Thursday, May 3, 2012

Core CPI, chained CPI, and my CPI

I have decided to cut out all the middlemen and con artists in the government and start a quarterly tracking of consumer price inflation in my local neighborhood.  We won't use any substitutions or increased utility bullsh*t in it either.  If you're unfamiliar with these concepts, the idea is this:

Utility: A concrete example is that a gallon of orange juice costs $4.  But due to some crop harvesting improvements they yield more oranges and you are able to get a gallon for $3.50 next month.  Your utility/use (value to you) of orange juice has increased while the price has decreased.

A specious example: Time Warner cable had 50 basic channels and was $30/month.  Now it has 100 channels and is $40 a month.  Because it doubled its content delivery, its utility or use (value to you) increased.  But, the price went up $10.  50/30 (5/3) or 100/40 (5/2)  if we consider the 100 channels all valuable.  This would track as a decreasing cost (you were paying $30 for 50 channels, but now it's $20 for 50 channels) with the measurement utility.  Like I said, bullsh*t, because you don't watch CNN 5 or the O channel.

Substitutions via "geometric ratings".  This one is awful.  If a pound of premium ground sirloin, which was $6 increases to $9, the current use CPI would say, well, the average family can still buy a pound of top quality chicken (or fish, or whatever) for $6, so somewhat gradually over time we include more chicken and fish measurements than we include premium ground sirloin, thus smoothing the stated inflation rate in total.

Which, as you can see in my previous sentence, is bullsh*t.  Because you ain't got no beef no more.  If you follow this one to the end conclusion, we could have all premium meats increasing in cost to the point where the "average" user is out trading -something- for a pound of squirrel or rat meat at about $6 / lb.  But meat is meat, right,?.

The chained CPI is worse, it's a quickly rebalanced average of cheaper substitutions over time.  The sole purpose of this CPI is to quickly rob you of all your savings via taxation and eroding purchasing power and leave you for dead.

Anyway, I plan to include 10-20 items in my personal no-BS CPI.  I'll allocate them somewhat equally
  • 1 gallon gas premium local Shell
  • 1 gallon gas standard local Exxon
  • 1 gallon skim milk local Harris Teeter
  • 1 half-gallon local non-steroid cow milk local Whole Foods
  • 1 6-pack of Lone Rider Shotgun Betty from local Shell
  • The same 6-pack at local Harris Teeter
  • 1 year in-state tuition and books from NC State ( divided by 100)
  • 1 year in-state tuition and books from UNC (/100)
  • 1 night standard rack rate in hospital (adult) (/10)
  • 1 pound of locally grass fed beef
  • 1 12 ounce bag of Starbucks Verona roast at local store (any)
  • 1 pint of Big Boss rotating tap at local restaurant
  • 1 pound of 96/4 lean beef (non-local)
  • 1 standard chicken sandwich + side from Tribeca Tavern
  • 1 standard quarter pounder meal (regular) from local McDonalds
  • 1 month insurance premium for us (/10)
  • 1 pool entry to local pool
Might add a few more.  I read that awful article on chained CPI (linked above) a few days ago and wanted to start shouting at someone.  It is a total money grab. 


UltraBrad said...

This is one project I'm interested in seeing the results of, over time.

Donna said...

What I know is the price of everything keeps going up, the content of packages keeps decreasing, and the government's typical market basket has never matched mine. It will be very interesting to see how your personal CPI compares.