The NYT has apparently designed to join the crusade against the European welfare state. A profile of German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted that Europe accounts for 25 percent of world GDP, but a "staggering" 50 percent of social spending.
There is nothing obviously out of line in this story. Poor countries don't have much by way of social spending. In the United States, benefits like health care and pension coverage are largely provided through employers. Europe has adopted a much more efficient route of providing these benefits through the government. There is no obvious problem with going this route from an economic standpoint.
The NYT should have found a reporter who could discuss such issues without being staggered by them.