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Ever since the 1960s, Washington has gulled its citizens and creditors by debasing official statistics, the vital instruments with which the vigor and muscle of the American economy are measured.
The effect has been to create a false sense of economic achievement and rectitude, allowing us to maintain artificially low interest rates, massive government borrowing, and a dangerous reliance on mortgage and financial debt even as real economic growth has been slower than claimed.
Not only do governments, businesses and individuals use these yardsticks in their decisionmaking, but minor revisions in the data can mean major changes in household circumstances — inflation measurements help determine interest rates, federal interest payments on the national debt, and cost-of-living increases for wages, pensions and Social Security benefits.