Puerto Rico is not 'America's Greece'

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Puerto Rico Is Not 'America's Greece'

Since Puerto Rico's government announced it couldn't pay back its debt, it's earned a new moniker as news organizations are quick to call it 'America's Greece."

But is the country in the same position as Greece? The answer to that is no. Not where it counts, anyway.

First off, the scale of the problem is much smaller.

Greece is a much larger economy, and its default directly affects countries across the eurozone.

"In Puerto Rico's case, hedge funds and distressed debt buyers have bought billions of the island's debt," according to Bloomberg. "And if a default hits, they will lose money. ... The United States government has much less of a reason to get financially involved in Puerto Rico."

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Puerto Rico Economy NTP
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Puerto Rico is not 'America's Greece'
A man plays an electronic slot machine at a virtual casino in the Rio Piedras neighborhood of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, July 1, 2015, the day a 11.5% sales tax goes into effect, the highest of any U.S. state. The island's administration has been pushing for Congress to let the government and public agencies seek bankruptcy protection, while the White House has said no one is contemplating a federal bailout of Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)
A street performer in a Mickey Mouse costume rests on a bench in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, July 1, 2015, the day a 11.5% sales tax went into effect, the highest of any U.S. state. The island's administration has been pushing for Congress to let the government and public agencies seek bankruptcy protection, while the White House has said no one is contemplating a federal bailout of Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - JULY 01: Tito Puente stands in the nearly empty apartment of his daughter, Yessenia Puente, as she packs up for a move to Orlando, Florida this weekend on July 1, 2015 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Puente joins a mass exodus of people fleeing the island due to increasing economic hardships and a financial crisis that has resulted in an estimated $72 billion public debt for the Puerto Rican government, which the governor has said is unpayable. The workers for the moving company, La Rosa del Monte, said that she is number 1465 that the company has packed for Orlando since the beginning of the year. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
People walk through a shopping area in Rio Piedras where many businesses have closed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, July 1, 2015, the day a 11.5% sales tax went into effect, the highest of any U.S. state. The island's administration has been pushing for Congress to let the government and public agencies seek bankruptcy protection, while the White House has said no one is contemplating a federal bailout of Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)
A man in a local bar watches Puerto Rico’s governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla on television delivering an address on the state of the island's finances, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday, June 29, 2015. The governor said that he will form a financial team to negotiate with bondholders on delaying debt payments and then restructuring $72 billion in public debt that he says the island can't repay. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)
A man drinks a beer in a local bar as he watches Puerto Rico’s governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla on television delivering an address on the state of the island's finances, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday, June 29, 2015. The governor said that he will form a financial team to negotiate with bondholders on delaying debt payments and then restructuring $72 billion in public debt that he says the island can't repay. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)
People walk near the 16th century Spanish fort El Morro in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, July 1, 2015, the day a 11.5% sales tax goes into effect, the highest of any U.S. state. The island's administration has been pushing for Congress to let the government and public agencies seek bankruptcy protection, while the White House has said no one is contemplating a federal bailout of Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)
A man stands in front of a jewelry store in the neighborhood of Rio Piedras in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday, June 29, 2015. The jewelry itself is surrounded by closed down businesses. International economists released a critical report on Puerto Rico's economy Monday on the heels of the governor's warning that the island can't pay its $72 billion public debt. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - JULY 01: A customer prepares to pay for items in a grocery store on July 1, 2015 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The island's residents are dealing with increasing economic hardships and a financial crisis that has resulted in the government's $72 billion debt. Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla said in a speech recently that the people will have to sacrifice and share in the responsibilities for pulling the island out of debt. Consumer tax on certain items has risen to 11.5 percent. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - JULY 01: A customer prepares to pay for items in a grocery store on July 1, 2015 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The island's residents are dealing with increasing economic hardships and a financial crisis that has resulted in the government's $72 billion debt. Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla said in a speech recently that the people will have to sacrifice and share in the responsibilities for pulling the island out of debt. Consumer tax on certain items has risen to 11.5 percent. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - JULY 01: Luis Davila with La Rosa del Monte movers pack up Yessenia Puente's apartment as she prepares to move to Orlando, Florida this weekend on July 1, 2015 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Puente joins a mass exodus of people fleeing the island due to increasing economic hardships and a financial crisis that has resulted in an estimated $72 billion public debt for the Puerto Rican government, which the governor has said is unpayable. The workers for the moving company, La Rosa del Monte, said that she is number 1465 that the company has packed for Orlando since the beginning of the year. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - JULY 01: A woman walks on the beach on July 1, 2015 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The island's residents are dealing with increasing economic hardships and a financial crisis that has resulted in the government's $72 billion debt. Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla said in a speech recently that the people will have to sacrifice and share in the responsibilities for pulling the island out of debt. Consumer tax on certain items has risen to 11.5 percent. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - JULY 01: Luis Davila, from La Rosa del Monte movers, packs up Yessenia Puente's apartment as she prepares to move to Orlando, Florida this weekend on July 1, 2015 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Puente joins a mass exodus of people fleeing the island due to increasing economic hardships and a financial crisis that has resulted in an estimated $72 billion public debt for the Puerto Rican government, which the governor has said is unpayable. The workers for the moving company, La Rosa del Monte, said that she is number 1465 that the company has packed for Orlando since the beginning of the year. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - JULY 01: A man sleeps on the sidewalk with a dog on July 1, 2015 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The island's residents are dealing with increasing economic hardships and a financial crisis that has resulted in the government's $72 billion debt. Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla said in a speech recently that the people will have to sacrifice and share in the responsibilities for pulling the island out of debt. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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That brings up another big difference: Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory. In contrast, Greece is its own sovereign state, which means while it chooses to use the euro, it doesn't have to.

The fear that it won't is behind the panic that has sent millions of Greeks scrambling to snap up euros while they still can.

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Greece after the referendum
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Puerto Rico is not 'America's Greece'
ATHENS, GREECE - JULY 13: Pensioners talk to bank staff as they wait to collect their pensions outside a National Bank of Greece branch in Kotzia Square on July 13, 2015 in Athens, Greece. Eurozone leaders have reportedly made an 'agreement' on the Greek debt crisis in Brussels. After lengthy talks EU President Donald Tusk tweeted that a bailout programme was 'all ready to go'. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Demonstrators hold a poster against the austerity policy of Germany prior to a special session of the parliament Bundestag on negotiations with Greece for a new bailout in Berlin, Germany, Friday, July 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
A woman burns the flag of the ruling party Syriza, surrounded by journalists, in front of the Greek parliament in Athens, during an anti-EU demonstration in Athens calling for a no to any agreement with the creditors on July 13 , 2015. Eurozone leaders struck a deal on a bailout to prevent debt-stricken Greece from crashing out of the euro forcing Athens to push through draconian reforms in a matter of days. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Leftist protester holds a greek flag in front of the Greek parliament as they take part an anti-EU demonstration in Athens calling for a 'NO' to any agreement with the creditors on July 13, 2015. Eurozone leaders struck a deal Monday on a bailout to prevent debt-stricken Greece from crashing out of the euro, forcing Athens to push through draconian reforms in a matter of days. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
People read newspaper headlines in central Athens on July 13, 2015. Greece reached a desperately-needed bailout deal with the eurozone on July 13 after marathon overnight talks, in a historic agreement to prevent the country crashing out of the European single currency. The country's leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed to tough reforms after 17 hours of gruelling negotiations in return for a three-year bailout worth up to 86 billion euros ($96 billion), Greece's third rescue programme in five years. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A elderly man In a wheelchair waits with other pensioners outside a national bank branch to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week in central Athens, Monday, July 13, 2015. A Eurozone summit has reached a tentative agreement with Athens on a bailout program that includes “serious reforms” and aid, removing an immediate threat of financial collapse in Greece. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
A bank employee distributes tag queue positions to elderly people to enter into the bank to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week in central Athens, Monday, July 13, 2015. A Eurozone summit has reached a tentative agreement with Athens on a bailout program that includes “serious reforms” and aid, removing an immediate threat of financial collapse in Greece. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Pensioners wait outside the main gate of the national bank of Greece to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) in central Athens, Thursday, July 9, 2015. With a deadline just hours away to come up with a detailed economic reform plan, Greece requested a new three-year rescue from its European partners Wednesday as signs grew its economy was sliding toward free-fall without an urgently needed bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A man passes in front of "NO" referendum posters in central Athens, Sunday, July 12, 2015. Greece has another chance Sunday to convince skeptical European creditors that it can be trusted to enact wide-ranging economic reforms which would safeguard its future in the common euro currency. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
A presidential guard, right, stands guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier as riot police officers guard one of the entrances to the parliament during a demonstration of supporters of the no vote in central Athens, Sunday, July 12, 2015. Greece has another chance Sunday to convince skeptical European creditors that it can be trusted to enact wide-ranging economic reforms which would safeguard its future in the common euro currency. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A man holds a tag queue position as he waits next to others pensioners outside the main gate of the national bank of Greece to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) in central Athens, Friday, July 10, 2015. Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will seek backing for a harsh new austerity package from his party Friday to keep his country in the euro — less than a week after urging Greeks to reject milder cuts in a referendum. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A pro-Euro demonstrator is seen behind a European Union flag during a rally in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Thursday, July 9, 2015. Hopes that Greece can get a rescue deal that will prevent a catastrophic exit from the euro rose on Thursday, after key creditors said they were open to discussing how to ease the country's debt load, a long-time sticking point in their talks. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Pensioners wait outside the main gate of the national bank of Greece to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) in central Athens, Thursday, July 9, 2015. With a deadline just hours away to come up with a detailed economic reform plan, Greece requested a new three-year rescue from its European partners Wednesday as signs grew its economy was sliding toward free-fall without an urgently needed bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A pensioner leans against the main gate of the national bank of Greece as he waits to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week in Athens in central Athens, Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras heads Tuesday to Brussels, where he will try to use a bailout referendum victory to obtain a rescue deal with European leaders. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Greek soldiers leave the ancient Acropolis hill, after they raised the Greek flag, in Athens, on Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was heading Tuesday to Brussels for an emergency meeting of euro zone leaders, where he will try to use a resounding referendum victory to eke out concessions from European creditors over a bailout for the crisis-ridden country. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
In this photo taken on Saturday, July 11, 2015, Mary Cromba, left, owner of a beachside restaurant is seen with her employees, as she prepares to add paper in the cashier machine in the village of Psatha about 65km (40 miles) west of Athens. The meal sales tax clause in the bailout proposal considered Sunday by European leaders would boost it from 13 percent to 23 percent, while hotels would see room sales taxes rise from 6.5 percent to 13 percent. (AP Photo/Spyros Tsakiris)
A butcher makes calculations inside his shop in central Athens, Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras heads Tuesday to Brussels, where he will try to use a bailout referendum victory to obtain a rescue deal with European leaders. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Pensioners wait outside the main gate of the national bank of Greece to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) in central Athens, Thursday, July 9, 2015. With a deadline just hours away to come up with a detailed economic reform plan, Greece requested a new three-year rescue from its European partners Wednesday as signs grew its economy was sliding toward free-fall without an urgently needed bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A man stands-in front of a discount shop that reads in Greek " you give a little you take a lot" in Athens, on Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was heading Tuesday to Brussels for an emergency meeting of eurozone leaders, where he will try to use a resounding referendum victory to eke out concessions from European creditors over a bailout for the crisis-ridden country. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
A man sells items in central Athens, Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras heads Tuesday to Brussels, where he will try to use a bailout referendum victory to obtain a rescue deal with European leaders. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A woman pays at a market in central Athens, Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras heads Tuesday to Brussels, where he will try to use a bailout referendum victory to obtain a rescue deal with European leaders. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Red spray paint covers a French-language Bank of Greece sign to read 'Bank of Merkel' in reference to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis resigned Monday, saying he was told shortly after Greece's decisive referendum result that some other eurozone finance ministers and the country's other creditors would appreciate his not attending the ministers' meetings. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A homeless sleeps at the entrance of a closed store with posters reading ''No'' in central Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has resigned following Sunday’s referendum in which the majority of voters said “no” to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Homeless sleep on the ground in central Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece’s finance minister has resigned following Sunday’s referendum in which the majority of voters said “no” to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Needy people pray before eating at the Church-run Galini charity's soup kitchen in central Athens on Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece’s finance minister has resigned following Sunday’s referendum in which the majority of voters said “no” to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A construction worker carries a wooden plank near a board with the Greek flag that reads in Portuguese: "I love you Greece, because of the courage against the imperialism!", in Lisbon, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece's Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has resigned following Sunday's referendum in which the majority of voters said "no" to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. The board also reads in Greek: "No", in reference to Sunday's referendum. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Needy people eat at the Church-run Galini charity's soup kitchen in central Athens on Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece’s finance minister has resigned following Sunday’s referendum in which the majority of voters said “no” to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A pensioner holds a tag queue position as he lines up before entering into a bank to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week in Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has resigned following Sunday’s referendum in which the majority of voters said “no” to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A bank employee distributes tag queue positions to elderly people to enter into the bank to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week in Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has resigned following Sunday’s referendum in which the majority of voters said “no” to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
People wait to enter into the national bank of Greece in Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece’s finance minister has resigned following Sunday’s referendum in which the majority of voters said “no” to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A bank employee speaks to elderly people before allowing them to enter into the bank to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week in Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has resigned following Sunday’s referendum in which the majority of voters said “no” to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Elderly people argue with a bank worker as they wait to be allowed into the bank to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week in Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has resigned following Sunday’s referendum in which the majority of voters said “no” to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
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Puerto Rico won't conceivably be switching currencies anytime soon, which means its people still have purchasing power. That's something they've been using more and more recently, another contrast with Greece's situation.

But there is at least one significant similarity. In both Greece and Puerto Rico, creditors favor imposing austerity, cutting public services and raising taxes.

And in both Greece and Puerto Rico, that's something most people want to avoid.

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