The happenings "inside" the Wisconsin State Treasury and across the street at the State Capitol

The Economy & You #6 – Who Owns the U.S. Debt?

In my previous article and talked about the difference between the deficit and the debt and how our nation’s debt is the accumulation of all yearly deficits (and surpluses) we accrue. 

 According to the Office of Debt Management, theUnited Stateshad $14.27 trillion of debt in March 2011.  This debt is broken down into two parts.  Debt held by the federal government or in government trust funds, like Social Security.  These are considered intergovernmental holdings.  The remaining debt is labeled as privately held federal debt.  Privately held debt includes foreign and domestic ownership of federal debt securities (Treasury notes, bonds, etc.).

 We know that our nation’s debt is approximately $14.3 trillion, but who do we owe that money to?  If you listen to recent news stories you would think thatChinaowns most of it.  This is not the case.  Over 41% of our nation’s debt is held by our own government while 58% is held privately. Of the privately held debt which totals over $8.3 trillion, over $4.4 trillion (53.84%) is held by foreigners.  As a total less than one-third of our nation’s debt is held by foreigners.  In other words, we owe the debt to ourselves. 

 The following link illustrates how the U.S.debt is primarily owed to ourselves. In fact the government held the majority of our nation’s debt until 2008. 

So when people start saying thatChinamost of our national debt, you can tell them the real story.  For more information about our national debt, visit the Bureau of Public Debt, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.  The website address is


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