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The Parthenon temple is seen beyond flags of the European Union (EU), left, and the Greek national flag in Greece in Athens, Greece, on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. European finance ministers eased the terms on emergency aid for Greece, declaring after three years of false starts that Europe has found the formula for nursing the debt-stricken country back to health. (Kostas Tsironis/Bloomberg)

Much like their brethren in California, politicians in Greece facing the possibility of a fiscal meltdown have been given some breathing room, at least temporarily.

In California, it was the voters who bailed out a free-spending state government by narrowly passing Proposition 30, which "temporarily" raises taxes to fund a budget that was significantly out of whack.

In Greece, it was not the voters who came to the rescue of an even freer-spending government, but rather the nation's international creditors. Earlier this week, finance ministers from the 17 euro zone countries and the International Monetary Fund hammered out a deal that allows Greece to receive about $57 billion in loan payments paid in four installments over the next four months. Each payment will be made as Greece accomplishes specific benchmarks.

The deal might even afford private bondholders a chance to sell back their Greek bonds, at a substantial discount of course.

The core goal of the plan it to lower Greece's debt. Currently, it runs about 170 percent of gross domestic product. That is no way to run a railroad, or a country. The plan seeks to lower that debt to below 120 percent of GDP in eight years. That is a tall order and still may not be enough. It will require significant fiscal discipline, which has never been a strong suit for Greece -- or California, for that matter.

Decision makers in both places must come to understand the gravity of the circumstance and their role in improving it.