United States' projected debt over the next 25 years looks a lot like Greece's over the past 25.
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.
"Spending in all areas of government should be considered on the table, without any sacred cows," Jonathan Bydlak, president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, told the Washington Examiner. "If we're going to reap the really big savings, we have to look at fundamental reform of entitlement programs and eliminate wasteful spending at the Pentagon and in other discretionary programs."
"The United States may not be facing full-scale financial insolvency at the levels Greece is experiencing, but with the Social Security Disability program facing bankruptcy within a year and the Highway Trust Fund expected to be insolvent by the end of the summer, it's obvious we have to be wiser with the federal pocketbook if we want to have any hope of getting the budget under control."