Washington - Tuesday morning brought a textbook illustration of Trumponomics.
Under this economic theory — defined roughly as "when it's sunny, credit me; when it rains, blame them" — President Trump has been claiming sole responsibility for a bull market that began nearly eight years before his presidency.
But this month, wild swings in the market threaten to erase the year's gains, and on Tuesday, Trump offered an explanation: The Democrats did it! The market "is now taking a little pause — people want to see what happens with the Midterms," he tweeted. "If you want your Stocks to go down, I strongly suggest voting Democrat."
Most attribute the swoon to higher tariffs set off by Trump's trade war and higher interest rates aggravated by Trump's tax cut. But Trumponomics holds otherwise.
Previous lessons from Trumponomics 101:
During the campaign, Trump said that official unemployment figures were "phony" and a "hoax" and that the rate was really as high as 42 percent. Now he highlights the official figures as evidence of his success.
During the campaign, the rising stock market was "a big, fat, ugly bubble." After his election, it became a reflection of Trumpian genius — at least until Democrats caused it to tank.
Less than three hours after his stock-market tweet Tuesday, Trump issued a new boast: "Consumer Confidence hits highest level since 2000." To summarize: Blame Democrats for stocks going down but give Trump credit for confidence simultaneously going up.
In fairness, the theory of Trumponomics is more complex than merely blaming Democrats (or the Federal Reserve) for bad things. It also rests on the presumption that Democrats are evil and their ideas ruinous. This can be seen in a report released by the White House last week, by the president's Council of Economic Advisers.
Titled "The Opportunity Costs of Socialism," the report finds that Democrats who wish to expand the popular Medicare program into Medicare-for-all are in league with Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong and other leaders whose policies have resulted in "deaths in purges, massacres, concentration camps, forced migration, and both escape attempts and famines."
The White House economists' evidence tying today's Democrats to murderous figures from the 20th century? They used a similar word.
Mao "described 'the ruthless economic exploitation and political oppression of the peasants by the landlord class,'" the White House writes. "Expressing similar concerns, current American senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have stated that 'large corporations … exploit human misery and insecurity.'"
Further, the council argues, "The socialist narrative names the oppressors of the vulnerable, such as the bourgeoisie (Marx), kulaks (Lenin), landlords (Mao), and giant corporations (Sanders and Warren)."
From there, the White House officials argue that certain Democrats' health-care proposals "are similar in spirit to Lenin and Mao" and on par with communist dictators' disastrous attempts at forced collectivization of agriculture. With an intellectual rigor closer to Groucho than Karl, the White House lists socialists alternately as "Marx, Stalin, Senator Sanders, Senator Warren, and Fidel Castro," and as "Karl Marx to Vladimir Lenin to Mao Zedong to current American socialists."
There may be sound reasons to oppose single-payer health care, but basing 21st-century health-care policy on an analysis of Soviet agriculture is like basing the Nuclear Posture Review on experiences in the Boer War. Unsurprisingly, this treatise has some problems.
First, if it's true that any whiff of socialism puts us on the slippery slope to the Killing Fields, then we'll also have to do away with Social Security and Medicare — which Trump claims to love. The White House economists also have trouble dismissing modern-day socialism in the Nordic countries, which enjoy the world's highest quality of life; they attempt to debunk Nordic success by pointing to the high price of pickup trucks there, a curious metric.
If the same academic rigor were applied to Trump, we could use superficial similarities to come up with other compelling theories:
Because Trump shoved the prime minister of Montenegro, he is virtually indistinguishable from Attila the Hun, who terrorized and destroyed Eastern Europe.
Because Trump describes peaceful protesters as a "mob" that has to be defeated, he's the same as Pol Pot, who said "he who protests is an enemy" — and killed one-fifth of his population.
Trump is undiplomatic — just like Genghis Khan. Trump can be erratic — just like Ivan the Terrible. Trump can be cruel — just like Vlad the Impaler.
(And let's not create a Fuhrer by making Hitler comparisons.)
When you start from a place of intellectual dishonesty, there is no telling where you'll end up. That is the very foundation of Trumponomics.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.