Since 2010, Fox News' hosts and analysts have kept up a steady drumbeat of dire warnings that the United States is on a road to financial and economic ruin and could meet the same fate as Greece if it doesn't implement draconian cuts to social safety net programs as a way to cut the debt and deficit. But Greece, which pursued such cuts, accelerated its economic deterioration, while the United States has rejected extreme austerity measures and enjoyed six years of continuous economic recovery.
Greek Economy, Government Buried By Outstanding Debts
The Greek Government Missed A $1.7 Billion Loan Payment To IMF. On July 1, the government in Athens defaulted on a scheduled $1.7 billion (1.5 billion euro) payment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), according to The New York Times. Though not technically a “default” because the IMF is not a commercial lender, the missed payment signaled that the nation had no functional capacity to service tens of billions of dollars'-worth of outstanding sovereign debt. [The New York Times, 7/1/15]
Greek Citizens Rejected European Union Demands For More Fiscal Austerity. In a July 5 national referendum, Greek citizens decisively rejected a financial bailout package offered by the European Union (EU), European Central Bank (ECB), and IMF that would have settled the nation's outstanding debts but guaranteed additional tax increases, spending reductions, and cuts to public pension systems:
The no votes carried virtually every district in the country, handing a sweeping victory to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, a leftist who came to power in January vowing to reject new austerity measures, which he called an injustice and economically self-defeating. Last month he walked away from negotiations in frustration at the creditors' demands, called the referendum and urged Greeks to vote no as a way to give him more bargaining power.
After five years in which unemployment soared beyond 20 percent and the country's economy contracted by 25 percent, many said that a no vote was at least a vote for hope, the possibility of a new deal, rather than following the mandates of creditors who had failed to set Greece on a course to recovery. [The New York Times, 7/5/15]
Economic Expert Mocks “Consistently And Persistently Wrong” Comparisons Between United States And Greece. In a July 6 column published on The Washington Post's PostEverything blog, political economist Daniel Drezner derided the “re-emergence” of commentary warning “that the United States is another Greece just waiting to happen,” noting that after five years of predicting disaster, “exactly none of these things have come to pass” (emphasis original):
This is all giving the staff at Spoiler Alerts an unpleasant sense of déjà vu, because the “America is the next Greece” meme first popped up about five years ago. See, most prominently, op-eds by former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan in the Wall Street Journal and historian Niall Ferguson in the Financial Times. They -- and others -- made kindred arguments about exploding levels of U.S. debt that would lead to spectacular increases in debt-to-GDP ratios, interest rates, inflation, and -- eventually -- a global rejection of the dollar.
I bring this up because, five years later, exactly none of these things have come to pass. Nor, frankly, were they all that likely to happen when the original predictions were made (the United States, unlike Greece, is in control of its own currency).
So if you hear claims that “America is the next Greece” over the next few weeks/months/years, remember that these predictions have been made for the past five years, and they have been consistently and persistently wrong.
The only lesson that the United States should draw from Greece is that the United States is not Greece. [The Washington Post, PostEverything, 7/6/15]
Fox Warns Of Greece-Like Economic And Financial Crisis In United States
Fox's Gasparino: “Sophisticated Investors” Worry That Health Care Reform Could Remake United States In Greece's Image. On the May 6, 2010 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity argued that “America is now headed” down the path of “the perfect nanny state in Greece” after passing the Affordable Care Act. Fox Business contributor Charles Gasparino agreed, concluding that “sophisticated investors” see the spectre of Greece's debt crisis in American health care reform. [Fox News, Hannity, 5/6/10]
Fox's Hayes: IMF Urged Greece To Privatize Health Care System, But U.S. Is “Moving In The Opposite Direction.” On the May 6, 2010 edition of Fox News' Special Report, columnist Steve Hayes of The Weekly Standard pointed to International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommendations for methods of debt reduction in Greece as supposed proof that health care reform in the United States was a mistake:
HAYES: As part of these austerity rules that Greece had agreed to in order to get this bailout from the IMF, and from Europe, one of the things that they had to do was move to privatize their health care system. It was too statist, their healthcare system. So at the same time that the IMF and others are demanding that Greece move to privatize, or at least spin-off, part of its state-run healthcare system in order to make it more efficient, liberalize the economy, we are moving in the opposite direction. I mean, there is a great irony there. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 5/6/10]
Fox's Bolling: The U.S. Is “In Way, Way Deeper Debt” Than Greece. On the December 16, 2010 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money, host Eric Bolling used anti-austerity demonstrations in Greece as proof of a looming crisis in the United States. Bolling claimed that the U.S. was “in way, way deeper debt” than Greece and warned of “austerity,” “default,” “runaway inflation,” and “riots and protests as the [American] economy crumbles.” [Fox Business, Follow the Money, 12/16/10]
Fox's Beck: “Everyone” Is In Danger From “What's Happening In Greece.” On the January 10, 2011 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck, host Beck pointed to riots and anti-austerity demonstrations in Greece as a threat to “everyone” in the United States:
BECK: If things go awry, and I warn you that things could, it's like a run on the bank. The truth won't matter anymore. Once it actually starts, look what's happening in Greece. One side will kill somebody. And then the other side will have to respond and kill somebody else. And before you know it, we're the Palestinians and the Israelis -- people are killing each other they don't even know quite why anymore.
All of those in the media and in Washington, all those with fame, all those with fortune, bankers -- anybody with power, you're going to be in danger. If, God forbid, the worst begins, all bets are off, our world changes. I am in danger. You're in danger. Everyone is. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 1/10/11 via Nexis]
Fox's O'Reilly: Just Like Greece, “The U.S.A. Has Bankrupted Itself” With Entitlement Programs. On the March 3, 2011 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor italics, host Bill O'Reilly aided his network's calls for additional spending cuts and deficit reduction by comparing the supposedly dire fiscal situation in the United States to “Greece, Ireland, Spain, and many other countries” :
O'REILLY: At this point, confusion helps the committed left battling over deficit or a debt is hard for people to grasp. It's just numbers on people. But like Greece, Ireland, Spain, and many other countries, the USA has bankrupted itself through a series of entitlement programs that are well- intentioned but poorly constructed. Things have to change.
Now, I don't want to scare anybody, but if we continue down this road, the American dollar will collapse and so will our entire economy. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 3/3/11 via Nexis]
Fox's Varney: U.S. Could “Look Like Greece Within Three Years.” On the August 2, 2011 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity surmised that the United States could have a debt-to-GDP ratio of “200 percent” in the next decade. Fox Business host Stuart Varney interjected that the American economy would be in “that position very, very soon” and would “look like Greece within three years.” [Fox News, Hannity, 8/2/11 via Nexis]
Fox Guest: “If We Re-Elect Barack Obama... We Are Greece.” On the August 3, 2011 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson asked Republican political strategist Dee Dee Benkie to comment on decades-long debt projections for the United States over 10, 20, and 30 years. Benkie replied unequivocally that the U.S. was “doomed” to be another Greece if voters re-elected President Obama:
CARLSON: What does it say about where we are down the road 10 years from now with our debt -- 20 years, 30 years?
BENKIE: This is very simple. If we re-elect Barack Obama, we're in Greece. We are Greece. We're in big trouble. This guy is taking us to financial ruin. We are doomed. Now, the good news is, I think he's going to lose. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/11]
Fox's Beck: Lingering Unemployment Will Lead To “The Riots In Greece.” On the September 15, 2011 edition of his Fox News show, Glenn Beck warned that persistent unemployment in the United States, coupled with cuts to employer- and government-provided pensions, would lead to “the riots in Greece” coming to American cities. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 9/15/11 via Nexis]
Weekly Standard: GOP Senator Claims Debt Burden Higher In U.S. Than Greece, Italy, And Ireland. On February 23, 2012, The Weekly Standard published a blog highlighting a crude comparison of federal debt and total population in several struggling European economies and the United States, produced by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), titled, “America's Per Capita Government Debt Worse Than Greece” :
[The Weekly Standard, The Blog, 2/23/12]
Fox's Carlson: American National Debt “Is Even Worse Than Greece... Where People Are Rioting In The Streets.” On the February 24, 2012 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson cited the GOP debt comparison while claiming that the debt situation in the United States was “even worse than Greece” :
CARLSON: $44,215 dollars, that's the U.S. debt per capita, which is even worse than Greece -- are you kidding me? -- where people are rioting in the streets. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/24/12]
Fox's Kelly: Is GOP Debt Chart Proof That Greek Crisis Is “Happening Right Now In This Country?” On the February 24, 2012 edition of Fox News' America Live, host Megyn Kelly cited the misleading GOP data, claiming that it revealed “startling” levels of federal debt in the United States exceeding “any European nation, including Greece.” Kelly wondered if paying down the debt would require “massive spending cuts and maybe arguably tax increase,” which prompted Fox contributor Matt McCall to suggest cutting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Kelly concluded the segment by asking if neglecting the national debt meant a Greek-like crisis was “happening right now” in the United States:
KELLY: They talk about how in Greece, this crisis snuck up, sneaked up on many of the people there, that they didn't realize how bad a shape they were in, how dependent they were on borrowing. And they were not really paying a lot of attention to their debt number. Is that happening right now in this country for many?
McCALL: Well, I think we talk about it more and more, that we actually -- it's coming to light that we do owe a lot of money as a country. It did sneak up on Greece, and I don't want to -- I mean, we're -- it's apples and oranges, because Greece is a little bit different than the United States. However, this number today is the most troubling number that I've ever seen, as far as the debt's concerned. Because we can throw out 15 trillion or 20 trillion. To most people, that means nothing, Megyn. It really doesn't. But the fact that we can break this down and realize that every person in this country would have to write a check for $45,000 to get out of the situation that we're in. [Fox News, America Live, 2/24/12]
Fox's Carlson: Is Greek Unrest “A Glimpse Into Our Own Future?” On the November 8, 2012 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson teased an upcoming post-election segment purporting to offer “a first-hand look at what happens when you create a welfare nation” by wondering if anti-austerity demonstrations in Greece offered “a glimpse into our own future?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/8/12]
Fox's Kilmeade: Should U.S. Invest “Extra Money Into Tear Gas” To Stop Greece-Like Protests? On the November 9, 2012 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade wondered if law enforcement in the United States should put “extra money into tear gas” after Fox Business host Stuart Varney's claim that Greece “is in chaos at the moment” because of its national debt. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/9/12]
Fox's Gutfeld: Out-Of-Control Spending Means “We're Heading Towards Greece.” On the December 28, 2012 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld attacked President Obama's alleged failure to rein in government spending, warning that the American economy was beginning to resemble Greece:
GUTFELD: Right -- exactly. Not to psychoanalyze the President but he's seemed so obsessed with the two percent that he's disengaged himself from the bigger problem which is that we're heading towards Greece. We're not thinking about spending. [Fox News, The Five, 12/28/12 via Nexis]
Fox's Doocy: Does Obama “Want Us To Become Greece?” On the January 2, 2013 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy wondered during an interview with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) whether President Obama actually “want[s] us to become Greece,” citing his apparent refusal to “address entitlement reform” :
DOOCY: The President, last night, after the deal was done was talking about how we need to address entitlement reform. This was his chance. And I know a lot of people in the Senate like yourself were hoping for the grand bargain, but what's his motivation for not dealing with the spending problem. Does he want us to become Greece? [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/2/13 via Nexis]
Fox's Kilmeade: “Is It Possible We Could See Riots In The Streets” After Fiscal Cliff Deal? On the January 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Fox Business host Stuart Varney if the so-called “Fiscal Cliff” deal brokered at the start of the new year could result in “riots in the streets.” Varney claimed that the deal “puts America more firmly on the road to becoming like Europe, in every aspect” :
VARNEY: Just look at this fiscal cliff deal for a second. There is no control of spending, just like Europe. Tax the rich, just like Europe. Bigger role for government, just like Europe. Cradle-to-grave social services preserved, and maintained, and enhanced, just like Europe--
KILMEADE: But not paid for.
VARNEY: But not paid for. Ever more debt. ... We cannot pay it. At some point the crunch comes, just like it happened already in Europe. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/2/13]
Fox Guest Laments “We're Going To Have To Turn Into Greece” Before Politicians Are Willing To Cut Social Security, Medicare. On the February 27, 2014 edition of Fox Business' Stossel, host John Stossel and guest P.J. O'Rourke suggested that the U.S. would “have to turn into Greece” before politicians and the public would support deep cuts to social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare:
O'ROURKE: We didn't set up these two systems that are going to break the back of the economy -- Social Security and Medicare and all its various Medicare offshoots.
STOSSEL: So are you going to give your Social Security back?
O'ROURKE: No, nobody is going to do that. Nobody is going to do that. And, you know, it's very sad, because it's going to take a major crisis. I mean these things, too, are going to have to get so -- it's going to -- we're going to have to turn into Greece before this stuff gets fixed. [Fox Business, Stossel, 2/27/14 via Nexis]
On Fox Business, Rand Paul Suggest Greece-Like Debt Crisis Is “Closer Than A Lot Of People Realize.” On the September 17, 2014 edition of Fox Business' Money, host Melissa Francis interviewed Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) about the alleged looming debt crisis in the United States. Paul pointed to Greece and Ukraine as examples of economic crises created by runaway debt, warning that a calamity in the United States similar to the 2008-09 financial collapse is “closer than a lot of people realize.” [Fox Business, Money with Melissa Francis, 9/17/14 via Nexis]
Fox's Dobbs: Federal Debt Surpassing $18 Trillion Puts U.S. “In The Company Of Greece.” On the December 5, 2014 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly and Fox Business host Lou Dobbs bemoaned the level of federal debt accumulation in the United States, which had recently surpassed $18 trillion. O'Reilly concluded it was “horrible” that outstanding federal debt in the U.S. had surpassed nominal GDP, while Dobbs suggested the debt level put the U.S. “in the company of Greece.” [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 12/5/14 via Nexis]
Fox's Cavuto: United States Is Like “Greece On Steroids.” On the June 30 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto and guest Art Laffer bemoaned President Obama's expansion of overtime protections to millions of American workers, saying “that is the kind of thing that Greece was doing” before its economy collapsed. Laffer recommended that the Obama administration “take a long vacation until the Republican president takes over” in 2017 to avoid more “awful polic[ies]” like overtime pay, before Cavuto concluded “it's Greece on steroids.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 6/30/15]
Fox's O'Reilly: Greece-Like Crisis “Could Happen To The United States” In 10 Years. On the June 30 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly and guest John Stossel suggested that American entitlement programs and government regulations compared unfavorably to Greece. O'Reilly argued that “in about 10 years... this could happen to the United States,” to which Stossel responded, “Absolutely, we're on track for that.” [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 6/30/15]
Fox's Baier: U.S. On Track For Greek-Levels Of Debt “If Something's Not Done.” On the June 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, host Bret Baier and guests Steve Hayes, Charles Krauthammer, and Julie Pace discussed the implications of the Greek debt crisis for the United States. Baier cited the crude debt comparison drawn by the Washington Examiner as proof that the United States could find itself in a Greek-like debt crisis in the next 25 to 30 years “if something's not changed” to curb federal spending. [Fox News, Special Report, 6/30/15]
Wash. Examiner: Projected National Debt “Looks A Lot Like Greece's Over The Past 25 Years.” A July 1 article in the Washington Examiner claimed that projected levels of federal debt accumulation in the United States “over the next 25 years looks a lot like Greece's over the past 25 years” before demanding that “spending must be reined in to avoid a Greek-style meltdown.” The article then pointed to Social Security Disability Insurance and the Highway Trust Fund as examples of so-called “insolvent” federal spending programs:
[Washington Examiner, 7/1/15]
Fox's Kennedy: The U.S. Is “Not Far Behind” Greece If We Continue On Path Toward Socialism. During the July 6 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, co-host Andrea Tantaros attacked Greek voters for rejecting demands from European creditors for more austerity to pay back outstanding debts while host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery suggested that the United States would be “not far behind” Greece if it went “in a more socialist direction” politically. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 7/6/15]
On Fox, Gov. Bobby Jindal Suggests U.S. “Could Be The Next Greece” Unless It Cuts Social Programs. On the July 6 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto asked Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) if he thought President Obama was “mishandling” the crisis in Greece, to which Jindal responded, “The United States could be the next Greece if we're not careful,” before advocating deep cuts to vital entitlement programs:
JINDAL: Look, Greece is going to be-- the United States could be the next Greece, if we're not careful. We are spending too much -- $18 trillion in debt -- more taxes, more regulations, no plan to pay it back. The Greeks gave us democracy, and now they're showing us how to kill democracy.
JINDAL: If we don't reform our entitlement programs, if we don't shrink the size of government, if we don't cut back the EPA, if we don't cut back taxes, that's going to be us. We are spending more than we take in, and in D.C. you've got a bunch of math deniers. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 7/6/15]
Media Matters researchers Brendan Karet and Katie Sullivan contributed to this report.