This is a very interesting report and dispels many of the myths surrounding American social policy relative to our supposedly more centralized, socialized, friends in Europe. Our government is massive and meddling. Though the Europeans use direct government payments more than us, the US manipulates the tax code more than the Europeans to create incentives for various social policies. With the exception of France, government here actually inserts itself more generally into the lives of everyday citizens. We are not, and have not been a capitalist country for a long time. That’s pretty much the problem.
Of course in all this meddling there is lots of opportunity for crony capitalism. A tax “incentive” here. A tax break there. You know how it goes.
There are a few things we can learn from this analysis. First of all, it is important to note that the US does not redistribute resources any less than other countries. Like most other “developed” countries, the US employs a wide variety of public policies to benefit certain groups and income levels.
Additionally, when taken together, the expenditures that result from these public policies are sizable, and even exceed nearly all other countries measured.
Left-wing pundits and scholars who wish to portray the US as a kind of hyper-capitalist social-Darwinist system conveniently focus on direct cash transfers and social spending by government agencies while ignoring other sources of social expenditures. At the same time, conservatives and right wing pundits, for different reasons, often attempt to portray the US government as a regime that engages in less redistribution of wealth than other states. Both groups are mistaken.