Mar 22, '13

The Battle of Cyprus

By Ellen Brown



"If these worries become really serious, … small savers will take their money out of banks and resort to household safes and a shotgun.'' Martin Hutchinson on the attempted European Union raid on private deposits in Cyprus banks. [1] The deposit confiscation scheme has long been in the making. Depositors in the United States could be next.



On Tuesday, March 19, the national legislature of Cyprus overwhelmingly rejected a proposed levy on bank deposits as a condition for a European bailout. Reuters called it "a stunning setback for the 17-nation currency bloc'', but it was a stunning victory for democracy. As Reuters quoted one 65-year-old pensioner, ''The voice of the people was heard.''


The European Union had warned that it would withhold 10 billion euros (US$13 billion) in bailout loans, and the European Central Bank (ECB) had threatened to end emergency lending assistance for distressed Cypriot banks, unless depositors - including small savers - shared the cost of the rescue. In the deal rejected by the legislature, a one-time levy on depositors would be required in return for a bailout of the banking system. Deposits below 100,000 euros would be subject to a 6.75% levy or ''haircut'', while those over 100,000 euros would have been subject to a 9.99% ''fine.'' [2]
 

The move was bold, but the battle isn't over yet. The EU has now given Cyprus until Monday to raise the billions of euros it needs to clinch an international bailout or face the threatened collapse of its financial system and likely exit from the euro currency zone.


The deal pushed by the ''troika'' - the EU, ECB and International Monetary Fund - has been characterized as a one-off event devised as an emergency measure in this one extreme case. But the confiscation plan has long been in the making, and it isn't limited to Cyprus.



In a September 2011 article in the Bulletin of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand titled ''A Primer on Open Bank Resolution'', Kevin Hoskin and Ian Woolford discussed a very similar haircut plan that had been in the works, they said, since the 1997 Asian financial crisis. [3] The article referenced recommendations made in 2010 and 2011 by the Basel Committee of the Bank for International Settlements, the ''central bankers' central bank'' in Switzerland.
 

The purpose of the plan, called the Open Bank Resolution (OBR), is to deal with bank failures when they have become so expensive that governments are no longer willing to bail out the lenders. [4] The authors wrote that the primary objectives of OBR are to:
 

ensure that, as far as possible, any losses are ultimately borne by the bank's shareholders and creditors …


The spectrum of ''creditors'' is defined to include depositors:


At one end of the spectrum, there are large international financial institutions that invest in debt issued by the bank (commonly referred to as wholesale funding). At the other end of the spectrum, are customers with cheque and savings accounts and term deposits.


Most people would be surprised to learn that they are legally considered ''creditors'' of their banks rather than customers who have trusted the bank with their money for safekeeping, but that seems to be the case. According to Wikipedia,


In most legal systems, … the funds deposited are no longer the property of the customer. The funds become the property of the bank, and the customer in turn receives an asset called a deposit account (a checking or savings account). That deposit account is a liability of the bank on the bank's books and on its balance sheet. Because the bank is authorized by law to make loans up to a multiple of its reserves, the bank's reserves on hand to satisfy payment of deposit liabilities amounts to only a fraction of the total which the bank is obligated to pay in satisfaction of its demand deposits. [5]


The bank gets the money. The depositor becomes only a creditor with an IOU. The bank is not required to keep the deposits available for withdrawal but can lend them out, keeping only a ''fraction'' on reserve, following accepted fractional reserve banking principles. When too many creditors come for their money at once, the result can be a run on the banks and bank failure.


The New Zealand OBR said the creditors had all enjoyed a return on their investments and had freely accepted the risk, but most people would be surprised to learn that too. What return do you get from a bank on a deposit account these days? And isn't your deposit protected, in the United States, against risk by Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation deposit insurance? Not anymore, apparently. As Martin Hutchinson observed in Money Morning, ''if governments can just seize deposits by means of a 'tax' then deposit insurance is worth absolutely zippo''. [6] 
 

The real profiteers get off


Felix Salmon wrote in Reuters of the Cyprus confiscation:


Meanwhile, people who deserve to lose money here, won't. If you lent money to Cyprus's banks by buying their debt rather than by depositing money, you will suffer no losses at all. And if you lent money to the insolvent Cypriot government, then you too will be paid off at 100 cents on the euro.
...


The big winner here is the ECB, which has extended a lot of credit to dubiously-solvent Cypriot banks and which is taking no losses at all.


It is the ECB that can most afford to take the hit because it has the power to print euros. It could simply create the money to bail out the Cyprus banks and take no loss at all. But imposing austerity on the people is apparently part of the plan.
Salmon writes:

 
From a drily technocratic perspective, this move can be seen as simply being part of a standard Euro-austerity program: the EU wants tax hikes and spending cuts, and this is a kind of tax. …


The big losers are working-class Cypriots, whose elected government has proved powerless. … The Eurozone has always had a democratic deficit: monetary union was imposed by the elite on unthankful and unwilling citizens. Now the citizens are revolting: just look at Beppe Grillo. [7]


But that was before the Cyprus government stood up for the depositors and refused to go along with the plan, in what will be a stunning victory for democracy if they can hold their ground.


It can happen here


Cyprus is a small island, of little apparent significance. But one day, the bold move of its legislators may be compared to the Battle of Marathon, the pivotal moment in European history when their Greek forebears fended off the Persians, allowing classical Greek civilization to flourish. The current battle on this tiny island has taken on global significance. If the technocrat bankers can push through their confiscation scheme there, precedent will be established for doing it elsewhere when bank bailouts become prohibitive for governments.


That situation could be looming even now in the United States. As Gretchen Morgenson warned in a recent article on the 307-page Senate report detailing last year's US$6.2 billion trading fiasco at JPMorganChase: ''Be afraid.'' The report resoundingly disproves the premise that the Dodd-Frank legislation has made the US system safe from the reckless banking activities that brought the economy to its knees in 2008. Morgenson writes:


JPMorgan … Is the largest derivatives dealer in the world. Trillions of dollars in such instruments sit on its and other big banks' balance sheets. The ease with which the bank hid losses and fiddled with valuations should be a major concern to investors. [8]


Pam Martens observed in a March 18 article that JPMorgan was gambling in the stock market with depositor funds. She writes, ''trading stocks with customers' savings deposits - that truly has the ring of the excesses of 1929.'' [9]


The large institutional banks not only could fail; they are likely to fail. When the derivative scheme collapses and the US government refuses a bailout, JPMorgan could be giving its depositors' accounts sizable ''haircuts'' along guidelines established by the BIS and Reserve Bank of New Zealand.
 

The bold moves of the Cypriots and such firebrand political activists as Italy's Grillo are not the only bulwarks against bankster confiscation. While the credit crisis is strangling the Western banking system, the BRIC countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China - have sailed through largely unscathed. According to a May 2010 article in The Economist, what has allowed them to escape are their strong and stable publicly-owned banks. [10]


Professor Kurt von Mettenheim of the Sao Paulo Business School of Brazil writes, ''The credit policies of BRIC government banks help explain why these countries experienced shorter and milder economic downturns during 2007-2008.'' [11] Government banks countered the effects of the financial crisis by providing counter-cyclical credit and greater client confidence.
 

Russia is an Eastern European country that weathered the credit crisis although being very close to the eurozone. According to a March 2010 article in Forbes:


As in other countries, the [2008] crisis prompted the state to take on a greater role in the banking system. State-owned systemic banks … have been used to carry out anti-crisis measures, such as driving growth in lending (however limited) and supporting private institutions. [12]


In the 1998 Asian crisis, many Russians who had put all their savings in private banks lost everything; and the credit crisis of 2008 has reinforced their distrust of private banks. Russian businesses as well as individuals have turned to their government-owned banks as the more trustworthy alternative. [13] As a result, state-owned banks are expected to continue dominating the Russian banking industry for the foreseeable future. [14]
 

The entire eurozone conundrum is unnecessary. It is the result of too little money in a system in which the money supply is fixed, and the eurozone governments and their central banks cannot issue their own currencies. There are insufficient euros to pay principal plus interest in a pyramid scheme in which only the principal is injected by the banks that create money as ''bank credit'' on their books.
 

A central bank with the power to issue money could remedy that systemic flaw, by injecting the liquidity needed to jumpstart the economy and turn back the tide of austerity choking the people.


The push to confiscate the savings of hard-working Cypriot citizens is a shot across the bow for every working person in the world, a wake-up call to the perils of a system in which tiny cadres of elites call the shots and the rest of us pay the price. When we finally pull back the veils of power to expose the men pulling the levers in an age-old game they devised, we will see that prosperity is indeed possible for all.


Notes:

1. See

here.
2. See
here.
3. See
A Primer on Open Bank Resolution
4. See Open Bank Resolution
5. See
here.
6. See
here.
7. See
here.
8. See
here.
9. See
here.
10. See
here.
11. See
here.
12. See
here.
13. See
here.
14. See
here.


Ellen Brown is an attorney and president of the Public Banking Institute, PublicBankingInstitute.org. In Web of Debt, her latest of 11 books, she shows how a private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. Her websites are WebofDebt.com and EllenBrown.com. For more on the public bank solution and for details of the June 2013 Public Banking Institute conference in San Rafael, California, see here.



(Copyright 2013 Ellen Brown)


Markets Insight

March 20, 2013 11:25 am
 
Markets Insight: Japan sets course for hyperinflation
 
 
 
Not many things keep me awake at night, but recent developments in Asia are a cause for concern. The increasingly destabilising policies being implemented by Japan have the potential to ignite a global financial conflagration with consequences even more severe than the recent crisis.


Japanese authorities have embarked on a precarious policy of depreciating the yen, raising domestic inflation to 2 per cent, and running larger fiscal deficits in an attempt to end decades of chronic stagnation. This policy cocktail, designed to increase domestic spending while improving export competitiveness, threatens to rekindle uncertainty and upheaval across the globe.


Rising domestic inflation would result in negative real returns for Japanese government bonds (JGBs), while the depreciation of the yen would further discourage foreign investment. This could lead to capital outflows as global investors seek to escape the certainty of negative real returns on yen-denominated assets. Even Japanese equities, which should perform well under the new policy, would fail to attract hard currency investment as investors would hedge their yen exposure.


None of these factors would have been a problem 10 years ago, when Japan amassed large annual increases in domestic savings. But since then, the ratio of retirees to the working age population has increased and Japan no longer generates enough domestic savings to finance the deficits proposed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Within the next few years, Japan’s domestic savings will likely turn negative due to the protracted period of dis-saving caused by the country’s ageing population.


So who will finance Mr Abe’s fiscal stimulus programme? With a 2 per cent inflation target and the need to expand the money supply, the Bank of Japan will be a willing buyer, at least for a while. As the BoJ reaches its inflation target, monetary policy will need to be normalised. This would reduce or eliminate central bank purchases of JGBs. As the BoJ steps aside, interest rates would begin to rise in order to attract private sector capital.


The current size of Japan’s public debt is approximately 230 per cent of GDP, with total interest expense on JGBs representing about 40 per cent of government receipts. Were interest rates to increase by 300 basis points over the next five years, which is in line with Mr Abe’s stated objective of bringing inflation from -1 per cent to 2 per cent, interest expense would expand to approximately 80 per cent of present total government revenues, with the prospect that this ratio could continue to rise.


What does this mean for the rest of the world? With the BoJ out of the market, and no incremental domestic savings, Japan will be dependent on foreign capital to finance its shortfall. Without that infusion of capital, interest rates could continue to rise, thus increasing deficits and exacerbating the nation’s fiscal crisis. Japan would then find itself in the dubious position of having to restructure its debt or continue to run the printing press to buy more bonds, driving inflation higher and dramatically devaluing the yen. These grim policy options would destabilise not just the Asian region, but the global economy.


The probability of this catastrophic series of events may appear remote, but the severity of their potential consequences demands attention. This global margin call on Japan would lead to a protracted period of capital flight. Investors then would focus on others vulnerable to similar risk factors as Japan; specifically, nations or regions unable to finance national deficits with domestic savings or foreign capital, and that are dependent on the central bank to purchase bonds.


Disturbingly, the leading candidates to follow Japan into the crosshairs include the US, UK and western Europe. Just as contagion spread across the countries of Europe in 2008, contagion from Japan could easily spread from Asia to other regions.


History suggests that the long-term monetisation of public debt by central banks is a formula for hyperinflation. Price increases that result from the rapid expansion of the money supply can cause an insidious cycle that requires the creation of ever-larger amounts of new money to fund government activities. This can also lead to a crisis of confidence due to the erosion of faith in a nation’s currency as a store of future value.


The world’s third-largest economy may be setting the stage for a global inflationary spiral, perhaps beyond anything previously experienced. As Japan seeks to deal with the longer-term consequences of its current policy, it could easily slide down the slippery slope that leads to hyperinflation. Troublingly, the rest of the industrialised world is at risk of going down with it.


Scott Minerd is chief investment officer at Guggenheim Partners

 
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013


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Is The Government Lying To Us About Inflation? Yes!

John Mauldin

Mar 22, 2013


In today’s Outside the Box, Gary D. Halbert (my old and very dear friend and former business partner of many years) reminds us about a few significant facts concerning the Consumer Price Index (CPI) that mainstream economists and the media tend to ignore. The central question is whether the CPI is really indicative of the actual inflation rate. Not likely, says Gary, since the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which compiles the CPI, has engaged in methodological shenanigans over the past couple decades (as has been well documented by John Williams of ShadowStats, among others). The upshot of all their monkeying with the numbers is that the official rate of inflation may be two to four times lower than the actual rate (which is rather convenient if you’re a government bureaucrat trying to hold down interest costs and Social Security payments).


These changes are hotly debated in academic circles. There are many economists who agree with the changes and can show with their models that inflation is low. That is the currently accepted wisdom, or what passes for it. The problem is that inflation only shows up, as one person put it, in the things we actually buy. If your main costs are food, energy, education, and healthcare (ring any bells?), then inflation is a great deal higher than 2%. Other items are actually falling in price. It comes down to the mix of items in the calculations and whether you buy into the concepts of substitution (if beef gets too expensive we buy hamburger rather than steak) and “hedonics,” which says that prices of products drop over time as quality and manufacturing efficiency improve, so the calculation of inflation should take this into account.


Which means you can have official inflation at a low level (or even falling for certain items), while the amount you actually spend out of your very real pocket is rising! And thus the debate.
Having refreshed us on the basic techniques of CPI massage, Gary turns to food and energy, which the BLS includes in “headline CPI” but omits from “core CPI.” He points out that while headline CPI jumped an unexpected 0.7% in February, core CPI rose only 0.2%. That is, food and energy price increases accounted for more than 70% of the rise. “Not good for the economy,” he notes.


And of course, this is all bad news for unwary investors, since


Those who believe that inflation is only 2%, when it may be 5-8%, may be making investment decisions that are almost guaranteed to erode the purchasing power of their money over time. This is especially true with low-yielding investments such as CDs, Treasuries, etc.


Gary wraps up by taking a look at “chained CPI,” which he explains as follows:


Chained CPI assumes that when prices rise, consumers will resort to entirely different products, rather than just seeking a cheaper brand. For example, if beef prices rise, chained CPI would assume that consumers might opt for chicken to save money.


The chained CPI debate is raging as we speak: I got an email from the AARP this morning, urging me to tell my Senators to say no to chained CPI being used to calculate Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) – sounds like they may vote today (Friday) on a bill to do just that. But as Gary points out, we either calculate benefits using chained CPI – which, yes, is tough on those living on a fixed income – or we eliminate the cap on salary subject to Social Security taxation (that is, we raise taxes). As Gary says, “Either way, somebody’s got to pay, and it might end up being a little [of] both.”

John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box



Is The Government Lying To Us About Inflation? Yes!

FORECASTS & TRENDS E-LETTER
By Gary D. Halbert

March 19, 2013


Consumer Price Index Jumped in February



On Friday, the Labor Department reported that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) jumped an unexpected 0.7% in February. This was above pre-report estimates and was the highest monthly reading since 2009. We should be very concerned, right? Let’s take a closer look.


Upon further examination, we find that if we subtract food and energy from the CPI, the cost index rose only 0.2% last month. It turns out that most of the big increase in the CPI last month was due to the sharp rise in gasoline prices. The experts tell us that due to the volatile nature of oil and gasoline prices, we shouldn’t include energy in the CPI. Ditto for food prices which can also be quite volatile.


I have always argued to the contrary, that food and energy prices do indeed need to be considered in the CPI. Think pocketbook: if gas prices rise $1.00 per gallon, and you have to fill up once a week, and it takes 20 gallons to fill up your car, then you have $20 less to spend on something else that week, or $80 less per month. Not good for the economy.


Some others disagree with me, arguing that you spend the same amount each month, and that if you spend more on gas, then you spend less on other things, but the overall economy gets the same amount of money from you one way or the other. Both points are valid.


But if you are trying to measure the true inflation rate, I maintain that food and energy should be included. Apparently the government agrees with me since they continue to report the headline Index including food and energy, and secondarily report what the Index was without food and energy.
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The real question is whether or not the Consumer Price Index is really indicative of the actual inflation rate. I will argue that it is not a very good indicator with, or without, food and energy. At the very least, the CPI is controversial.




Why the CPI is So Controversial



The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is produced by the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It is the most widely watched and used measure of the US inflation rate. For years, there has been controversy about whether the CPI overstates or understates inflation, how it is measured and whether it is an appropriate proxy for inflation.


Originally, the CPI was determined by comparing price changes in a fixed basket of goods and services. Determined as such, the CPI was a cost of goods index (COGI). Over time, however, the US Congress embraced the view that the CPI should reflect changes in the cost to maintain a constant standard of living. Consequently, the CPI has been moving toward a cost of living index (COLI).


Over the years, the methodology used to calculate the CPI has also undergone numerous revisions. According to the BLS, the changes removed “biases” that caused the CPI to overstate the inflation rate. The new methodology takes into account changes in the quality of goods and “substitution.” Substitution is the change in purchases by consumers in response to price changes, and this alters the relative weighting of the goods in the basket. The overall result tends to be a lower CPI.


Critics view the methodological changes and the switch from a COGI to a COLI focus as a purposeful manipulation that allows the government to report a lower CPI. Most critics prefer that the CPI be calculated using the original methodology based on a basket of goods with fixed quantities and qualities. Doing so can result in a significantly higher inflation reading.


On Friday, the BLS reported that the CPI rose only 2.0% over the last 12 months. Economists using different methodologies (including the original methodologies) estimate that the real US inflation rate over that same period was anywhere between 5% and 8%. That’s a huge difference!



If Inflation is 2%, Why Are Prices Up So Much?



I read a good article last week from TIME Business & Money columnist Michael Sivy. He pointed out that his printer ran out of ink recently, and he was “shocked” to find that the same printer cartridge had gone up in price by 25% in less than a year.


While the government’s CPI has averaged only 2% since the end of the Great Recession in early 2009, many basic commodities have soared since then. Gold was $930 an ounce when the recession ended, and today it’s just over $1,600. That’s an increase of 70% in four years, or an annualized rate of over 14%.


Of course, that’s just one commodity. How about a broader measure? The Reuters CRB Commodity Index, which tracks the prices of energy, coffee, cocoa, copper, cotton, etc. is up 38% over four years, or 8.6% at a compound annual rate.


The price of gasoline has gone up from $2.60 a gallon when the recession ended to around $3.70 today nationally. That’s a 41% increase in four years, or an annualized rate of 9%. Taxes have gone up almost as much. Federal, state and local income taxes have risen 35% over four years, an annualized rate of 7.8%.


Then there’s the so-calledBig Mac Index” that was popularized by The Economist some years ago. McDonald’s hamburgers are available in many countries and their prices reflect the cost of food, fuel and basic labor. The price of a Big Mac, therefore, can be yet another indicator of inflation in a particular country. Since the recession ended, the cost of a Big Mac in the US has risen from an average of $3.57 to $4.37, or 5.2% a year.


As the main grocery shopper (and cook) in our family, I am reminded several times a week how food prices continue to go higher. Take a look at this chart from the St Louis Fed.



And while we’re on the subject of food, have you noticed how many manufacturers reduce the size of the containers and/or packages so as to reduce the enclosed amount – but still charge the same price as before? I know I’m not the only one!



Severe Drought Led to Higher Food Prices



Forecasters lay much of the blame for higher food prices on the drought that swept through much of the US last year, and is continuing this year. Last year’s severe weather put nearly 80% of the continental United States in drought conditions – the worst in 50 years. Particularly hard hit areas include the Midwest states of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, as well as Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and many parts of Colorado and California.


The drought damaged key crops like corn, wheat and soybeans while driving up commodity prices and forcing farmers to scramble to find feed for livestock. Farmers and ranchers have had to cut back on the number of livestock and poultry in order to limit their own costs, which created a shortage of beef, chicken and pork.


Although conditions have improved in some areas, roughly 61% of the country still suffers from drought, which is remains at its worst levels in more than a decade, according to the US Drought Monitor.


On a personal note, we are fortunate to live on beautiful Lake Travis, just outside Austin. Lake Travis is a Corps of Engineers man-made lake, and it supplies water for hundreds of thousands of area residents and countless businesses in Central Texas. As such, the lake level varies significantly, depending on the amount of rainfall we receive each year.


The drought in Central Texas is in its third year. Lake Travis, which is 65 miles long and over 200 feet deep in places, is now only 40% full (or 60% empty). As the water level falls, we have to push our dock out further and further to keep it in the water. A trip down to the dock is over 125 steps (one way)!



So How Is the CPI at Only 2%? It’s Not.



As we’ve seen above, the prices of many things that consumers buy on a regular basis have risen much faster than the CPI. So how can the CPI be at only 2%? And how could it have averaged just 2% since the end of the Great Recession four years ago?


Some argue that it’s because wages are down, and with the economy so weak, workers can’t demand higher pay to make up for their increased cost of living. Indeed, that’s one of the factors causing the decline in real after-tax household income.


Real median annual household income in January of this year was $51,584 – or 92.7% of the level in January 2000. Incomes inched up early in 2012 but have been treading water since May, according to the Household Income Index. While household income ticked up slightly in the past year, it remains well below the $54,008 level seen at the start of the recovery roughly four years ago.





These are all factors influencing the economic recovery (or lack thereof) and thus the inflation rate. But they don’t explain why the headline Consumer Price Index has hovered around 2% for the last four years, or why other inflation measurements are in the 5%-8% range. How can this be?


Quite simply because it’s a government report that’s been frequently manipulated over the last 35 years. Whether by design (my bet) or coincidence, these revisions have served to reduce the official inflation rate.


Also, keep in mind that our government has a record $16.7 trillion in debt it is paying interest on. If interest rates rise, it costs Uncle Sam more money. If inflation rises, interest rates follow. Obviously, the government has incentives to manipulate the official inflation rate lower than it really is.


The bottom line is that there is no absolute and objective gauge of inflation. Any particular measure is simply one way of making the calculation, based on a host of assumptions. We do know with certainty that a number of the costs that American households face are going up considerably faster than the CPI.


Finally, the fact that real world inflation is higher than the CPI poses challenges for investors. Investors should calculate their total required return net of the effect of inflation. As the inflation rate increases, higher returns must be earned in order to obtain a desired real rate of return.


Those who believe that inflation is only 2%, when it may be 5-8%, may be making investment decisions that are almost guaranteed to erode the purchasing power of their money over time. This is especially true with low-yielding investments such as CDs, Treasuries, etc.



Obama’s Olive Branch – “Chained CPI”?



Before we leave the subject of CPI, I think it’s important to discuss something going on right now in the budget negotiations in Washington. Over the shrill opposition of liberal Democrats, Obama has verbally offered to change the way cost of living increases are calculated for Social Security and other entitlements. Instead of the CPI now used, he said he might consider using something called the “chained CPI.”


In a nutshell, chained CPI is a measure of inflation that seeks to account for substitution by consumers when prices rise. While the current CPI measure uses substitution to a small extent, chained CPI assumes that when prices rise, consumers will resort to entirely different products, rather than just seeking a cheaper brand. For example, if beef prices rise, chained CPI would assume that consumers might opt for chicken to save money.


The end result is that chained CPI is generally lower than the current CPI used for measuring inflation. As I noted above, the


CPI for the past 12 months was measured at 2.0%. The chained CPI for the same period was 1.8%.


If we switch to chained CPI for entitlement cost of living increases, which remains to be seen, it would mean that benefits would rise at a slower rate. Alan Greenspan recommended moving to chained CPI for Social Security back in his day at the Fed, but it went nowhere.


Liberal Democrats oppose the switch to chained CPI and demagogue it as a “war on seniors,” while Republicans feel it’s a way to save Social Security as we know it. Democrats prefer eliminating the cap on salary subject to Social Security taxation (read: increase taxes) to using chained CPI, which they view as a cut in benefits. It seems that only in a politician’s mind can a slower rate of increasing benefits be called a “cut.”


It’s still too early to tell how the current chained CPI debate will play out. This is one of those issues that hits both old and young. If chained CPI is used, then entitlement benefit increases will be lower. If it is not, then future Social Security taxes may well have to be higher. Either way, somebody’s got to pay, and it might end up being a little from both.


Hoping you stay ahead of inflation,


Gary D. Halbert