Gary Cohn, President Trump’s top economic adviser, announced Tuesday he’d be stepping down, and he used his resignation to make his point in a way that would be heard. The resignation “hit global equities, U.S. stock futures and the currencies of America’s trade partners, as many investors judged the news meant President Trump was pushing forward with tariffs,” The Wall Street Journal reported. Through 2017, Trump again and again cited a rising Dow Jones average as proof that his administration was succeeding. On January 4, 2018, the president tweeted happily:
Dow just crashes through 25,000. Congrats! Big cuts in unnecessary regulations continuing.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2018
Then the market stalled, turned, and crashed. Trump’s most recent Dow tweet, February 7, expresses defensive bafflement that his preferred metric has suddenly gone negative on him.
In the “old days,” when good news was reported, the Stock Market would go up. Today, when good news is reported, the Stock Market goes down. Big mistake, and we have so much good (great) news about the economy!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 7, 2018
The Dow has risen a little since then, but has stayed below past highs. Financial markets in general are now blinking warnings against Trump’s plans for trillion-dollar deficits and global trade wars. Cohn’s departure offers a handy peg on which to hang all those anxieties.
Cohn signed up for the Trump administration with his eyes open. He swallowed qualms after Charlottesville to stay aboard and fight for tax cuts.
But it’s also true that Cohn is competent at his work, a rare quality in the Trump White House. Cohn recognized—contra the president—that trade wars are bad, and seldom end in wins for anybody. He remained in his role to protect the country from a serious danger in his designated area of responsibility. He fought against that danger hard. And when he lost, he quit to sound a warning. That’s good service to the public.