Peter Baldwin of TNR has put together a very intriguing slide show that helps debunk the America is from Mars, Europe is from Venus myth by showing that on some very key measures (market regulation, public education, social policy, health care, crime, and the environment) we are very much alike.
Slide 1 (to see the others, copy "Are America and Europe Really All That Different?" and paste it into A Blue View's search box at the top right):
Inequality and poverty. Because of America's reputation for no-holds-barred capitalism, it is often assumed that the country's poverty and inequality problems are worse than in "post-capitalist" Europe. This is only partly correct. America is indeed more economically stratified than most European nations, although some countries, including Switzerland and Sweden, have allowed an equal or larger proportion of wealth to fall into the hands of the richest than is the case in the United States.
Yet inequality and poverty are not the same thing. If we want to have a sense of how many people are actually having a hard time making ends meet, rather than just how many have proportionately less than the affluent within their own country, then we will want to look also at absolute poverty. If we measure poverty as the equivalent--including cash and other benefits--of 60 percent of the median income for the original six nations of the EU in 2000, this is what we get. Many Western European countries have a higher percentage of poor citizens than the United States--not only the Mediterranean countries, but also the UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, and Sweden. These and all other figures are intentionally rendered in comparable terms, usually Purchasing Power Parity, so that cost-of- living differences are factored out.