Chain, chain, chain ... chain CPI
Is the Consumer Price Index really the best way to measure inflation?
Over at the Moment of Truth project (a continuation of the president’s fiscal commission), Adam Rosenberg and Marc Goldwein make a compelling case that the government should use a different inflation measure when calculating cost of living increases and indexing the tax code:Skip to next paragraph
Donald B. Marron is director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. He previously served as a member of the President's Council of Economic Advisers and as acting director of the Congressional Budget Office.
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Maintaining purchasing power in spending programs and indexing various parts of the tax code is an important policy goal. However, policymakers should ensure that the most accurate measure of inflation is being used.
To correct the problem of over-indexation, many have proposed switching to the chained CPI [consumer price index] to provide a more accurate measure of inflation for indexed provisions in the federal budget. This switch was recommended by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (“Fiscal Commission”) and the Bipartisan Policy Center ‘s Debt Reduction Task Force (“Domenici-Rivlin”). It has been incorporated into a large number of other plans, including from the Heritage Foundation on the right and the Center for American Progress on the left. An overwhelming majority of economists from both parties agree that the chained CPI is far more accurate measure of inflation than the CPI measurements currently in use.
In addition to improving technical accuracy, switching to chained CPI would have the secondary benefit of reducing the deficit – by about $300 billion over the next decade alone.
For the reasons they mention, I endorse this change and predict it will be part of any “grand bargain” on America’s budget.
With apologies to Aretha Franklin (and any of you with sensitive music sensibilities), let me suggest a theme song for the effort:
Chain, Chain, Chain, Chain CPI
Chain, chain, chain, chain, chain, chain
Chain, chain, chain, chain CPI
For these long years, we have indexed all wrong
We pay too much, that leads to fiscal pain
And now money’s getting tight
But we have no need to cry
We know what to do, oh a better measure we can try
Chain, chain, chain, chain CPI
P.S. To my readers who believe that the regular CPI understates inflation, rather than overstating it: Yes, Aretha’s song is “Chain of Fools”. And yes, that makes it easy for you to make up lyrics that mock the chain CPI rather than endorse it. Have fun.
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