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January 4, 2013

The Underreporting Of Inflation

"Since the 1970's the preferred government inflation metrics have changed so thoroughly that they bear scant resemblance to those used during the "malaise days" of the Carter years. Government and academia defend the integrity and accuracy of the modern methods while dismissing critics as tin hat conspiracy theorists. But given the huge stakes involved, it's hard to believe that institutional bias plays no role. Government statisticians are responsible for coming up with the methodology and the numbers, and their bosses catch huge breaks if the inflation numbers come in low. Human behavior is always influenced by such incentives.

Beginning in the early 1980's the methodologies were altered to compensate for a variety of consumer behavior. The new "chain weighted CPI" for instance incorporates changes in relative spending, substitution bias, and subjective improvements in product quality.

Essentially these measures report not just on price movements, but on spending patterns, consumer choices, and product changes. This is fine if the goal is to measure the cost of survival. But that is not the purpose for which these metrics are meant to be used. But if you simply focus on price, especially on those staple commodity goods and services that haven't radically changed over the years, the underreporting of inflation becomes more apparent." - in The Global Investor Newsletter 

Peter Schiff`s comments on the economy, stock markets, politics and gold. Schiff is the renowned writer of the bestseller Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse.
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