Joseph Stiglitz
Joseph Stiglitz

Sixteen Nobel Prize-winning economists, led by Joseph Stiglitz, released a letter this week warning the American public of the devastating effects of former president, convicted felon, and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s second term agenda. Stiglitz specifically cited concern over polling showing that Americans “think Trump would be better for the economy” than President Joe Biden as his impetus for organizing the letter, which argues that a Trump victory would be enormously harmful to the economy and would actually make inflation worse.

This letter follows several months of Media Matters reviews of the print news stories on inflation from five top U.S. newspapers, which showed absurdly little coverage of inflationary policies and proposals promoted by Trump and his advisers.

Economists warn that Trump will “reignite this inflation” if elected

The letter, first reported by Axios on June 25, stated, “While each of us has different views on the particulars of various economic policies, we all agree that Joe Biden’s economic agenda is vastly superior to Donald Trump’s.” Concerning inflation, the signatories wrote:

Many Americans are concerned about inflation, which has come down remarkably fast. There is rightly a worry that Donald Trump will reignite this inflation, with his fiscally irresponsible budgets. Nonpartisan researchers, including at Evercore, Allianz, Oxford Economics, and the Peterson Institute, predict that if Donald Trump successfully enacts his agenda, it will increase inflation.

The outcome of this election will have economic repercussions for years, and possibly decades, to come. We believe that a second Trump term would have a negative impact on the U.S.’s economic standing in the world and a destabilizing effect on the U.S.’s domestic economy.

In a later interview with CNBC, Stiglitz credited Biden for the quick decline in the inflation rate, saying: “Inflation has been brought down, actually, remarkably quickly. I would say it’s because of Biden.”

Indeed, President Biden's signature domestic policy (the Inflation Reduction Act) was passed just as inflation peaked in the Summer of 2022, and all traditional measures of inflation show that prices have largely stabilized over the past year after temporarily spiking in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic:

Major newspapers ignored Trump’s inflationary policies in their reporting on inflation

Even though multiple news outlets, including some top newspapers, have featured stories citing experts to draw attention to the inflationary effects of Trump policy proposals, this reporting has been left out of the vast majority of print newspaper coverage of inflation.

Studies by Media Matters (here, here, here, and here) found that between January 11, 2024, and June 11, 2024 — the periods between the releases of the December 2023 and May 2024 CPI reports — only 11 out of 325 (three percent) print news articles about inflation from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times included any mention that past or proposed policies from Trump and/or his advisers would likely worsen inflation. Twice as many articles included criticism of the Biden economy from Trump or his campaign as included any context about Trump’s own inflationary agenda.

Stiglitz wants to correct mistaken idea that Trump would perform better on the economy

Stiglitz told CNBC that “he felt compelled to initiate the letter based on a flurry of recent polling in which voters said they trusted Trump over Biden to manage the U.S. economy,” saying: “I thought it would be important for Americans to know that at least a group of credible economists differs very strongly.”

Two of the newspapers covered in the Media Matters studies — The Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times— included reporting on one of these polls in their print editions. Yet neither of the articles mentioned that Trump’s policies would worsen inflation. Separately, one Washington Postprint article headlined “Skyrocketing rents and home prices may be pivotal in the 2024 election” not only failed to inform its readers about Trump’s inflationary policies, it absurdly claimed that “Trump has mainly proposed reducing inflation” as a solution.

The nation’s top newspapers are failing to properly inform their readers of a crucial issue in the lead-up to the 2024 elections, and they should heed the warning raised by these Nobel Prize-winning economists to provide better reporting on Trump’s inflationary policy proposals. Additionally, there is voluminous evidence demonstrating that the economy has performed better under Democratic presidencies than under their Republican counterparts throughout the past century. The public deserves to know these facts.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

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