Athens On The Potomac - It Could Never Happen Here, Right?

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by John Gabriel via,

Financial experts in New York, London, and Brussels have tut-tutted Greece’s economic travails as Athens considers its future with the European Union. Why did they borrow so much money? How can they ever pay it back? Do they think that much debt is sustainable?

Instead of pointing fingers at the innumerates running Athens, they should consider our own situation. Jason Russell of the Washington Examiner shows how America’s debt projections look suspiciously like Greece’s recent history.

With all the chaos unravelling in Greece, Congress would be wise to do what it takes to avoid reaching Greek debt levels. But it’s not a matter of sticking to the status quo and avoiding bad decisions that would put the budget on a Greek-like path, because the budget is on that path already.


A quarter-century ago, Greek debt levels were roughly 75 percent of Greece’s economy — about equal to what the U.S. has now. As of 2014, Greek debt levels are about 177 percent of national GDP. Now, the country is considering defaulting on its loans and uncertainty is gripping the economy.


In 25 years, U.S. debt levels are projected to reach 156 percent of the economy, which Greece had in 2012. That projection comes from the Congressional Budget Office’s alternative scenario, which is more realistic than its standard fiscal projection about which spending programs Congress will extend into the future.


If Congress leaves the federal budget on autopilot, debt levels will soar. Instead, spending must be reined in to avoid a Greek-style meltdown.

While we’re right to be concerned about 2040, the U.S. is in deep trouble now. Yet if you mention the debt to most Americans, they’re either confused or indifferent. “But Obama lowered the deficit.” “Just print more money.“ “It’s Reagan’s fault!”

Since most graphs look like this, I created my own user-friendly debt chart focused on three big numbers: Deficit, revenue and debt. (My first version was published a couple of years ago. This one is updated with the most recent figures).

U.S. Debt Chart

It’s an imperfect analogy, but imagine the green is your salary, the yellow is the amount you’re spending over your salary, and the red is your MasterCard statement.

The chart is brutally bipartisan. Debt increased under Republican presidents and Democrat presidents. It increased under Democrat congresses and Republican congresses. In war and in peace, in boom times and in busts, after tax hikes and tax cuts, the Potomac flowed ever deeper with red ink.

Our leaders like to talk about sustainability. Forget sustainable — how is this sane?

Yet when a conservative hesitates before increasing spending, he’s portrayed as a madman. When a Republican offers a thoughtful plan to reduce the debt over decades, he’s pushing grannies into the Grand Canyon and pantsing park rangers on the way out. While the press occasionally griped about spending under Bush, they implore Obama to spend even more.

When I posted the earlier version of this chart, the online reaction was intense. A few on the right thought I was too tough on the GOP while those on the left claimed it didn’t matter or it’s all a big lie. Others told me that I should have weighted for this variable or added lines for that trend. They are free to create their own charts to better fit their narrative and I’m sure they will. But the numbers shown above can’t be spun by either side.

All of the figures come from the U.S. Treasury and math doesn’t care about fairness or good intentions. Spending vastly more than you have, decade after decade, is foolish when done by a Republican or a Democrat. Two plus two doesn’t equal 33.2317 after you factor in a secret “Social Justice” multiplier.

If our current president accumulates debt at the rate of his first six-plus years, the national debt will be nearly $20 trillion by the time leaves office. That is almost double what it was when he was first inaugurated.

Like many Americans, I haven’t had the privilege of visiting Greece. Unfortunately, Greece will be visiting us unless we change things and fast.

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RaceToTheBottom's picture

Exponential debt, baby!

Pinto Currency's picture




Let's do this - destroy the US!

Frank Marshall Davis would love me then.

p00k1e's picture

January 9, 1835 was when this cycle of debt started. 

Deathrips's picture

"Fractionalize Everything. Fractionalize Nothing! It Doesnt Matter!"


Bipartisan treason exacerbated by moronic puppets.


Long Physical things...Long independence....



whotookmyalias's picture

You mean the day Santa Ana captured San Antonio?

Save_America1st's picture

That chart looks like the iceberg that sank the Titanic...

ghengis86's picture

There was no fucking surplus, ever. Show me a year where national debt declined.

weburke's picture

is there a photo or statue of the god of math? painting? 

The Alarmist's picture

Because Obama!

Nothing to see here ... back to your plow, serf!

Seriously, we have the world's reserve currency and the special privilege that comes with it, so why should we worry about whether or not the debt we incur is actually repayable?

Sauce for Greece, Sauce for the Gander.

greenskeeper carl's picture

I like the chart and the article, and this may seem like semantics to some, but wasn't that entire 'surplus' under Clinton just smoke and mirrors accounting tricks involving SS funds, among other things?

macholatte's picture


Why did they borrow so much money? How can they ever pay it back? Do they think that much debt is sustainable?


How about this:

WHY DID THEY LEND THEM SO MUCH MONEY? ? How can they ever pay it back? Do they think that much debt is sustainable?


OC Sure's picture



How about if it is not loaned against the result of productive work that already exists and instead it is loaned against the expectation that it may come to exist that it is not money but counterfeit?


What is ex-nihilo versus axiomatic?

cookie nookie's picture

I don't see Greece playing out in America.  Rather, I see huge deflation, followed by bankers going to jail.  Wait for the Wall Street criminal round-up after the 2016 election.  The jig is almost up.

tarsubil's picture

They read Proverbs 22:7 "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender."

ghengis86's picture


Pass it on and don't let morons try to tell you any fucking different.

TeraByte's picture

Sauce your selling glass pearls to natives is forever. See the writing on the wall instead.

FreedomGuy's picture

All government numbers use the Social Security surplusses to hide the much larger deficits. That becomes yet more debt to the SS fund.

Expect your kids and grandkids to disconnect your oxygen and heart monitors when you get older. They are not going to feel obligated to repay a debt they did not run up.

new game's picture

it will not get paid. 1st off would be to cut the defence by min. 1/2 and allow the the fallout to ripple thru. unemployment would spike. it would be tough on the economy, but spending would drop 500 billion, hmmm, cost to gov, guessing 100 billion. next up would be eliminate d of ed., nsa, homeland sec, and all redundent law enforcement. also stop the foreign aid, esspecially the zion freebie.

i'll stop because it aint happening and we are so fucked and we all know it's hopeless.

ah, it was worth the keystrokes for while.

fuck a duck (a good friend usta say). ha, lol, ...

Uber Vandal's picture

National debt 01-01-1834 $4,760,082

National debt 01-01-1835 $33,733

After the War between the States, the debt was off to the races.


tudemonstro's picture

If you get out your super duper magnifying glass, you can see an ever-so-slight uptick (reduction) around 1999.  After that brief moment of insanity, spending resumed its exponential growth and all was back to "normal". 

buzzardsluck's picture

that was march 6, 1836.  It has been brought up to remove the alamo because it offends mexicans, btw.


The morning the battle started Travis woke up predawn, got some coffee and went to the wall where Crockett was standing.  As the sun came up it revealed 5,000 mexicans, puzzled Travis asked Davy 'Did you know we were pouring concrete today?'

James_Cole's picture

OH MEH GAWD!! US&A is completely exaclty same as Greece!! +US debt is exactly like your credit card i.e. NO WAY OUT

Antifaschistische's picture

The USA is NOT exactly like is MUCh worse.   Greece is so small, that it can actually be is so small that it can exist as a financial parasite in the EU as long as it's not competing with too many other parasites.    The US can not exist as a parasite, it's way too big.   We crossed the Greece Point (or should I say oil spot) when we started QE.  Greece can't QE their way out so thus the current Greek dilemma.   When the US shell games finally come to an end...there will be NO ONE having weekend meetings about whether or not to rescue us. 

Bay of Pigs's picture

What kind of fuckan idiot would up vote this post?

BTW James, it is over 100% now so that chart is not accurate.

whotookmyalias's picture

What does James Wayne's appointment to the Supreme Court have to do with this?

TheReplacement's picture

Ah do believe that was dey lass day o' freedom from debt heeya in da USSA.

RaceToTheBottom's picture

Is it possible to be for Banking, nowadays?  At least outside of the 0.1%

Exponential explains everything.  You know, interest on interest????

willwork4food's picture

Referring to Jackson? Possibly, but the chart indicates the trend started when Nixon took us off the Gold Standard.

Model T's picture
Model T (not verified) Pinto Currency Jul 1, 2015 3:44 PM

Exactly. you were played like a cheap fiddle.

Fun Facts's picture

Debt plus unfunded liabilities = ~ 1.5mm per US citizen.

The US dollar is an IOU for an unpayable debt.

Caveat Emptor.

disabledvet's picture

Good article but you have to remeber the Federal Government is paying back that debt in "inflated dollars." Hence "economically speaking" the debt is an ASSET not a liability (try and run country without one as Greece is now attempting to do.)

The other thing not mention is how the Federal Debt is CREATED in the USA...besides excessive spending of course...namely in the case of the USA DIRECTLY IN THE OPEN MARKET USING DOLLARS.

I know of no other country in the world that does, interest rates CONTINUE to rise in the USA (and elsewhere) FISCAL DISCIPLINE will be imposed ...but "debt servicing costs" insofar as the USA goes are quite low because folks bought that paper in the open market...

TheReplacement's picture

You have a lot of confidence in a one legged stool.

El Vaquero's picture

Yes, exponential debt.  It is a requirement of our monetary system.  If it stops increasing exponentially, there won't be enough FRNs, physical, electronic or otherwise to service the debt.  It must grow.  It's a fucking ponzi scheme.


Since the Nixon Shock, the debt has doubled, on average, every 8 years.  2 becomes 4 becomes 8 becomes 16 becomes 32 becomes 64...  It seems innocous at first, then all of a sudden, there is a huge fucking problem.  Exponential functions are brutal like that. 

Fun Facts's picture

The increasing [global] debt level is a geometric progression that roughly follows the ponzi equation.

In the case of this so called "financial system", QE is the substitute for a continuous stream of new money flowing in.

88 percent of the participicants lose everything in a ponzi collapse.

El Vaquero's picture

When this ponzi collapses, it is liable to be worse than that.  If nobody accepts FRNs anymore, most if not all of our imported oil goes away and so does most of our exported grain. 

Crisismode's picture



People are going to be accepting FRNs many years after you and I are 6 feet under.


Save_America1st's picture

then we all need to do our best to be part of that 12% who got the fuck out of it first.  I've been doing my best to be well on my way out of everything and I hope you all are too!

Fun Facts's picture

It is in this sense, much like a game of musical chairs.

When the music stops, cash and physical gold is a good mix, because the cash provides liquidity and the gold protects the purchasing power of the cash [and then some] plus every other contingency.

In every SHTF in history including all the modern ones, the ones who owned the gold protected their wealth.

Xenogeist's picture

I guess we'd better lower taxes!

Chauncey Gardener's picture

Moar stawks! Moar debt! Debt good. Gold bad.


invisible touch's picture
invisible touch (not verified) Chauncey Gardener Jul 1, 2015 4:36 PM

silence ! i kill you !!!

Dig Deeper1's picture

We were inverted in a negative g parabolic dive.  

gtb's picture

Gutsiest move I ever saw, man.

greenskeeper carl's picture

I don't like you because you're dangerous....

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

"Exponential Debt, baby!"

Yeah, "loaned" into existence by the very act of asking for and getting the "Loan", using FRB.

Babylonian Money Magik, sheeple!  The timeless wealth-transfer mechanism -- from the many to the select, chosen few. 

g3h's picture

No dude.  Exponential wealth.

It is just not for you.  Did you not know America's total wealth is?almost? 90 trillions?


Thank you Fed.