$14 Trillion in Debt, But Who Owns All That Money?

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The meme of China the moneylender is proving to be a salient political tool in Washington. Scaremongering about China owning this country is popping up on the left and the right.

The Chinese buy our bonds to keep their currency down and exports from China cheap.  Some see this as a reason for the credit bubble of the mid-late 2000s as well.

Yes, China and other foreign countries own a great deal of US government debt, but the lion’s share of the government’s liabilities is owed to other Americans.  Very often, the government owes itself.

 

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Image: Wikipedia

Total Holdings of US Treasuries: $121.9 billion

Percent of US Debt that they own: 0.9%

Source: US Treasury

Caribbean Banking Centers

Caribbean Banking Centers

Image: Andres Nordgreen Fierro

Total Holdings of US Treasuries: $148.3 billion

Percent of US Debt that they own: 1%

The Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Netherlands Antilles and Panama, and British Virgin Islands all function as offshore financial centers. Of course, they invest in Treasury Securities as well.

Source: US Treasury

Taiwan

Taiwan

Total Holdings of US Treasuries: $153.4 billion

Percent of US Debt that they own: 1.1%

Source: US Treasury

Brazil

Total Holdings of Treasuries: $211.4 billion

Percent of US Debt that they own: 1.5%

 

Source: US Treasury

Oil Exporting Countries

Oil Exporting Countries

Total holdings of Treasuries: $229.8 billion

Percent of US Debt that they own: 1.6%

Oil exporters include Ecuador, Venezuela, Indonesia, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Gabon, Libya, and Nigeria.

Source: US Treasury

Mutual Funds

Mutual Funds

Total Holdings of US Treasuries: $300.5 billion

Percent of US Debt that they own: 2%

 

Source: Federal Reserve Flow of Funds Accounts Note: Latest Statistics are as of March 2011

Commercial Banks

Commercial Banks

Image: Wikimedia

Total Holdings of US Treasuries: $301.8 billion

Percent of US Debt that they own: 2.1%

 

Source: Federal Reserve Flow of Funds Accounts Note: Latest Statistics are as of March 2011

State, Local, and Federal Retirement Funds

Total Holdings of US Treasuries: $320.9 billion

Percent of US Debt that they own: 2.2%

 

Source: Federal Reserve Flow of Funds Accounts Note: Latest Statistics are as of March 2011

Money Market Mutual Funds

Money Market Mutual Funds

Total Holdings of US Treasuries: $337.7 billion

Percent of US Debt that they own: 2.4%

 

Source: Federal Reserve Flow of Funds Accounts Note: Latest Statistics are as of March 2011

United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Total Holdings of Treasuries: $346.5 billion

Percent of US Debt that they own: 2.4%

Source: US Treasury

Private Pension Funds

Total Holdings of US Treasuries: $504.7 billion

Percent of US Debt that they own: 3.5%

 

Source: Federal Reserve Flow of Funds Accounts Note: Latest Statistics are as of March 2011

State and Local Governments

State and Local Governments

Total Holdings of US Treasuries: $506.1 billion

Percent of US Debt that they own: 3.5%

Source: Federal Reserve Flow of Funds Accounts Note: Latest Statistics are as of March 2011

Japan

Japan

Image: AP

Total Holdings of Treasuries: $912.4 billion

Percent of US Debt that they own: 6.4%

 

Source: US Treasury

US Households

Total Holdings of US Treasuries: $959.4 billion

Percent of US Debt that they own: 6.6%

The ‘Household Sector’ does include hedge funds, by the way.

Source: Federal Reserve Flow of Funds Accounts Note: Latest Statistics are as of March 2011

China

China

Image: AP

Total Holdings of Treasuries: $1.16 trillion

Percent of US Debt that they own: 8%

Source: US Treasury

The Federal Reserve

The Treasury owes the Fed $1.63 trillion in Treasuries, much of which were bought for the Quantitative Easing programs.

That’s 11.3% of US debt, much more than China.

Source: Federal Reserve

Social Security Trust Fund

Social Security Trust Fund

Total Holdings of US Treasuries: $2.67 trillion

Percent of US Debt that they own: 19%

The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Funds invest exclusively in special issue bonds that are only available to the Social Security trust fund.  These are not publicly traded securities, but they still constitute a huge amount of debt.

Source: Social Security Administration

In all, the Treasury owes foreigners and foreign governments $4.514 trillion dollars

In all, the Treasury owes foreigners and foreign governments $4.514 trillion dollars

But Americans own most of their own country’s $14,342,909,569,328.74 of debt.

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