University of Texas economist James K. Galbraith notes that many countries with higher debt to GDP ratios than the United States, like Japan, Italy and Belgium, aren’t in a financial crisis. He says Jordan’s numbers are correct, but the comparisons he makes are "meaningless and therefore misleading."
He says Japan and the United States are insulated from the default issues that plague other countries because they control the currencies in which they issue debt. Greece, Spain, Ireland and Portugal all have their debt in euros, so they need euro balances on hand to pay their debts.
"Greece has to draw on a euro account at a bank in order to make payments," Galbraith explained in an email. "If the euros are not in the account, Greek government checks could bounce. In this respect, Greece is much more like, say, the state of Illinois; the European Central Bank is not obliged to honor its checks."