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'Blue Dog' Democrats Want To Fix The CPI

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Feb. 26) -- The drive to change the way the government measures inflation is getting a boost from the "Blue Dogs," a group of conservative House Democrats.

The roughly two dozen Democrats plan to release a balanced budget proposal that includes, as one of its key provisions, a reduction in the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index by 0.8 percent.

That would save $103 billion over five years and provide a vital boost toward balancing the budget by 2002, a goal that both President Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans say they share.

"You can't get there without it, honestly," Rep. Charles Stenholm (D-Texas), one of the Blue Dogs' leaders, told The Associated Press.

A congressional commission studied how the government calculates the Consumer Price Index last year and concluded it overstates the rate of inflation by about 1.1 percent.

But fixing it poses a political risk, since it would mean slower growth in Social Security benefits and increased income taxes. (The IRS uses the inflation index to adjust tax brackets, deductions and personal exemptions.)

Lawmaker could find political from a plan suggested on Monday by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) that Clinton and Congress appoint a four-member panel to decide on a specific CPI adjustment.

Last year, the Blue Dogs proposed a 0.5 percentage cut in the CPI and that budget proposal, while unsuccessful in the end, picked up significant GOP support.

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