One convenient side effect of Greece's economic meltdown is that journalists now have a compact new way to make predictions of financial Armageddon. It's easy: Just say that "Place X" is the "next Greece." But here's hoping the gloomy forecasts aren't all accurate — together, the countries that have been dubbed "the next Greece" constitute about 60 percent of the global economy:
"PORTUGAL is the next Greece" (Business Week)
The problem: While all the countries in the so-called group of PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) have been described as "the next Greece," Portugal has the most compelling claim to the title: Its credit rating has been slashed almost as low as that of Greece, and it faces a €5 billion bond payment on May 20.
Reasons to be cheerful: Andrei Khalip at Reuters predicts Portugal's "austerity plan" might solve, rather than exacerbate, its problems.
"CALIFORNIA is the new Greece" (Business Insider)
The problem: "Like Greece, it's afflicted with a mix of financial and social problems that have sent the state on a downward spiral," predicts Gus Lubin at Business Insider. Pessimistic pundits have also independently compared two of the state's debt-ridden cities — Los Angeles and Oakland — with Greece.
Reasons to be cheerful: There's very little for recession-battered California to be hopeful about — but a predicted 3 percent rise in tourism figures this year might give a brief lift.
"ILLINOIS is the new Greece" (Chicago Now)
The problem: The state's $13 billion hole is "one of the nation's worst budget crises," notes The Wall Street Journal. CNN suggests that Florida, Michigan, Arizona and Nevada are also potential "Greeces." Business Insider thinks New York belongs on the list as well.
Reasons to be cheerful: A newspaper in the state capital of Springfield reports that local home sales have risen for 10 months running, and that the unemployment rate has dropped by a full percentage point.
"NEW JERSEY is the next Greece" (Fox Business)
The problem: Apart from "miles of picturesque coastline," Greece and New Jersey have something else in common, writes Dunstan Prial at Fox Business. "Huge budget deficits gouged by decades of profligate government spending." And the Garden State will have to carve out an austerity plan of its own if it wants to avoid a Hellenic fate.
Reasons to be cheerful: If a Russian billionaire can come to the aid of the underachieving New Jersey Nets, is it too much to ask for one to come bail out the state budget?
"GREAT BRITAIN is next Greece" (Financial Times)
The problem: Investors rushed to protect themselves against a U.K. financial blowup at the end of April, leading to fears the country was about to join Greece in economic turmoil. The numbers certainly add up — the U.K.'s budget deficit is, at 12 percent of GDP, larger even than that of Greece.
Reasons to be cheerful: Unlike Greece, the U.K. controls its own currency and interest rates. Paul Robson, quoted in the FT, offers various other reasons Britain "isn't the next Greece."
"JAPAN is the next Greece" (Bloomberg)
The problems: An aging population, a massive deficit and a shrinking economy add up to potential disaster. "Japanese officials may be tempted to seek Goldman Sachs's help in hiding debt off the balance sheet, as did the Greeks," says Bloomberg.
Reasons to be cheerful: "Brisk exports" to Asia generated a record rise in financial confidence in Japan, reports Reuters. The economy is expected to have grown 5.4 percent since last year.
"VIETNAM is the next Greece" (The Asia Times)
The problem: The government has been forced to devalue the currency by 5 percent due to black market trading of the dollar, and its credit rating has been put on "negative watch." Asia Times said in February, "As fears of state-led financial contagion rise in Europe, Vietnam seems the leading candidate for a parallel crisis of confidence in Asia."
Reasons to be cheerful: The UN predicted this week that the Vietnamese economy would grow a healthy 5.8 percent this year.
"MALAYSIA is the next Greece" (Kota Raja Daily)
The problem: A "bloated" civil service, widespread corruption and uncontrolled borrowing might make "Malaysia go the way of Greece, becoming a bankrupt country," this Malaysian newspaper quoted a leading opposition politician as saying.
Reasons to be cheerful: Sian's comments may have been politicking. The Malaysian ringgit is Asia's "best performing currency," according to Business Week, and its economy grew at a faster rate in the last quarter since 2000.
"FRANCE is the next Greece" (Minyanville)
The problem: Much like Greece, the French enjoy "35-hour workweeks with early retirements and massive" social benefits, says Leo Isaak at Minyanville. That means the crisis is coming to France too — and, when it does, "the riots we saw in Athens are likely to be [matched], if not exceeded, by" what transpires in Paris.
Reasons to be cheerful: Sarkozy & Co. are still predicting a respectable growth rate of 2.5 percent next year.
"CHINA is next Greece" (CNBC)
The problem: People are getting very concerned about China's rising debt, particularly at the subnational level, says says a CNBC anchor. The problem could be "a bubble ready to pop" within the next two years.
Reasons to be cheerful: The nation's economy is still growing at an astronomical clip of more than 10 percent annually.
"AMERICA is the next Greece" (WSJ and others)
The problem: Harvard professor and historian Niall Ferguson argues that U.S. goverment debt is about to cross a critical threshold (90 percent of GDP) that could eventually send the country into a financial death spiral. With a debt load this big, he warns, higher interest rates are coming — and they'll be very painful.
Reasons to be cheerful: As long as America's entrepreneurs continue to come up with blockbuster products like the Snuggie and the Better Marriage Blanket, what could possibly go wrong?