Is America in debt? If yes, then to whom?

Answer by Matt Wasserman:

The government of the United States is in debt for about $18 trillion.

About $5 trillion of that is technically owed to itself – intragovernmental debt. Money collected for specific purposes (like Social Security or Medicare) goes into the general fund, and non-transferrable treasury bonds are issued in its place. For example, the Social Security trust funds currently have about $2.6 trillion worth of these bonds, but no cash other than what's been collected in the last 30 days.

While the money is technically owed to the government by the government, it's really owed to the citizens. And while these are not the same bonds being sold in the open market, I think it's a safe bet that defaulting on them would have a significant impact on our credit worthiness.

The other $13 trillion is in the form of treasury bonds, treasury notes, savings bonds, and other forms of government issued debt. $6 trillion of that is held by foreign investors, banks, and creditors. August 2014 numbers from Treasury look like this (in billions)-

China,Mainland    1269.7
Japan    1230.1
Belgium    359.9
Carib Banking Centers    313.9
Oil Exporters    267.5
Brazil    261.7
Switzerland    189.1
Taiwan    172.9
United Kingdom    172.8
Hong Kong    160.5
Luxembourg    150.5
Russia    118.1
Ireland    106.8
Singapore    106.3
Norway    87
India    80.4
Mexico    75.2
Turkey    73.4
Germany    69.4
Canada    64.9
France    59
Korea    56.9
Thailand    40.8
Sweden    36.3
Kazakhstan    36.1
Colombia    34.8
Philippines    34.6
Australia    33.9
Netherlands    33.6
Italy    30.8
Poland    29.4
Chile    27
Israel    26.4
Spain    21.8
Denmark    16.2
Vietnam    14.6
Peru    11.4
South Africa    10.3
All Other    182.3
Grand Total    6066.6

The remaining ~$7 trillion is held by people and entities in the US. The Federal Reserve holds about $2.5 trillion of it. Mutual funds and pension funds hold about $1.6 trillion. State governments hold about $800 billion. Insurance companies, $270 billion. Banks, $380 billion. Savings bonds are about $180 billion. Individuals and other entities hold the rest, about $1.1 trillion.

State governments are in debt for another $1.2 trillion. Some percentage of that should be added to the federal debt because the money is borrowed to fund federal programs.

Local governments are in debt for about $1.9 trillion.

Consumer debt is about $11.6 trillion.

Yes, America is in debt.

Is America in debt? If yes, then to whom?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s