Consumer Price Index (CPI). The use this measure to determine the inflation rate. They then have several costs (to the government) that are adjusted by the inflation rate, or cost of living. When you look at the historical inflation rates, it looks like things have slowed down dramatically. To the right, we can see the rate of inflation according to the CPI. Things have looked pretty calm since 1985. However, when you look at what $1 bought in 1914, and then compare it to what it would cost in 2010 (according to the government CPI data), it would cost $22.32.
It appears that sometime in the early seventies inflation really took off and hasn't really slowed until around 2005. The really scary part is that CPI does not really reflect the true cost of living. They exclude certain items from their calculations. There are certain things that have a much higher inflation rate.
college tuition inflation has been anywhere from 50% higher to twice as high as the CPI based inflation. It doesn't seem like that would be a big deal, 6% instead of 3%, but that gets compounded over time.
This is just one of the curious items that seems to greatly outpace general inflation by quite a bit.