Greece is the first of other sovereign defaults to come. With last week’s bailout, the EU leaders might have bought time, perhaps a year. But at some point, the ECB will cave and monetize the debt, leading to euro-zone inflation.
The debt calculus changed dramatically this week with the announcement of a Greek referendum on the bailout agreement next January. If voters reject the agreement, the ultimate outcome is unpredictable.
Americans must not be smug about the suffering of Europeans—our financial system is thoroughly integrated with theirs. Moreover, the International Monetary Fund will most likely be involved in the event of future bailouts and will likely need large funds from its members, which ultimately means the taxpayers.
And, of course, the U.S. has its own large and growing public debt burden. We have not gone as far down the road to entitlements, but we are catching up. If you want to know how the debt crisis will play out here, watch the downward spiral in the EU.