There are some politicians who would have you think that half the United States is on welfare, lounging in that now famous "hammock" versus struggling to free themselves from the "safety net." This view prevails even in the wake of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, also known as welfare reform, which very pointedly -- and arguably effectively -- put time limits on benefits.
Now along comes Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin with a bold proposal to consolidate and block grant 24 antipoverty programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, housing assistance and child care subsidies. Under the Ryan plan, states would be free to spend the money any way they saw fit as long as it wasn't on unrelated programs such as roads and parks. As my colleague, Governing columnist Don Kettl, will argue in the October issue of the magazine, it's an idea worth considering.