In 2012 the United States spent an estimated 19.4% of GDP on such social expenditures, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Paris-based industrial country think tank. Denmark spent 30.5%, Sweden 28.2% and Germany 26.3%. All of these nations have a lower central government debt to GDP ratio than that of the United States.
Why the United States invests relatively less in its social safety net than many other countries and why those expenditures are even at risk in the current debate over debt reduction reflect Americans’ conflicted, partisan and often contradictory views on fairness, inequality, the role and responsibility of government and individuals in society and the efficacy of government action. ...Pew Research commentary
I know why we're behind, I think. Americans don't really think they're going to get old and sick. Sure, we'll put aside money for our retirement. But when we think of "retirement" we see ourselves as silver-haired editions of our current selves, still ardent consumers, leaping aboard our boat on blue waters, or treating our grandchildren to college.