October 8th, 2020 by George Harvey
President Trump has claimed to be economically successful based on a rather small set of metrics. One is joblessness data. Another is the Dow Jones Industrial Index (DJI). There are people who believe in his success, based on those limited data. They should look deeper.
We are living in rather interesting times, and the numbers reflect it. It is true that the DJI has been generally up, following a trajectory that was established very early in Barack Obama’s first term in office. The same was true for jobs. My worry about what has happened under Trump is that the numbers were maintained by giveaways that cannot go on very long without causing inflation.
But there are other data we can use, and they establish a different pattern. We could start by looking at some of the many Dow Jones Indices, picking a few that might have profited from Trump policies and a few that we might have expected to suffer.
Trump has pushed for support for the Oil & Gas sector. And, of course, his success can be measured by how the Dow Jones Oil & Gas Index (DJUSEN) has done on his watch. When Trump took office, the DJUSEN stood at just a bit over 600. Today, believe it or not, it is just below 250. That’s right, it has fallen nearly 60%. Truthfully, part of that fall was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But it was only part. Before the pandemic really hit the US, the DJUSEN was already down by nearly 30%, to roughly 430.
The Dow Jones Indices are made up of stocks of representative component companies. One stock that was a component of the DJI was ExxonMobil. Only a few years ago, Exxon had the highest market capitalization of any publicly traded company in the world. Its value has plummeted under Trump’s careful attention. CleanTechnica carried an article, “Tesla’s Market Value Overtakes Exxon In Historic Paradigm Shift,” and its readers are aware of the fact that Exxon’s market cap has fallen below that of Tesla. Today, however, ExxonMobil is being challenged by NextEra Energy, a Florida utility, and the DJI has dropped ExxonMobil.
Remember “Trump digs coal?” Well, believe it or not, we could look to a Dow Jones Coal Index (DJUSCL) to tell us how that has gone. When the Donald took office, the DJUSCL was roughly 45. As investors took heart in Trump’s promises, it rose to almost 80, in 2018. But with promises unfulfilled, as both mines and power plants closed, it fell. Before the pandemic hit us, it had gone to about 13. With the pandemic, it fell to a low of 4.33.
And then something fascinating happened, with no notice, not even a mention in the press, as far as I can see. On September 18, at exactly noon, Dow Jones simply stopped updating the Dow Jones Coal Index. The entire index vanished, without only remnants of earlier days still hanging around.
For those who watch such things, this should not have come as a complete surprise. There was a time, about twelve years back, that the index had about eight or ten components, most of which seemed to be pretty healthy. Since then, all of them have gone bankrupt or completely broke. In some cases, assets were offered up for sale at auction but had no bidders. Before the DJUSCL stopped being posted, it had only one component, which was Consol Energy. While Consol is still traded, it happens to be at an all-time low.
We might pause to ask whether we think having Donald Trump as a friend is really a good idea.
While we mull that over, we might consider those whose fortunes have been beset by his bad opinions and opposition. And Dow Jones can help us there, too, with the Dow Jones Renewable Energy Equipment Index (DWCREE). This stood at about 55 when the Donald took office. Right now, I see it at 176.13. It is trading at about 320% of what it was, despite his disparaging comments and seemingly intentionally destructive policies.
We might revisit the fact that ExxonMobil is being challenged on the value of its market share by NextEra Energy. NextEra was roughly 120 when Trump took office. Right now, it is pushing to reach 300, so it is trading at about 250% of what it had been less than four years ago. This is interesting in part because the rise of NextEra Energy has been often pointed out in the press, and yet it has not quite kept up with the rise of the renewable equipment market as a whole. Clearly, as impressive as NextEra’s rise has been, there are other companies doing amazingly well.
I find it interesting that the Dow Jones US Automobiles Index (DJUSAU) has resisted these trends. From Trump’s inauguration, when it was slightly over 200, it was down slightly about a year ago. But then started to climb. It took a hit from the pandemic, going to just under 140 in March, but since then, it has climbed remarkably, standing now at well above 500. Interestingly, its climb coincided with new interest in EVs by automotive companies. Also interestingly, Tesla is a component of this index.
Why are these things happening? I would suggest that Donald Trump is a bit of a dolt, who thinks that the return to greatness means returning to the obsolete technologies that he thinks made America great. After all, this is the man who told the US Navy that it should be using steam-powered catapults on its aircraft carriers. Following his lead to an extreme, we would resurrect Remington Rand manual typewriters. And let’s not forget K&E, which made the best slide rules in the world. (Love those K&E slide rules!)
Donald Trump is marginalizing America as a builder and seller of technology. As a nation, we seem content to sell buses with diesel engines, while China sells electric buses. You might take another look at the CleanTechnica article, “Panama Cancels Order For Diesel Buses, Will Purchase 195 Electric Buses Instead.” Or take a look at another article, also in CleanTechnica, “BMW iX3 Production Has Started In China, Not USA.” And please consider, these articles are not exceptions to a rule — they are illustrations of the rule. America is being beaten by China in the race to sell its goods to the world. And this is partly because of really inept leadership.
Donald Trump and his followers say they want to make America great again. But their path to accomplishing that task shows an appalling lack of understanding what made America great in the first place. We have been great because we saw value in science and pursued it passionately. We have been great because a large part of our people were courageous enough to leave the lives they understood to try to accomplish better ones as immigrants in this country. We were great because there were people in this country who were willing to sacrifice their lives so America and its people could be free. We were great because of a firm belief in democracy, with leaders who were willing to step down at the end of their terms and let others take over leadership.
America has been a great country because it was never led by a person like Donald Trump.
Editor’s addendum: As noted last night, the US economy grew more in the last 3 years of the Obama/Biden presidency than it grew in the first 3 years of the Trump/Pence presidency, as shown by Forbes, Forbes again, Snopes, and many others. See the chart above for a graphical example of the job market, for example. And that’s even before COVID-19, before the president’s horrible response to COVID-19 destroyed the economy!
Image: Statue of Liberty (From the National Park Service Digital Image Archives, public domain, Wikimedia Commons)
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