Economics 102


In the 1990s politicians in Washington D.C. were looking for ways to balance the budget. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan brought attention to the importance of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and its link to cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) in several areas of the federal budget–most notably Social Security. Alan Greenspan argued that the CPI overstated inflation and thus led to unjustified COLAs. According to Alan Greenspan, these unjustified COLAs therefore increased the deficit, and if the overstatements in the CPI were corrected this would contribute to balancing the budget.

The Senate Finance Committee created the Boskin Commission in the 1990s to examine possible overstatements of the CPI. The commission came out with its estimate that the CPI overstated inflation by 1.1%.

Answer the following questions:

1. If the Boskin Commission’s estimate was right and the CPI overstates inflation by 1.1 % every year–what does that say about real GDP per capita and living standards in general in the United States, which are affected by the CPI ?

2. What are some of the sources of this possible overstatement of the CPI, which is calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics?

Your response must be at least two paragraphs (***I want you to be highly critical of the assertions propagated by Alan Greenspan and the Boskin Commission. You need to critically analyze their assertions***).

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