For Journalists — What Is Chained-CPI?

Dave Johnson

Dear journalists: Every retired person will tell you that prices on things they buy are rising faster than their cost-of-living-adjustments. So they are falling behind. Meanwhile everyone describes the “chained-CPI” cost-of-living-adjustment as a cut when applied to Social Security. In the old days, reporters would call that a “clue.”

From CEPR: New CBO Estimates Show How Shifting to Chained CPI Would Harm Poorly Compensated Workers and Others Struggling to Afford the Basics,

Proponents of the chained CPI assume that it is a more accurate measure of inflation, including for the elderly and for low- and moderate-income people, because it better captures opportunities that people may have to respond to price increases by substituting to goods whose prices are rising more slowing. But the elderly and low-income people have more limited consumption baskets than higher-income people and don’t necessarily have the ability to substitute.

Please read the rest of the CEPR explanation.

Chained-CPI measures the cost of inflation by looking at what people might substitute when they can’t afford something anymore, instead of looking at the rising costs of that they were buying. This literally means that Social Security will be cut when old people substitute cat food for regular food.

Chained-CPI might be a more accurate measure of inflation for some people in some situations. But it is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Retired people need a cost-of-living metric that measures what they have to buy, not one that forces them to start eating catfood, and then cuts based on that.

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