Does the Obama administration plan to further mask inflation?
''One of the least discussed, but potentially most significant, provisions in President Obama's budget is the use of the 'chained consumer price index' (chained CPI), to measure the effect of inflation on people's standard of living. Chained CPI is an effort to alter the perceived impact of inflation via the gimmick of 'full substitution.' This is the assumption that when the price of one consumer product increases, consumers will simply substitute a similar, lower-cost product with no adverse effect. Thus, the government decides your standard of living is not affected if you can no longer afford to eat steak, as long as you can afford to eat hamburger.
The problem with 'full substitution' should be obvious to anyone not on the government payroll. Since consumers did not choose to buy lower-priced beef before inflation raised the price of steak, they obviously preferred steak. So if the Federal Reserve's policies create inflation that forces you to purchase hamburger instead of steak, your standard of living is lowered. CPI already uses this sort of substitution to mask the costs of inflation, but chained CPI uses those substitutions more frequently, thereby lowering the reported rate of inflation.''