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Why you should stop laughing at Trump over a stock market correction

Chris Taylor

Repeat after me: The Dow Jones Industrial Average is not the stock market. The stock market is not the economy. And nobody should be treating short-term shifts in any of the above as fodder for their political fights on Twitter. 

It was probably inevitable that Donald Trump would be ignorant of all this. After a month of tweeting (25 times) about a rising stock market that he falsely claimed the "fake news media" was ignoring, the president was silent during a multi-day sell-off that saw the Dow plummet from just over 26,000 on Thursday, Feb. 1, to just over 24,000 on Tuesday, Feb. 6 — the fastest drop, by percentage, in the index's history. 

This Wednesday featured a brief rebound into 25,000 territory, but the market's increasing volatility was a sign of what was to come. Things got worse on Thursday, which saw another thousand-point drop.

Wednesday, of course, also saw what has to stand as one of Trump's most nonsensical and monomaniacal tweets:

The president has apparently taken to threatening global markets over a sell-off because he doesn't think it tracks to his interpretation of the news. It's hard not to see this the greatest example of the hubris of power since King Canute sat on a beach and told the tide it was making a big mistake.

And yet Trump's legion of supporters on Twitter and on Fox News joined in. This was good sport. They cheered the stock market rebound on Wednesday as they might cheer the Patriots roaring back into the lead in the third quarter of the Super Bowl. The Trump effect is real, they cried. 

There's not much point in educating Trumpists on this score, but let's give it a shot anyway. The stock market, in as much as it can be said to have a single mind, is not acting for or against the president. It doesn't care about the health of the economy as a whole. If there is any one cause of the precipitous drop, it is largely in reaction to the threat of inflation, which may happen as a result of rising wages and low unemployment. 

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This is an ongoing global problem affecting global markets, it may well continue over the next couple of weeks, and it has nothing to do with Trump's take on good (great) news.

So far so Trumpian. But there's an equally disturbing development among many people who ought to know better. On the resistance side of Twitter, some users have taken the approach that if Trump is hurt politically by a stock market sell-off, a stock market sell-off must be a good thing. 

It should go without saying that this isn't a joke, and that making it one won't endear the resistance to  independents and others occupying the middle ground. 

A stock market correction doesn't just stick it to the president, Republicans and Wall Street fat cats. It affects your retirement, wiping millions off the value of 401ks. It affects pension funds — the world's largest traders — most of all. 

The fat cats have plenty of cushion; unless they've over-leveraged themselves, they'll be fine. Your neighbor heading into retirement, not so much. 

No president, no political party, owns the markets. Not even if they're annoying you by taking credit for a rally. Not even if it would help your side in mid-term elections.

As we know too well, Trump has decided to define himself and his political legacy by opposing everything President Obama was for, whether he considers it good for the country or not. It would be a terrible mistake for his opposition to fall into the same trap. 

In short, let's be sanguine about the markets. They rise and fall in the short term, and steadily rise in the long term (just like temperatures in our current climate-changed world, in fact.) Stock market indices know no political party. They affect everyone in myriad unseen ways. And they will continue to do so long after the current King Canute has left office.