One look at the Dow Jones Industrial Average yesterday paints an ugly picture—it’s falling. There are a few minor causes of this, including Trump’s weird urge to attack various companies on Twitter, with a special eye on Amazon. As the Times pointed out, this is standard operating procedure for the man, and has been since before he was president. But his recent salvos against Jeff Bezos, which are 100% about his ownership of the Washington Post and not about Amazon at all—even though he frames it that way—take it up to a brand new level:
The really crazy part here? Trump has a point. Amazon is terrible, and he doesn’t even get into the way they treat their workers (abysmal). And the hashtag-resistance liberals who think they’re hurting Trump’s cause by buying lots of stuff from Amazon…well, they’re really dumb. But if Bezos didn’t own the Washington Post, and if Trump didn’t hate that paper for its constant justified criticism of him, none of this would be happening. Trump does not care about shady businesses (he runs a bunch), and so even if there’s validity to his point, written by some staffer, we all know where they’re coming from, and that feels weird.
That said, tweets like this only hurt Amazon, and probably only temporarily—the price is rebounding this week, despite antitrust threats. But the Chinese tariffs, on the other hand? That’s hitting everything. Here’s a very brief summary of what’s been happening from the Times:
Washington and Beijing have announced tariffs against each other, with the American actions being the latest in a series of protectionist moves by the Trump administration. President Trump has long accused China of unfair trade practices, and in recent weeks he has pushed for penalties against Chinese products as varied as steel, aluminum, aircraft parts and flat-screen televisions. China has responded in kind…
The protectionist moves by the White House have contributed to a reversal of much of the stock market gains that the president has trumpeted since he took office. The Dow, for example, has slipped in recent weeks to its lowest level this year, despite generally positive economic growth around the world and a tax overhaul in the United States that has helped bolster corporate profits.
The stock market is not the economy, and rising corporate profits don’t mean much for the average worker—in fact, the relationship is often inverse—but people don’t always understand that, and polls suggest that the perception of how our economy is doing is polarized by political affiliation. Even the enormously high levels of cognitive dissonance employed by Trump Republicans require some evidence—even the ginned up kind—and if the only economic feather in Trump’s cap is about to burn because of his own reactionary moves, where does that leave him? What does he have left, beyond appeals to tribalism? That might be a nice novelty act, but it’s not going to work more than once, and it’s going to blow up in his face if he undermines any of his so-called “accomplishments” with poorly conceived, reactionary policies.