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Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Trump's inflationary policies were almost totally ignored in the top 5 US newspapers' early 2024 inflation coverage

Newspapers largely failed to mention Trump's inflationary policies to enact more tariffs, implement mass deportations, and pass additional tax cuts for the wealthy in coverage of the BLS' December and January CPI reports

A Media Matters analysis of print articles covering inflation in the first months after the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the December 2023 and January 2024 Consumer Price Index reports found almost no mention in the top five U.S. newspapers of policies former President Donald Trump implemented that had an inflationary impact — or those he has proposed, should he win another term this fall, that would make inflation worse. 

These policies include new tariffs, mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, and tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. We looked at the top five U.S. newspapers by circulation — The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times — from January 11 through March 11.

  • December report

  • Trump's inflationary policies were mentioned in only 6% of inflation articles covering the December 2023 inflation report

  • Our analysis showed that for the period of January 11, 2024, through February 12, 2024 — from when the December 2023 CPI report was released to the release of the January 2024 CPI report — only 4 out of 68 (6%) articles covering inflation mentioned that some of Trump's policy proposals for a second term, and his past policies as president — tariffs, mass deportations, and tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations — would worsen inflation.

  • A pie chart showing that for the period of January 11, 2024, through February 12, 2024 — from when the December 2023 CPI report was released to the release of the February 2024 CPI report — only 4 out of 68 (6%) articles covering inflation mentioned that some of Trump's policy proposals for a second term, and his past policies as president.
  • Trump's attacks on Biden's record on inflation and the economy were quoted at the same rate during this time period

  • Our analysis showed that between January 11 and February 13, 4 out of 68 (6%) print news articles on inflation included a quote from Trump attacking President Joe Biden's record on the economy and/or inflation. (Two of these articles also mentioned Trump's inflationary policies.)

  • A pie chart showing that between January 11 and February 13, 4 out of 68 (6%) print news articles on inflation included a quote from Trump attacking President Joe Biden's record on the economy and/or inflation.
  • Almost half of articles covering inflation in this time period did not mention other positive indicators in the economy

  • Newspaper coverage of inflation between January 11 and February 13 offered much better context of the current economic conditions than it did of Trump's inflationary policies. Still, only 38 of 68 articles (56%) mentioning other strengths of the economy — economic growth, high job creation, high wage growth, and low unemployment — alongside discussion of inflation.

  • A bar chart showing that newspaper coverage of inflation between January 11 and February 13 offered much better context of the current economic conditions than it did of Trump's inflationary policies, with 38 of 68 articles (56%) mentioning other strengths of the economy — economic growth, high job creation, high wage growth, and low unemployment — alongside discussion of inflation
  • January report

  • Trump's inflationary policies were mentioned zero times in the month following the release of the January 2024 inflation report

  • Our analysis showed that for the period of February 13 through March 11 — from when the January 2024 CPI report was released to a month later — none of the 53 articles covering inflation mentioned that some of Trump's past policies, and current policy proposals for a second term, would worsen inflation.

  • A pie chart showing that for the period of February 13 through March 11 — from when the January 2024 CPI report was released to a month later — none of the 53 articles covering inflation mentioned that some of Trump's past policies, and current policy proposals for a second term, would worsen inflation.
  • Trump's attacks on Biden's record on inflation and the economy were quoted in 4% of print news articles about inflation during this time period

  • Our analysis showed that 2 out of 53 (4%) print news articles on inflation between February 13 and March 11 included a quote from Trump attacking President Joe Biden's record on the economy and/or inflation.

  • A pie chart showing that 2 out of 53 (4%) print news articles on inflation between February 13 and March 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 in this time period mentioned other positive indicators in the economy

  • Fewer print newspaper articles on inflation included context of the current economic conditions between February 13 and March 11 compared to the previous month, with 21 of 53 (40%) articles mentioning the strength of the overall economy.

  • A bar chart showing that fewer print newspaper articles on inflation included context of the current economic conditions between February 13 and March 11 compared to the previous month, with 21 of 53 (40%) articles mentioning the strength of the overall economy.
  • Experts have explained that several of Trump's policy proposals and past policies make inflation worse

    • Casey B. Mulligan, former chief economist for the Trump administration's Council of Economic Advisers, said 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 pay increases and prices push one another upward and thus cancel out any seeming benefit for workers. [The Washington Post, 1/7/24]
    • Conservative American Enterprise Institute economist Michael Strain also suggested that Trump's mass deportation policy “could spark a wage-price spiral, which would be inflationary.” [Politico, 3/7/24]
    • 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]
    • 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]
    • The Federal Reserve raised interest rates following Trump's tax cuts to counter their inflationary pressure. The Tax Policy Center explained that since Trump's tax cuts were “enacted at a time when unemployment was low and output was near its potential level,” “the increase in demand was offset by tighter monetary policy, as the Federal Reserve held interest rates higher than they otherwise would have been to prevent an increase in inflation.” [Tax Policy Center, January 2024]
  • 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 — the top five 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 same headline or lead paragraphs from January 11, 2024, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the first Consumer Price Index update of the calendar year, through March 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, such as higher tariffs, mass deportations, and more tax cuts for the rich, 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.