seeing a lot of “America: land of temporarily embarrassed millionaires” nonsense from people who should know better
More explicitly: there’s very little evidence to suggest that the reason the US has a weaker social safety net than wealthy European countries has anything to do with different expectations about personal prospects relative to aggregate economic growth. However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that social safety nets are weaker in places that generally had a smaller majority share of white people in the postwar period. Apparently, we white voting majority types are willing to help out poor people only if we’re pretty sure they’re also white.
This is also robust even if you’re not just comparing postwar demographics. In Europe this social safety net has been dismantled in the countries that have seen the most immigration from outside Europe. And within North America the social safety net has the most support in jurisdictions like Vermont and Quebec, where most white people live in overwhelmingly white communities.
So I realize it sounds flattering to think that the reason your country has a weak social safety net is that everyone is just too gosh-darn optimistic to want to pay taxes. Buuuut it’s probably more reasonable to think that what’s going on is that the racism of the white voting majority is more salient in places where poor people are less likely to be white. If anyone wants social science literature on this, obviously hit me up for sources.