign for the White House, “The economy, stupid.” The quip resonated with voters struggling through a recession, and it holds up in most economic climates, even in good times, like now–unless you are talking about the stock market.

The Dow Jones industrial average might pack the excitement of a minor sporting event and be fun to check on your phone during a meeting, but as many economic writers reminded us this week, it is not the economy.

Seattle Times business columnist Jon Talton pointed that out in a column: “Thus, even with sell-offs Friday and Monday giving up all the market’s gains for the year, the ‘real’ economy is strong, with low unemployment, wages finally starting to rise, strong industrial production and robust trade deficit testifying to Americans buying more (alas, though, saving less, but that’s a long-term trend).”

This week in Trump

This is one in a continuing series of weekly posts that collect some of the most interesting news stories about Trump. Let us know what you think.

The casual economic observer can be forgiven for getting caught up in the ups and downs of the stock market, especially when the President spends so much time touting its historic rise. The markets steep fall late last week and early this week, meanwhile, was greeted with Twitter silence until Wednesday. The Dow closed down 1,032 points Thursday.

So let’s set aside the stock market and ponder the state of the economy. By all measures it is healthy and people are pleased. The happiest are the workers for the more than 300 companies who received bonuses this year. The CEOs of these companies are largely attributing the bonuses to the tax bill Trump signed into law in December. As nice as those bonuses are, a significant marker of the tax bill’s success will be whether it creates sustained wage growth.

What about those bonuses? Danny Westneat took a contrarian view, warning workers not to get too excited because the money used for those bonuses is “flat-out borrowed money.” He points out that the U.S. Treasury Department needs to borrow nearly a trillion dollars in 2018 to pay for the recently passed tax-cuts and unpaid-for spending.

And what about all that spending? Congress is attempting to pass a $1.5 trillion dollar tax cut. The tax cut coupled with a the budget agreement to increase federal spending by the billions could make for a larger boost of the economy than the stimulus package championed and signed into law by President Barack Obama that helped pull the nation from the Great Recession, wrote Jim Tankersley in The New York Times.

For those of us who remember the stimulus battles of the Great Recession, it might be hard to bend your mind around Republicans running up enormous deficits. Remember the Budget Control Act of 2011? Not sure Congress does either, with the exception of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. The bipartisan budget agreement blows past the limits established in the 2011 act. The Wall Street Journal offers a quick read detailing the political positions from the Obama years and how the Republicans are finished with austerity.

Do one-time Republican ideals of states’ rights and economic austerity matter anymore in a political environment predicated on winning at all costs? That raises the question whether Trump is winning. The economy was going strong under Obama’s leadership and has continued at a good clip under Trump. The president’s handling of the economy, the tax bill, deregulation, and the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate are some of the things Trump has accomplished that Republicans have long dreamed of. A lengthy essay this week in the National Review lays out Trumps wins and why they matter. For every glowing essay, it is easy to find a counter argument, such as James Fallows at The Atlantic, who takes a darker view of Trump’s presidency and his embrace of fascism.

The one thing Americans can agree on is that we will never agree on Trump or the impacts and legacy of his first year in the White House.