Build the Safety Net Back Better — Put States in Charge

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Say what you will about 2020, but it’s undoubtedly a time of reinvention. As an election collides with a pandemic, protests, and riots, it would be easy to summarize it all as chaos. But any keen observer — or “Game of Thrones” fan knows — chaos isn’t always a pit. Sometimes, it’s a ladder.

So, the question is: Which decaying institutions or dead ideas should we discard, and which should we reinvigorate? America’s welfare state jumps off the page. The pandemic has revealed just how rigid and costly our complex web of public housing, food stamps, Medicaid, and cash welfare programs have become. But every year, in good times and bad, we pump hundreds of billions of dollars into them.

The trillions of dollars spent over the decades have bought us increased dependency, less work, distorted markets, greater costs, and painfully slow progress in lowering our national poverty rate. But this is a time of reinvention — the perfect time to return power to the states.