A little noticed aspect of the fiscal cliff deal between congressional Republicans and the White House involved the establishment of a new way to calculate the federal inflation rate. Now we will have the so-called “chained consumer price index.” The chained CPI literally assumes that, as products increase in price, we don’t have to actually counts them as having increased in price because consumers can replace those more expensive items with cheaper substitutes. This allows the government to claim that inflation is lower or nonexistent, thus denying recipients of Social Security and other federal entitlement programs their right to a cost of living increase.
Democrats and Republicans both want to reduce the deficit using an accounting gimmick called “Chained CPI.” Under the Chained Consumer Price Index, increases in prices of products are ignored. Instead, it is assumed that consumers downgrade their purchases to cheaper products when prices for those they currently buy increase to the point that they can no longer afford them. Then the government uses these phony calculations to justify smaller cost of living increases to recipients of Social Security and other beneficiaries of programs indexed to inflation.