Editor's Note: This article was originally published on Fortune earlier today.
FORTUNE -- "If someone were to rent your home today, how much do you think it would rent for monthly, unfurnished, and without utilities?"
Believe it or not, the government asks ordinary American homeowners that perfectly imprecise and highly subjective question every single month as part of the Bureau of Labor Statistic's monthly price survey process. The answers determine the calculation of "Owner's Equivalent Rent," which represents almost 25% of the index used to calculate consumer price index inflation in the United States.
It is, quite possibly, the most absurd way to calculate inflation.
The answers have a profound effect on U.S. monetary policy and influence how much you ultimately pay for groceries, gasoline, and much more. If you answered that question in the last month or so, your response appeared in the latest Consumer Price Index report and influenced Fed Chair Janet Yellen's debut speech.
The head-scratching bottom line? Pie-in-the-sky guesses of homeowners, overwhelmingly lacking both economic training and policy experience, are the tail wagging the Federal Open Market Committee dog.