Is America Hiding Its True Inflation Rate, and Could the U.S. Be as Insolvent as Greece?

CBS News recently reported that the rate of inflation, as calculated by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), clocked in at a whopping 8% over the past year. This number is in stark contrast to the relatively modest inflation rate of 3.1% being reported by the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The AIER calculates what they refer to as an Every Day Price Index (EPI). The EPI only looks at the cost of goods the average household buys every month and factors in only those costs which are subject to price fluctuation. For example, mortgages are typically stable over the course of a year so those numbers are ignored. They wouldn’t change unless a person moves or refinances, so they don’t act as a good measure of inflation from month to month.

Another measure of inflation comes from John Williams’ Shadow Stats. Williams calculates the consumer price index (CPI) using the same model as the government did prior to 1990. Williams also calculates the CPI using the same model as the government did prior to 1980. In each case, the government changed the way it calculated inflation in order to give the appearance of less inflation.

If we calculate the inflation rate the exact same way the government did prior to 1990, the inflation rate is averaging around 6.5%, which is basically double the official rate. However, if we measure inflation the same way the government did back prior to 1980, the inflation rate clocks in at a mind-numbing 11%.


 

In the current official model, the state makes widespread use of hedonics and substitution to hide real inflation rates. It must do so in order to keep the interest it pays on Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) and Social Security cost of living adjustments low. If the government used real consumer inflation rates, it would become readily apparent that the U.S. is completely insolvent in much the same way Greece is insolvent today. 

If other nations should catch on to this, they would begin dumping U.S. treasuries in order to protect themselves from a U.S. default, the same situation Greece is facing today. People don’t want to hold Greek debt because they fear they will not be paid back with money that has any value. In other words, they fear that the Greek state will simply print money to make the interest payments.

It appears that this situation may already be taking place with some major U.S. creditors. The Chinese have dumped over $100 billion worth of U.S. treasuries in the month of December, which is a continuation of a trend that has been going on since April of 2011. Chinese holdings of U.S. treasuries are down $300 billion since April of 2011.

This creates a dangerous situation for inflation. If enough governments dump U.S. treasuries because they fear the U.S. is insolvent, the interest rates will skyrocket unless the Fed prints the money to buy those bonds. However, if the Fed buys the bonds, domestic inflation rates will skyrocket.

Image credit Shadowstats.com, republished with permission.

Photo Credit: Rlinger

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Michael Suede

Michael Suede is an Austrian economist and author who holds a business degree from the University of Wisconsin. Michael's articles have appeared in numerous economics publications. Michael is also one of the few economists who is well versed in the economics of voluntary crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin. Michael is a veteran of the US Navy and an advocate of voluntarism. Michael authorizes the use of all his content under Public Domain copyright. Any organization or individual may freely republish, edit, modify and distribute Michael's works without restrictions.

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