U.S. ‘Debt Held by Public’ Tops $14,000,000,000,000; Up 122% Under Obama

By Terence P. Jeffrey | August 16, 2016 | 11:48am EDT
U.S. Treasury Building (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

(CNSNews.com) - The federal government’s “debt held by the public”—as opposed to its “intragovernmental debt”—has topped $14,000,000,000,000 for the first time in history, according to the latest numbers released by the U.S. Treasury.

As of the close business on Aug. 10, the “debt held by the public” was $13,987,862,462,404.79, according to the Treasury. By the close of business on Aug. 11, it had risen to $14,012,831,105,933.15. By close of business on Aug. 12, it had increased again, hitting $14,012,909,909,536.53.

U.S. Treasury's "debt to the penny" calculator, showing the results so far for August 2016.

When President Barack Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2009, the federal government’s debt held by the public was $6,307,310,739,681.66.

Since then, it has increased by $7,705,599,169,854.87—or 122 percent.

U.S. Treasury's "debt to the penny" calculator, showing the results for Jan. 20, 2009.

According to the latest publicly released numbers, foreign entities and the Federal Reserve own a combined $8,743,956,000,000 in U.S. government debt held by the public---giving them ownership of 62.4 percent of the total.

The other part of the federal debt—the “intragovernmental debt”--  closed the day on Aug. 12 at $5,390,094,670,446.31. That made the total federal government debt $19,403,004,579,982.84.

The U.S. government debt held by the public largely consists of marketable Treasury securities, such as bills, notes and bonds. The “intragovernmental debt” is primarily money the Treasury has borrowed and spent out of government trust funds, such as the Social Security trust funds.

A Congressional Research Service report published in February described and contrasted the debt held by the public and the intragovernmental debt as follows:

“Individuals, firms, the Federal Reserve, state and local governments, and foreign governments are eligible to purchase publicly held debt. Such debt may be acquired directly through the auction process from which most publicly held debt is initially sold or on the secondary market if the debt is deemed “marketable”, or eligible for resale.

“The total amount of publicly held debt outstanding was $13.673 trillion as of December 31, 2015. The majority of publicly held debt is marketable, and includes all Treasury Notes, Bonds, Bills, Treasury Inflation Protected Securities  (TIPS), and Floating Rate Notes (FRNs) issued by Treasury. Non-marketable debt held by the public is comprised of U.S. Savings Bonds, State and Local Government State and Local Government Securities (SLGS), and other, smaller issues. …

“Intragovernmental debt is held by components of the federal government. Intragovernmental debt issuances are almost exclusively nonmarketable, as marketable debt comprised only $0.024 trillion (0.5%) of the $5.250 trillion in total intragovernmental debt on December 31, 2015. The majority of nonmarketable intragovernmental debt was held by trust funds devoted to Social Security and military and federal worker retirement.”

As of the end of July, according to the Monthly Statement of the Public Debt, the debt held by the public had risen to approximately $13,998,220,000,000. That included approximately $13,472,060,000,000 in marketable Treasury securities. These included $8,615,474,000,000 in Treasury notes; $1,796,814,000,000 in Treasury bonds; $1,547,124,000,000 in Treasury bills; $1,180,357,000,000 in Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities; and $332,290,000,000 in Treasury Floating Rate Notes.

The average interest rate that the Treasury was paying on the marketable debt held by the public was only 2.026 percent as of the end of July, according to the Treasury.

As of the end of July 2007 it was 4.963 percent, almost two and a half times what it is now.

As of the end of this June, foreign entities owned $6,281,000,000,000 of the U.S. government debt held by the public, according to data released by the Treasury yesterday. As of Wednesday, Aug. 10, another $2,462,956,000,000 was owned by the Federal Reserve.

The combined $8,743,956,000,000 in U.S. government debt owned by foreign entities as of the end of June and the Federal Reserve as of the end of last Wednesday equals about 62.4 percent of the $14,012,909,909,536.53 in total debt held by the public as of last Friday.

Entities in China, which held $1,240,800,000,000 in U.S. Treasury securities as of the end of June, are the largest foreign owners of U.S. debt. They are followed by entities in Japan, which owned $1,147,700,000,000 as of the end of June; and entities in Ireland, which owned $270,600,000,000 as of the end of June.

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