JONATHAN CHAIT AUGUST 11, 2011
Brink Lindsey, via an approving Will Wilkinson, makes a seemingly obvious point that is in fact half wrong: "the looming choice between our relatively lavish welfare state and our relatively modest tax bill cannot be delayed much longer." We do have a relatively modest tax bill. But do we have a relatively lavish welfare state? Certainly not relative to other advanced countries:
Even that chart exaggerates the lavishness of the U.S. welfare state. The main distinction between American social spending and social spending elsewhere is that we pay far more for health care, and we don't generally consider it better than citizens of other countries deem their health care. If you were to pro-rate the chart to account for the fact that we're paying up to twice as much for pretty much the same thing (health care), it would be even more clear that the U.S. welfare state is relatively sparse.