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Then and Now

Monday September 2nd, 2013   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 7:06am PDT   •  

Then: The major holders of the U.S. national debt, from the first time we featured the chart, back in January 2011:

To Whom Does the U.S. Government Owe Money? (as of 30 September 2010)

Now: Political Calculations’ most recent update of the chart, showing where things stand three and a half years later:


The biggest change in the design of the chart is that the Federal Reserve’s U.S. government-issued debt holdings are now broken out from the “U.S. Individuals and Institutions” category, and that all the U.S.-based holders of the U.S. national debt are now positioned to be read clockwise from the 12:00 position of the chart, before getting to any of the foreign holders.

The biggest change in the chart itself is that the share of the U.S. national debt held by foreign entities has grown from 28.4% to 33.5%. If not for the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing programs of recent years, which the Fed has successfully used to prop up the U.S. economy, that share would likely have grown even larger.

But, let’s not miss the even-bigger elephant in the room and recognize that the United States’ total public debt outstanding has grown by $3.176 trillion, from $13.562 trillion on September 30, 2010 to $16.738 trillion as of June 30, 2013.

The U.S. federal government’s annual budget deficit may be coming down, but there’s still a long way to go in cutting its spending enough to be able to actually run the annual budget surpluses needed to start bringing the national debt down.

If nothing else, that’s something to think about on this lazy Labor Day holiday!

Featured Image:
Library of Congress

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September 2013