Does Europe Have Bigger Fiscal Problems Than the United States?

Political Myth: The governments of Europe have a harder time balancing their budgets than the United States.

Reality: A few do, but most do much better than the United States fiscally.

Explanation

The financial problems faced by the Greek government have been generating a lot of news lately, presented as a hardship faced by the Greeks themselves, as a financial risk faced by those who are unfortunate enough to have loaned money to Greece, and as a cautionary tale concerning the what some believe might lie in store for the United States.  Many see Greece as an exemplar for a supposed lack of fiscal discipline on the part of European governments in general.

The truth, however, is that the national governments of Europe are, in many cases, enjoy much healthier income statements than does the United States.  Here is a list of European governments that have either budget surpluses, or lower deficits than the United States relative to their economies:

All amounts are in billions of US Dollars.

Country GDP Total Government Expenditures Deficit / Surplus Deficit / Surplus as % of budget Deficit / Surplus as % of GDP
United States 15,040 3,604 1,340 37% 8.9%
Norway 264.5 219.3 64.5 29.4% 24.3%
Liechtenstein 5 0.820 0.123 15% 2.46%
Croatia 80.84 27.02 1.68 6.2% 2%
Switzerland 340.5 216.8 5.2 2.4% 1.5%
Sweden 379.4 289.6 3.4 1.17% 0.89%
Luxembourg 43.55 25.61 0.3 1.17% 0.69%
Belarus 141.2 23.2 0.98 4.2% 0.69%
Andora 3.17 0.8684 0.0036 0.41% 0.11%
Moldova 11.93 2.7 0.024 0.88% 0.02%
Estonia 27.02 8.8 0.15 1.7% 0.55%
Macedonia 21.39 3.348 0.245 7.3% 1.14%
Bulgaria 101.2 20.69 1.58 7.6% 1.56%
Bosnia and Herzegovina 31.72 9.1 0.558 6.1% 1.75%
Monaco 5.47 1.11 0.103 9.2% 1.8%
Poland 765.6 110.3 13.86 12.56% 1.81%
Albania 25 3.87 0.465 12% 1.86%
Germany 3,085 1,643 61 9.4% 1.9%
Ukraine 329 50.35 6.56 13% 1.9%
Hungary 195.3 68.37 3.91 5.7% 2%
Finland 196.7 146.3 4.6 3.1% 2.3%
Serbia 78.86 19.55 1.98 10.12% 2.5%
Kosovo 12.85 2.06 0.32 15.5% 2.5%
Montenegro 6.957 1.9 0.2 10.5% 2.9%
Romania 263.9 67.56 7.84 13.13% 3%
Czech Republic 272.2 60.8 8.15 13.4% 3%
Latvia 34.58 10.76 1.09 10.13% 3.15%
Slovakia 126.9 39.54 4.78 12% 3.76%
Italy 1,822 1,122 81 7.2% 3.9%
Lithuania 61.3 16.54 2.45 14.8% 4%
Belgium 529 275.5 22.2 8% 4.2%
Austria 351.4 219.5 15.5 7% 4.4%
Denmark 206.8 127.5 9.2 7.2% 4.4%
Portugal 246.9 119.6 10.9 9.1% 4.4%
Netherlands 705.7 424.8 32.7 7.7% 4.6%
San Marino 1.136 0.940 0.0583 6.2% 4.7%
Iceland 12.33 6.862 .851 12.4% 6.9%
France 2,214 1,547 164 10% 7.4%

Here is the financial conditions of the European governments that, relative to the size of their economies, are doing worse fiscally than the United States.

Country GDP Total Government Expenditures Deficit / Surplus Deficit / Surplus as % of budget Deficit / Surplus as % of GDP
United States 15,040 3,604 1,340 37% 8.9%
Ireland 181.9 98.59 22.39 22.7% 12.3%
Spain 1,411 692.2 130.6 18.8% 9.25%
Greece 308.3 154.5 30 19.4% 9.7%
United Kingdom 2,250 1,232 217 17.6% 9.64%
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