Remember this about the news: It changes

Some random thoughts on timely news-related topics:

It is surely of questionable value to assign much credit or blame to a political figure based on ephemeral economic conditions. For me, the standard for this axiom is a quote from then-Gov. George Ryan that I recall but have not been able to track down nearly 18 years later. I read it during a period of debate over spending priorities. It went something like this: “Illinois will always have plenty of money. The question is how we prioritize.” Yes, at the turn of the century, things seemed rosy. Unemployment was nearly non-existent. The economy was booming. But I remember thinking at the time, “Did he really mean to say always?”

Well, I would say he doesn’t own either outcome in the short term, but that economic policies have to be weighed over a period of at least years. We all know what has happened in Illinois the past two decades. We all know what’s happening in the stock market this week. My advice? Read the news, appreciate the highs, be concerned about the lows and reserve judgment.

Of course, that’s just me. President Trump’s tweet Wednesday was more in keeping with his personality: “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!” Is he saying the stock market’s against him, too?

Speaking of presidents and Twitter, there’s this tweet from humorist Tom Bodett: “President’s Day coming up and I’m confused again – Am I looking for used cars or mattresses? Just trying to be a good American.” Maybe if we buy enough mattresses this weekend, the stock market will go up again, and we’ll have renewed faith in President Trump’s handling of the economy.

Speaking of reserving judgment, I have some conflicting thoughts as a news person about the memo controversy. One, it’s hard to escape that there was a tone in the reporting that seemed suspicious of releasing the then-classified document. I wonder how the debate would have played out if the memo had merely been leaked. But either way, like linking a presidency to the whims of the stock market, it seems at least shortsighted that so many – whether they be Trump supporters who favored release or the FBI and Trump critics who fought it – placed so much currency in a single piece of a deep, wide and complex investigation.

I think what I’m trying to say with all this is that you can’t prejudge a year on the news of a single day or a presidential term on the vagaries of volatile political or economic conditions. Read the news, but don’t expect it to stay the same for long.

jslusher@dailyherald.com

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