The three victims had been in rapidly deteriorating health for a couple of weeks when they suffered a sudden collapse on Thursday, March 12.
The indicators were not good for Dow Jones, Nasdaq and S & P. All had suffered declines of about 10% in just one day and nobody knew where the bottom was. Drastic action had to be taken and quick. The question was how to revive them from the dreaded coronavirus.
Would doctors and health experts do the trick? It did not seem that medical intervention would help. Every time the experts spoke about the health of the public and the worsening outlook for the people, it hurt the three victims that apparently counted most in the president’s mind, the financial markets.
Perhaps a meeting of business titans to announce a long-delayed serious response to the coronavirus would do the trick. The president’s announcement was timed for 30 minutes before the close of the markets on Friday the 13th. Just to show that things were not really that serious, Trump shook hands with everyone in sight.
Low and behold, the markets jumped out of bed when traders learned that the government looked like it was going to actually take the coronavirus pandemic seriously and try to do something about it. During the 30 minutes before closing, the Dow shot up 1,985 points, just 367 short of matching the 2,352 point dive the day before. The other two indexes responded similarly.
The president was clearly pleased with the market response. At a news conference the next day, he said he “was honored to see that the stock market set a record in a short period of time,” and that he ought to hold a news conference “five times a day.”
Trump also sent a note to supporters, showing an autographed chart of the Dow’s Friday performance. An accompanying note said, “The president would like to share the attached image with you, and passes along the following message: ‘From opening of press conference, biggest day in stock market history!’” High fives all around. Trump failed to mention that his clueless indifference to the pandemic on Wednesday shocked the business community and caused the Thursday crash that laid the groundwork for the remarkable rebound on Friday.
A report from CNN noted that, Trump’s “message did not mention the overall coronavirus crisis, the number of people who have died or are sick, nor the fact that he had just declared a national emergency.” CNN obviously does not understand the concept of trickle-down health care. If the health of financial markets is given first priority in a pandemic, the beneficial effects might trickle down to all of the rest of us who are further down the priority list.
Instead of just obsessing about the health of the financial markets, Trump would be well advised to think about the health of the people. After all, it is the people who sustain the economy and the markets. They, and the small businesses that are suffering on main streets across the country, and the caregivers and first responders who are risking their safety, should have the very first priority in our efforts to combat the pandemic. If they are all brought through this emergency in good shape, the markets will do just fine and Trump will get the praise he so greatly craves.
Besides, it is risky business to focus on manipulating the markets, rather than protecting the health of the people. The very next trading day, March 16, saw the markets crash again, wiping out Friday’s “historic” gains. I don’t suppose signed Dow charts will be circulated. And, perhaps five news conferences a day would not be helpful.
Jim Jones is a former Idaho Supreme Court chief justice and a former Idaho attorney general. His previous columns can be found at https://JJCommonTater.com.