Dave Ramsey — radio personality, author and personal finance guru — has a few words of advice for Greece.
Because, really, how different is Greece from a family who owes more than it earns? It's just that in this case, the family issues bonds instead of using a credit card. And it makes $343 billion per year and owes $405 billion.
Dave Ramsey says Greece needs to have a fiscal awakening before it can start to pull itself out of debt.
Dave Ramsey says Greece needs to have a fiscal awakening before it can start to pull itself out of debt. Josh Anderson/AP
"Let's just put that in perspective," Ramsey says. "This is a guy making $100,000 a year who owes $150,000 in credit card debt."
It's OK for governments to have some debt. A government may need to borrow to build things like roads, shipping ports or power plants. But a nation's economy should grow as a result, so the country can pay that money back. And Greece just isn't growing that fast.
Here's Ramsey's analysis.
"The ratio you look at when you're trying to get anyone out of debt — whether it's a company, a country or an individual — is what we call the ratio of shovel to hole," he says. "How much of a hole are you in versus the shovel you got?"
For Greece, getting out of the hole is going to take "a decade of deep sacrifice," Ramsey says.
And he has his doubts about the big EU-IMF bailout.
"Let's say your teenager came home from college, and unbeknownst to you — in secret — has run up $50,000 in credit card debt," he says. "If I just write junior a check for 50 grand and bail him out, and he has no pain as a result of his misbehavior, and he doesn't change his wicked ways? Were I to put cash into that, I'd be called an enabler."
Ramsey says he'd put some belt-tightening conditions on any parental bailout. Of course, that's what the international community is doing by requiring Greece to slash its deficits.
But that's not enough, Ramsey says. Even with the bailout, Greece will still be spending more than it earns. He says Greece needs to have a fiscal awakening before it can start to pull itself out of debt.
There comes a time, he says, "when people and when companies and when countries have that moment where they draw a line in the sand and they say, 'I'm not going to do this anymore.' It takes that passion to break the orbital pull of stupid."
Ramsey says the data from his world of personal financial advice is not encouraging: Most people who consolidate their debt are back in trouble within two years.