IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

On the stock market, Trump World invites the wrong comparison

Trump World and its allies want to compare this president's record on the stock market to Obama's. That's really not a good idea.
U.S.  President Obama meets with President-elect Trump in the White House Oval Office in Washington
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office in Washington, U.S.,...

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told CNBC's John Harwood last week that recent stock market growth was one of the reasons he supports the Republican tax plan. Referring to Wall Street's hot streak, the Oklahoma congressman said, "I didn't see anything like that in the Obama years."

Perhaps that's because Cole wasn't paying close enough attention during Barack Obama's presidency. As Harwood explained in his piece, the Dow Jones Industrial Average "more than doubled under President Obama, and had risen more in percentage terms by this point in Obama's first year than in Trump's."

And yet, Republicans keep picking this fight, convinced that it offers proof of ... something. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued this week that the bull market is proof of the "amazing" results that occur "when you put a businessman instead of a liberal politician in the White House."

As is too often the case, Sanders appears badly confused. Axios had a helpful report today:

President Trump likes to talk about the stock market's strong performance since took office, including how the S&P 500 keeps hitting record highs. But, in terms of percentage growth, the index's performance under Trump actually lags its performance through the first 11 months of President Obama and the first President Bush.Obama also oversaw stronger percentage performance for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and NASDAQ over his first 11 months in office than has Trump, although the two inherited much different sorts of economies.

Obama inherited an economy in crisis, turned things around, and the markets soared. Trump inherited a healthy economy, and immediately took credit for its strength, despite creating few new economic policies of his own.

My point isn't that Wall Street is struggling under Trump. In fact, the markets have had a very good year and investors have reason to be pleased. But the president and his allies have somehow convinced themselves that the bull market is not only evidence of Trump's genius, but also that Obama's record on this metric pales in comparison to his successor's.

The trouble, of course, is that reality keeps getting in the way. If recent Wall Street gains are proof of Trump's first-year brilliance, can we assume his allies are ready to put Obama on Mount Rushmore?

Postscript: As a presidential candidate, Trump encouraged Americans to distrust Obama's stock market gains. "Believe me: We're in a bubble right now. And the only thing that looks good is the stock market — but if you raise interest rates even a little bit, that's going to come crashing down," Trump said. "We are in a big, fat, ugly bubble. And we better be awfully careful."

Whatever happened to that guy?