Logos of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times shown over a line graph tending down, with a red background
Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Major newspapers still mostly fail to report Trump’s inflationary policies in their inflation stories

Newspapers are failing to inform their readers about how Trump would make inflation worse even as surveys show Trump polls better on inflation

Only 3 out of 67 print news articles (or 4%) from five of the top U.S. newspapers reporting on inflation following the April 2024 Consumer Price Index report included crucial context about policies from the Trump team that would worsen inflation. These results came as at least some of these newspapers also reported on a poll showing Trump with an advantage over President Joe Biden on the topic of inflation, reflecting a failure by news organizations to inform the public about the facts on an important issue.

Experts say that several specific policies supported by Trump and/or his advisers, including proposals for the imposition of new across-the-board tariffs, mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, more tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and plans to devalue the U.S. dollar and increase presidential control over the Federal Reserve's policymaking, would make inflation worse.

Media Matters looked at news articles published in the print editions of five of the top U.S. newspapers by circulation — The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times — from May 15 through June 11.

  • Trump’s inflationary policies were mentioned in only 4% of print news articles covering inflation

  • Media Matters analysis showed that for the period between May 15 and June 11, 2024 — which includes the period between the releases of the April and May CPI reports — only 3 of 67 print news articles (or 4%) covering inflation mentioned Trump's inflationary past policies and policy proposals for a second term, including tariffs, mass deportations, tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, devaluation of the U.S. dollar, and increasing direct presidential control of the Fed.

    This failure to properly inform readers is even more glaring in light of both The Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times reporting in their print editions on a swing state poll from The Cook Political Report, which found that 73% of respondents identified “Economy/Inflation/Cost of living” as being among “the most important issues for the next president to focus on.” The poll showed that 56% of respondents think “the cost of living will get under control” if Trump is re-elected, while only 40% believe it will happen during a second Biden term. This belief is contradicted by what experts from across the political spectrum have said would be likely to occur during a second Trump term if his inflationary agenda is enacted.

  • A pie chart showing that 3 out of 67 (4%) print news articles on inflation between May 15 and June 11 mentioned Trump's inflationary past policies and policy proposals for a second term
  • Newspapers quoted Trump’s criticism of the Biden economy in 9% of articles

  • Our analysis showed that 6 out of 67 (9%) print news articles on inflation for the period between May 15 and June 11, 2024, included a quote from Trump or his campaign attacking Biden's record on the economy and/or inflation. This is double the number of articles which mentioned that Trump’s policies would worsen inflation.

  • A pie chart showing that 6 out of 67 (9%) print news articles on inflation between May 15 and June 11 included a quote from Trump attacking President Joe Biden's record on the economy and/or inflation
  • Less than half of articles covering inflation during this time period mentioned positive indicators in the economy

  • Less than half of print newspaper articles on inflation for the period between May 15 and June 11, 2024, included context addressing recent gains in wages, job creation, and/or economic growth, with 30 of 67 articles (45%) mentioning the overall strength of the economy. During the previous review period, 50% of articles included this context.

  • A column chart showing that fewer than half of print newspaper articles on inflation included context of the current economic conditions between May 15 and June 11, with 30 of 67 (45%) articles mentioning the strength of the overall economy.
  • Experts have explained how several of Trump's policy proposals and past policies make inflation worse

    • Per reporting from The Washington Post, former chief economist for the Trump administration's Council of Economic Advisers Casey B. Mulligan “estimated in an interview that Trump’s 10 percent import tariff proposal would add an extra percentage point to inflation, or a quarter percent a year if spread out over four years.” [The Washington Post, 1/7/24]
    • Conservative economist Doug Holtz-Eakin suggested that Trump’s trade and immigration policies might lead to a “wage-price spiral,” a condition in which prices and pay increases push one another upward and thus cancel out any seeming benefit for workers. In a later interview with The Atlantic, Holtz-Eakin said that Trump’s economic policies don’t “bode well” for “the cost of living.” [The Washington Post, 1/7/24; The Atlantic, 6/2/24]
    • Conservative American Enterprise Institute economist Michael Strain: “I think we can say with a lot of confidence that President Trump’s trade policies and immigration policies would result in price spikes.” Strain explained in a New York Times interview that “mass deportations would cause a severe supply shock to the labor market, which could increase the overall cost of living.” [The New York Times, 6/8/24]
    • Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers: “There has never been a presidential platform so self-evidently inflationary as the one put forward by President Trump.” In an interview with The Atlantic, Summers said: “I have little doubt that with the Trump program, we will see a substantial acceleration in inflation, unless somehow we get a major recession first.” According to the interview, Summers “identified multiple pillars of Trump’s economic agenda that could accelerate inflation,” including “compromising the independence of the Federal Reserve Board, enlarging the federal budget deficit by extending his 2017 tax cuts, raising tariffs, rescinding Biden policies designed to promote competition and reduce ‘junk fees,’ and squeezing the labor supply by restricting new immigration and deporting undocumented migrants already here.” Summers’ criticism of Trump’s inflationary policy agenda is particularly noteworthy given that he was perhaps the most prominent critic of President Biden on the topic of inflation. [The Atlantic, 6/2/24; The Washington Post, 8/13/23]
    • According to an analysis shared with The Atlantic by Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, “Trump’s economic plans would increase the inflation rate and force the Federal Reserve Board to raise interest rates higher than they would be otherwise.” In an interview with The Atlantic, Zandi said: “You add it all up and it feels highly inflationary to me.” Zandi’s projection found that inflation “would be nearly a full percentage point higher (0.8 percent, to be exact)” if Trump “can implement his entire agenda.” [The Atlantic, 6/2/24]
    • Center for Economic and Policy Research senior economist Dean Baker: “Trump is promising massive tax increases in the form of tariffs, which will send inflation soaring if he carries through with them.” [Twitter/X, 3/2/24]
    • Former Federal Reserve economist Claudia Sahm stated that Trump's plan of “jacking up tariffs and cutting off immigration are both inflationary." [Twitter/X, 2/29/24]
    • Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, explained that Trump's mass deportation plan “would lead to very sudden spikes in prices of key goods like fresh produce, hotel rooms, and housing repairs.” [The Washington Post, 1/7/24]
    • A Peterson Institute for International Economics study “calculated that Trump’s tariffs would raise prices for consumers on the goods they purchase by at least $500 billion a year, or about $1,700 annually for a middle-income family.” In an interview with The Atlantic, one of the study’s co-authors, UCLA Law School tax policy professor Kimberly Clausing said that “Trump is promising a no-holds-barred, all-out protectionist spree that will affect every single thing that people buy that is either an import or in competition with imports.” [The Atlantic, 6/2/24]
    • Economic Policy Institute chief economist Josh Bivens: “If a future Trump administration really did deport millions of workers, that would be inflationary.” [Politico, 3/7/24]
    • The U.S. International Trade Commission found that the Trump administration's tariffs on Chinese imports had the effect of “raising costs for American companies” and “increased prices of US products.” [Bloomberg, 3/16/23]
    • Bloomberg Economics: New tariffs pledged by Trump, including a 60% tariff on all imports from China, would nearly double the projected inflation rate in 2025. Bloomberg reported that “the Bloomberg Economics model shows the proposal sending the core personal consumption expenditures price index, the Fed’s preferred gauge of prices, up to 3.7% by the end of next year, well above policymakers’ 2% target. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg, on average, expect 2.1% inflation in 2025.” [Bloomberg, 4/2/24]
    • The Federal Reserve raised interest rates following Trump's 2017 tax cuts to counter their inflationary pressure. The Tax Policy Center explained that because the tax cuts enacted during the Trump administration were “enacted at a time when unemployment was low and output was near its potential level,” the Fed “held interest rates higher than they otherwise would have been to prevent an increase in inflation.” [Tax Policy Center, January 2024]
    • National Foreign Trade Council President Jake Colvin: Trump advisers’ plan to devalue the U.S. dollar “could spark a number of unintended consequences including inflationary global currency and trade wars.” On April 15, Politico reported: “Economic advisers close to former President Donald Trump are actively debating ways to devalue the U.S. dollar if he’s elected to a second term — a dramatic move that could boost U.S. exports but also reignite inflation and threaten the dollar’s position as the world’s dominant currency.” [Politico, 4/15/24]
    • Former IMF chief economist Maurice Obstfeld: “Trump’s Plans for the Fed Would Revive 1970s-Style Inflation.” In an opinion piece for Project Syndicate, Obstfeld, who is currently a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, criticized Trump advisers’ plans to both devalue the U.S. dollar and grant a potential future President Trump “direct presidential control over the Fed’s interest-rate decisions and rulemaking” which he wrote “would be a potent inflationary cocktail.” Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell similarly warned that the proposal to “kneecap the Federal Reserve” should be seen as a “five-alarm fire for anyone who claims to care about inflation.” In her column, she pointed to an exhaustive IMF study which showed that central banks “with strong independence scores were more successful in keeping people’s inflation expectations in check, which helps keep inflation low.” [Project Syndicate, 5/8/24; The Washington Post, 5/2/24; International Monetary Fund, 3/21/24]
  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched print articles in the Factiva database from the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post — five of the top U.S. newspapers by circulation — for any of the terms “Consumer Price Index,” “CPI,” “Bureau of Labor Statistics,” or “BLS” or any variations of any of the terms “inflation,” “shrinkflation,” “price,” “cost,” or “expense” within the headline or lead paragraphs from May 15, 2024, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the April Consumer Price Index update, through June 11, 2024, a day prior to BLS releasing the most recent CPI update of the calendar year.

    We included articles, which we defined as instances when inflation was mentioned in the headline or lead paragraphs in the news or business sections of each paper. We did not include editorial, op-eds, or letters to the editor.

    We then reviewed the identified articles for whether they mentioned that some of Trump's policies as president or economic proposals from him or his advisers, such as higher tariffs, mass deportations, more tax cuts for the rich, devaluing the U.S. dollar, and exerting more direct control of the Federal Reserve would make inflation worse; quoted Trump criticizing Biden on inflation, exaggerating inflation, or lying about overall economic conditions; or mentioned any current positive economic indicators, such as economic growth, job creation, wage growth, and the low unemployment rate.