Political  Calculations

Today, we're taking a preliminary look at just who owns all the debt issued by the U.S. federal government through 30 September 2012 - the end of the U.S. government's fiscal year. Our chart below visualizes what we found.

The information presented in our chart above is preliminary, as the U.S. Treasury typically revises its foreign entity debt ownership data in March of each year.

Overall, U.S. entities own just 65.8% of all debt issued by the U.S. federal government. Ranking the major U.S. entities from low to high, we find that:

  • The U.S. government's military retirement fund owns 2.4% of the national debt.
  • The U.S. government's civilian employee retirement fund accounts for another 5.6% of the nation's debt.
  • The U.S. Federal Reserve, thanks to its quantitative easing programs of recent years, has racked up holdings equal to 10.8% of the total U.S. national debt.
  • The U.S. Social Security Trust Fund claims 16.7%.
  • U.S. individuals and institutions, which includes regular Americans, banks, insurance companies and other government entities, own 30.4% of the nation's debt.
  • Preliminary Fiscal Year 2012: To Whom Does the U.S. Government Owe Money?

Meanwhile, foreign entities own 34.2% of all U.S. government-issued debt, with the following nations' individuals and institutions representing the five biggest holders of that debt, again ranked from low to high:

  • United Kingdom: 0.9%
  • Brazil: 1.6%
  • "Oil Exporters", which includes Ecuador, Venezuela, Indonesia, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait,Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Gabon, Libya, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates: 1.7%
  • Japan: 7.0%
  • China (including Hong Kong): 8.1%

All other nations hold approximately 15% of the U.S. outstanding national debt.

The Role of Quantitative Easing in Offsetting Foreign Ownership of the U.S. National Debt

The Federal Reserve's various quantitative easing programs of recent years, where the U.S. government-chartered central bank has purchased large quantities of U.S. government-issued debt in its attempts to keep the U.S. government's spending elevated and the U.S. economy stimulated by lowering long-term interest rates, are especially interesting in the degree to which they've succeeded in offsetting the share of the U.S. national debt owned by foreign interests.


Political Calculations

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