An "editorial observer" column in today's New York Times claims: "The budgetary policy of the United States has been the least generous in the industrial world for a very long time....our government spending on social programs is equally puny. In 2007 Britain spent 25 percent more, as a share of its economy. Germany spent almost 60 percent more."
This depends, I suppose, on one's definition of "generosity." The Times column doesn't get into this, but one reason America spends less on "social programs" for Americans is that we spend a lot more than Britain, Germany, or other industrialized countries do on our military. What's more "generous" — for America to spend hundreds of billions of dollars making places like Iraq, Afghanistan, or the former Yugoslavia more safe for the people who live there, and on protecting Japan and Taiwan from Communist China — or spending the money instead on helping Americans? The Times writer apparently thinks it's more generous to keep the money at home, but one could easily argue that that's not the generous approach, but the selfish one.
The Times article goes on:
Even if lower taxes contributed to growth, I would suggest that we reconsider the trade-off. It's not working out for most of us.
As the president noted in his speech at George Washington University, growth has not delivered prosperity to all of us: 90 percent of working Americans saw their incomes fall in the past decade. The top 1 percent, though, saw their income rise by more than a quarter of a million dollars on average.
Contrast this portrayal of a miserable 90% laboring while a mere 1% prosper with the findings of a new AP-Gfk Roper poll of 1,001 American adults. It asked "would you describe the financial situation in your own household these days as good, poor, or neither good nor poor?" And found 61% said "good," compared to 34% who said "poor." It also asked, "When you think about how things are going in your life in general, would you say you are very happy, somewhat happy, neither happy nor unhappy, somewhat unhappy, or very unhappy?" and found 81% happy and 14% unhappy. This is a difficult set of data from which to make a particularly strong case that "it's not working out for most of us."