Several unrelated news reports have highlighted an apparently widespread problem afflicting federal means-tested public benefit program: a potentially large fraction of program beneficiaries are ineligible. But as regulatory problems go, this one has an easy, cost-effective solution.
Category Archives: Usda
Proving Eligibility for Means-Tested Benefit Programs:
A regulatory problem with an unusally easy solution
The US Supreme court will hear a case alleging that the USDA committed a regulatory “taking” under the 5th Amendment when it demanded a share of the petitioner’s raisin crop in exchange for the right to sell the rest. The case comes from the Ninth Circuit, which held that the district court lacked jurisdiction under its precedent.
Yesterday’s post on the federal government’s new program to eradicate “food deserts” provided an obvious example in which the database yields nonsensical results. A large US Army installation, one with its own grocery store, no unemployment, and essentially no poverty, nevertheless appeared to meet all of the government’s (arbitrary) criteria for inclusion.
A closer look shows that there is yet another reason why this particular “food desert” is a mirage. Soldiers who live within this census tract actually do live within one mile of a second, large grocery store–albeit one that is in an adjacent census tract.
One of the latest trends in federal government food policy is the eradication of “food deserts” — places where it is said to be difficult to find fresh produce. The Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture has created an interactive map to help you learn whether you live in a “food desert”.
The data are interesting, but perhaps not for the intended reason.
Earlier this week, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed the establishment of a global regulatory regime to “stabilize” oil prices. We deconstructed the proposal to show that the Brown-Sarkozy proposal seemed to be aimed at keeping oil prices high, not necessarily stabilizing them:
The potential scope and scale of this proposed “government supervision” appear to be quite large. Brown and Sarkozy are seeking a global regulatory regime that would “reduce damaging speculation” and “serve the interests of orderly and adequate investment in future supplies.” The commentary provides no insight concerning what social benefits are obtained by “orderliness,” or how much speculation is “damaging.” Indeed, Brown and Sarkozy follow a well worn path by criticizing “speculators” for driving prices up (or, in this case, down). Every futures contract has both a willing buyer and a willing seller.
Futures markets serve an important public purpose–they provide price discovery–and, ironically for Brown and Sarkozy’s argument, they tend to reduce price volatility. Regulatory restrictions on speculation should be expected to increase uncertainty, and thus exacerbate volatility. But as an analysis of the Brown-Sarkozy commentary shows, price volatility is not the problem they are actually worried about. They are trying to figure out how to use regulation to keep prices high and make it seem as if this is a good thing for consumers.
Early reactions to the proposal suggest it has a long way to go to be persuasive.