NYT Story Just an Excuse to Bash Welfare State

Not only is this narrative mistaken, but by indulging in it, we are missing a huge opportunity to learn the lessons that Denmark might offer us

May 7, 2013 — In the summer of 2011, I travelled to Denmark, where my reporting resulted in a series of articles about the Danish welfare state and political system. Like most American visitors, I was struck by the high level of social solidarity and broad support for the country’s free education and health care systems, robust safety net, and, yes — high taxes. I spoke with business leaders; I spoke with conservative politicians. Nobody seemed to think that it would be a good idea to abandon the Danish model for a U.S.-style system.

So I was surprised to read recently — in a front-page New York Times article called “Danes Rethink a Welfare State Ample to a Fault,” by Suzanne Daley — that the Danish welfare state is slated for the scrapheap.

The Times article focused on a media frenzy in Denmark that erupted from a right-wing politician’s visit to a single mother named Carina who had been living on social assistance since she was 16 and received about $2,700 a month:

In past years, Danes might have shrugged off the case, finding Carina more pitiable than anything else. But even before her story was in the headlines 16 months ago, they were deeply engaged in a debate about whether their beloved welfare state, perhaps Europe’s most generous, had become too rich, undermining the country’s work ethic. Carina helped tip the scales.

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