Monday, March 07, 2016
It makes everyone worse off and no one better off.
Even the financial costs of any detection and enforcement mechanism serious enough to even try to get these false negatives (people who aren’t caught and thrown out of SNAP) down to 0 will be high; it wouldn’t surprise me for those costs alone to exceed $14 million (and I don’t for a second believe there will be $14 million in savings). As conservatives know when it comes to business, environmental, and health regulation, trying to turn one-in-20,000 events to 0-in-20,000 events is hard and expensive and complicated. Moreover (and as they also know) it generates errors in the other direction. “Zero-tolerance” policies are a plague on the American political and legal climate right now. The effort to make sure that no American child ever brings a narcotic or firearm to school is doomed to fail to begin with, and also results in stupid expulsions of children carrying aspirin or squirt guns. What we have here isn’t a new substantive rule (big-money lottery winners are already income-inelgiible for SNAP) but a zero-tolerance mindset applied to the existing rule, an effort to move from trivially-few to zero offenses; and innocent people will get caught in the net. (Something everyone could stand to remember: the lower frequency an offense is, the worse the ratio is likely to be between the false negatives you’re trying to prevent and the false positives you’re going to create.)