I have no problems with the American welfare state being smaller than Europe’s when it comes to a percentage of gross national product, or in pure dollars. Especially when our benefits at least to low-income Americans are actually higher. America is not a social democracy anyway and we don’t expect government to take care of us by in large. As a Liberal Democrat I prefer to the term and the system of the safety net and looking at social insurance exactly as that. Which is social insurance, which is assistance that people collect from, but only when in need. When they’re unemployed, have kids before they are ready to take care of them, are undereducated and need to get additional skills, can’t afford health insurance on their own, are disabled, don’t have a large enough retirement, etc.
For America to have the strongest economy possible with the lowest Welfare roles and people in poverty as possible, then as many people as possible need to be encouraged to do well in America. Finish their education, further their education, do well at work and move up, start a business, do well in business and that is where public assistance and government in general can help. To encourage people to do well and empower people at the bottom to move up. Short-term cash assistance and other Welfare benefits are tools to doing that, but they’re not the final solution. You also have to help people receiving Welfare get on their feet by helping them get a good job. That comes through things like childcare if they’re single with kids, so they can go to school, or back to school and finish their education so they can get themselves a good job.
If you try to move to a Swedish welfare state in America and try to make the Federal Government the sole provider of economic benefits in the country and allow people to collect a middle class income from not working, you’ll see a lot of Americans especially low-skilled workers quit their jobs so they can get more money not working than working. You’ll see unemployment go up as a result and with that so will the debt and deficit with fewer workers trying to pay for the Welfare of more unemployed workers. What we should do instead is first make work pay and that means with a much higher Federal minimum wage, so minimum wage workers are making more than people on Welfare who aren’t working. And the other way to make work pay is with more workers having good skills so they can get themselves good jobs and no longer need public assistance at all to support themselves.