The Breakdown | Explaining Southern California's economy

Visual Aid: Is California too big to fail?

I just started reading Michael Lewis' big new Vanity Fair piece on California's precarious finances. More on that later. But for now, check out the chart, above, which tallies up the total debt of all U.S. states and breaks out California's contribution. Doesn't look too bad at first. But remember, there are 50 states. And every single one of them has less debt than Cali.

Taken together, the states have $1.045 trillion in debt. California has about $135 billion. New York is number two at $123 billion. Massachusetts is third, with a distant $75 billion. California isn't twice as high, but it's not far off (and these are 2009 numbers). And this situation is unlikely to improve any time soon. The most recent UCLA Anderson Forecast doesn't anticipate a turnaround in the state economy for another year, with no real sustained progress until 2017. 

Between now and then, there could be a California debt crisis. So is California too big to fail? We don't want to find out. But we might have to.

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Source: Google Public Data Explorer