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The Boston Globe

Opinion

TOM KEANE

Touching the third rail of politics

Democrats balk at a new formula for calculating Social Security

Tea Partiers are accused of being the intransigent face of the right, the brook-no-compromise folks who’d rather accomplish nothing than give an inch on their principles. But the current dustup over President Obama’s new 2014 budget suggests the Tea Partiers have more than their fair share of counterparts on the left — with the Massachusetts congressional delegation prominent among them.

At issue is the president’s proposal to change the formula for calculating Social Security’s cost-of-living adjustments. Most of us are familiar with the Consumer Price Index — the CPI — which measures the price inflation of a “basket” of goods and services that people typically buy. The CPI is flawed, however. In the real world, it should be based not only on how much prices inflate but also on how we, as consumers, respond to that inflation. Thus, if the price of oranges goes up, I may decide to buy less expensive apples instead.

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