What happens when a government has no money?
Well, they can't pay employees: teachers, garbage collectors, emergency response personnel, snowplow drivers, road maintenance crews, sewer sanitation workers, Town Clerks, library personnel, trail maintenance crews, parks and monument workers, some health care workers (esp. low-income or free clinics), and many others.
They also can't fund projects or pay for social assistance programs like: unemployment, Medicaid/Medicare, prescription reimbursement, food stamps, food pantries, student financial aid programs, government funded research projects, and many others.
They can't subsidize farmers or the oil industry - which would increase prices for both food and gasoline.
In the last three decades, there have been many countries that experienced economic collapse. In the 1990s, the USSR imploded, and now, no longer exists. It broke apart into sovereign nations, but not without some turmoil. The Siege of Sarajevo was one such unrestful event that was sparked, in part, by the fall of the USSR. Russia experienced a significant financial collapse, and while they've, mostly, recuperated, life is still a struggle for a lot of people.
Cuba's economy collapsed when they lost their oil suppliers.
Argentina has been a hotbed of financial shenanigans for a while now.
Since we can not see into the future and know what will happen, we should be assuming that these United States are not impervious to financial collapse either. In living memory, our country suffered a significant financial upset. This very interesting article details the Top 5 causes of the Great Depression, and guess what? All of them (except #4, but with this whole Greece thing happening right now, who knows what our leaders will do) have happened - recently - or are happening right now (see #5 "Drought").
Even more recently, we've gone through some financial hiccups. The 1970s were a very difficult time for a lot of people, and that "recession" did not end until the early 1990s. Even more recently 2008 is widely touted as the beginning of the current recession, which some argue ended some time ago, but others say is still worsening. The stock market is up, but spending, overall, is down. Jobs are being added, but most of them are low-paying retail or seasonal jobs. Unemployment is down, but the official numbers don't take into account people who have just given up trying to find a job and have found other ways to survive.
From where I'm sitting, prices are way up. The price of gasoline has been hovering between $2.70 and $3 per gallon. for a few years now. Food prices are ridiculously high. Everything is more, which means people are spending less (see #3.
So, when I see what's happening in Greece, I think about what it might mean if such a thing happened here in the US and what it would look like. 100% of Americans receive government assistance in the form of gasoline subsidies. In countries where there are no such government measures, the cost of gasoline is more than four times what we're paying. What would happen to most people's lifestyles if we were paying $10/gallon for gasoline rather than $2.70? Many people can't afford $2.70 and still maintain their current standard of living. Things would have to change ... and pretty fast.
I've been talking, for years, about resiliency, about self-sufficiency, and no, we're not 100% self-sufficient here, but we wouldn't starve, we'd stay warm, we'd have clothes to wear (even if they were repaired many times over), we could live fairly comfortably - but only because we've made the kinds of changes that we've made over the years ... and really, none of the things we've done have been all that difficult.
As the economy in Greece teeters, many of the folks who call that country home are finding life pretty difficult, but the good news is that some people have been living my kind of lifestyle, and while money may be tight (or unavailable), they know they'll be okay, because they, at least, will eat and have a place to live.
Start today. Plant something. Preserve something. Lower your dependence on something. Each step toward independence only gets easier ... and more fun. Did I mention that we have baby ducks? What's more fun than baby animals?
This article entitled Here's What Greek Austerity Would Look Like in the US was pretty interesting.