Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The NY Times on our coming Greece moment

It’s easy to look at the protesters and the politicians in Greece — and at the other European countries with huge debts — and wonder why they don’t get it. They have been enjoying more generous government benefits than they can afford. No mass rally and no bailout fund will change that. Only benefit cuts or tax increases can.

Yet in the back of your mind comes a nagging question: how different, really, is the United States?

The numbers on our federal debt are becoming frighteningly familiar. The debt is projected to equal 140 percent of gross domestic product within two decades. Add in the budget troubles of state governments, and the true shortfall grows even larger. Greece’s debt, by comparison, equals about 115 percent of its G.D.P. today.

The United States will probably not face the same kind of crisis as Greece, for all sorts of reasons. But the basic problem is the same. Both countries have a bigger government than they’re paying for. And politicians, spendthrift as some may be, are not the main source of the problem.

We, the people, are.
Read the rest here.

I think the Times has underestimated just how serious the debt bomb is. But I do give them credit for nailing the responsibility part. The American people want it all. We just don't want to pay for it. Americans are all of one mind when the question is asked; do we need to reduce the debt? They absolutely agree it should be a major priority... as long as none of the measures touch either their wallets or their favorite government service/entitlement program.


Phil said...

John, I hear your conclusion a lot, but I'm not sure who "we" are. I want government spending to be gutted at every level, and I'm happy to see plenty of government programs and services go down the drain, up to and including the extravagant, wasteful amenities in the public school system my kids will enter in a couple short years. I wonder how many Americans really disagree with that, especially given our current fiscal situation?

To those who say Americans want it all and don't want their favorite programs touched, I say, "Go ahead. Make my day."

James the Thickheaded said...

Good short piece. I tend increasingly to think we are simply on our way to understand first hand that our government can treat us the same way it treated the Native Americans. May have taken us longer to get here, but the results are likely to be devastatingly similar. Already the parallels between inner city life and life on the "Reservations" are awfully similar.