Former President Trump is seeking credit for a stock market boom under President Biden as his rival largely brushes aside a strong run for Wall Street.
Trump, who tied himself to the stock market as president, is attempting to claim responsibility for a spate of new stock records under Biden.
But while Biden is ramping up his economic sales pitch, he’s avoided boasting about the stock market — and the political risks that come with it.
The former president said polls showing him ahead of Biden in a hypothetical 2024 rematch are driving an optimistic outlook on Wall Street and that “investors are projecting” he wins in November. Most market experts, however, say stocks are rallying in anticipation of the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates and hopes the U.S. avoids a recession.
The attempt from Trump to claim credit highlighted the fact Biden rarely talks about the stock market, despite the recent record highs.
Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, a former chief economist at the Commerce Department under former President Obama, said focusing on lower inflation and a strong economy, which led to highs for the stock market, is a better way to communicate with Americans.
“I like the idea that this administration is focused on the eye of the tiger. The eye of the tiger is all these things that culminate into performance in the stock market, the things that really affect that expectation about future growth, future earnings,” she said.
“So, if you’re focused on … the things that cause the stock market to go up, you’re serving the entire American public,” added Hughes-Cromwick, a fellow at the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way.
The president spends his fair share of time talking about his economic agenda and gives weekly speeches about manufacturing, lowering costs, and growing the middle class without mentioning the stock market.
The Biden campaign argues Biden’s lack of focus on the stock market is a positive for the president against Trump.
“The president knows most Americans don’t experience the economy through the stock market. That’s why instead he’s focused on gas prices being down, 14 million new jobs being created, unemployment at record lows, and pay for low-wage workers growing at the fastest pace in decades,” a senior spokesperson for the campaign told The Hill.
“Trump talks about the stock market because he’s focused on delivering for Park Avenue,” the spokesperson added. “During his presidency, he passed a tax scam that rigged the economy for big corporations at the expense of Main Street businesses, and just last week he promised to deliver an even larger corporate giveaway.”
Biden and Trump have sought to use the wild swings of the U.S. economy to their political advantage as they head toward a likely rematch.
The president and his Democratic supporters often tout the record-breaking number of jobs added under Biden, who took office as the economy was already rebounding from the COVID-19 recession. They also rip Trump, who presided over a strong economy until the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, for leaving office with fewer Americans employed.
Most economists say the rapid economic rebound cannot be taken for granted and that Biden likely accelerated it with robust stimulus. But Trump, they add, cannot be blamed for the labor market impact of a pandemic that upended the global economy.
Biden is also attempting to win voters over after two years of high inflation, particularly those who were left out of the stock market rally. Economists argue the strategy of not talking about it is a smart one.
“As an economist, I totally approve of the Biden admin’s decision to not tout stock market gains as evidence of their general approach to policymaking. As everybody says — and they’re right about this — the stock market isn’t the economy,” said Josh Bivens, research director at the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank.
Bivens noted about 85 to 90 percent of corporate equities are owned by the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans, and the price of stocks is influenced by various elements that are disconnected from “the real economic life of most people.”
“All of these considerations say to me that the stock market is very irrelevant to most peoples’ real economic circumstances, and that measures like wage growth and unemployment are far more relevant to how the vast majority are doing, so I’d like to see the admin continuing to focus on those,” he said.
Recent polling also showed Americans aren’t concerned with the stock market when they judge the overall performance of the economy. Only 18 percent of Americans say they are very concerned about the performance of the stock market, and only 9 percent who view the economy positively say a strong performance of the stock market is a major reason they feel that way, according to a Pew Research poll released last week.
Meanwhile, Trump can’t help himself from talking about the stock market. The former New York businessman frequently talked about and posted on social media about the stock market, especially when it was up.
In 2017, he blatantly took credit for the stock market’s success, adding he has “always been great with money.” After he lost his reelection in 2020, he made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room to boast about the stock market surpassing 30,000 points and left without taking questions.
Trump has also warned since 2020 that a Biden presidency would collapse the stock market, both before and after he lost that year to the incumbent.
“I think the economy is horrible, except the stock market is going up, and I think the stock market is going up because I’m leading Biden in all of the polls,” Trump said during a Fox News town hall earlier this month. “I think there will be a crash if I don’t win.”
While the White House has pointed to the importance of focusing on Main Street over Wall Street and steers clear of responding directly to Trump, the Biden campaign did take the opportunity to mock Trump’s comments this week.
“Thank you Donald for lifting up today’s strong economic news, but on this planet, Joe Biden is the president, and is the one whose policies are helping achieve historic GDP growth, a stronger than ever stock market, and real job creation after Trump tanked our economy,” spokesperson Ammar Moussa said.
Sylvan Lane and Brett Samuels contributed.