general newsletter

A Shell Game

May 9, 2019

Whenever I am in New York City, I am fascinated by the number of people gathered around corner shell games or three card monte. The game seems simple, only a matter of keeping your eye trained on the shell with the ball or the queen. But, if it is so easy, why does no one ever seem to win? Because the game is rigged, no matter how hard you try to keep your “eye on the ball.”

I think we may be facing a new shell game. The Office of Management and Budget recently released a proposed regulatory change to the metrics used to determine eligibility for federal programs like SNAP and Medicaid. The proposal would change the way inflation is indexed for the purpose of measuring poverty from the consumer price index (CPI) to the chained consumer price index (C-CPI). As our colleagues at The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities stated in their analysis: “If the poverty line is altered in this fashion, fewer individuals and families will qualify over time for various forms of assistance, including many who work hard but are paid low wages.”

The current administration has expressed a hope to reduce poverty in the United States. That is a laudable goal. But, their solution for this is to change the rules for how we measure poverty, not doing anything that will have a positive effect on the financial condition of those who struggle in a challenging economy. That seems like a shell game to me. We all need to keep our “eye on the ball.”

Lee Sherman, President & CEO

The full version of Volume 4, Issue 10 of The NHSA Exchange is available online for 6 months.