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United States Public Debt

United States Public Debt

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Published by Tammy Nam
Great, in-depth information about the U.S. debt. Source: wikipedia.
Great, in-depth information about the U.S. debt. Source: wikipedia.

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Published by: Tammy Nam on Apr 07, 2011
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United States public debt1
United States public debt
U.S. debt from 1940 to 2010. Red lines indicate the
Debt Held by the Public
netpublic debt
) and black lines indicate the
Total Public Debt Outstanding
grosspublic debt
), the difference being that the gross debt includes funds held by thegovernment (e.g. the Social Security Trust Fund). The second panel shows the two debtfigures as a percentage of U.S. GDP (dollar value of U.S. economic production for thatyear). Data from the President's proposed budget (
 Historical Tables
) and other tableslisted when you click on the figure. The top panel is deflated so every year is in 2010dollars.
United States public debt
is afrequently reported measure of theobligations of the United States federalgovernment and is presented by theUnited States Treasury in twocomponents and one total:
 Debt Held by the Public
, representingall federal
securities held byinstitutions or individuals outside theUnited States Government;
 Intragovernmental Holdings
,representing U.S. Treasury securitiesheld in accounts which areadministered by the United StatesGovernment, such as the OASI Trustfund administered by the SocialSecurity Administration; and
Total Public Debt Outstanding
, whichis the sum of the abovecomponents.
As of March 25, 2011, the Total PublicDebt Outstanding of the United States of America was $14.21 trillion and was97.0% of calendar year 2010's annualgross domestic product (GDP) of $14.66trillion.
Using 2010 figures, thetotal debt (96.3% of GDP) ranked 12thhighest against other nations.The national debt should not be confusedwith the trade deficit, which is the difference between net imports and net exports. State and Local GovernmentSeries securities, issued by state and local governments, are not part of the United States government debt.
Thedeficit is presented on a cash rather than an accruals basis, although the accrual deficit provides more information onthe longer-term implications of the government's annual operations.
The annual government deficit or surplus refers to the cash difference between government receipts and spendingignoring intra-governmental transfers. The gross public debt increases or decreases as a result of this unified budgetdeficit or surplus. However, there is certain spending (supplemental appropriations) that add to the gross debt but areexcluded from the deficit. Gross debt has increased over $500 billion each year since fiscal year (FY) 2003, withincreases of $1 trillion in FY2008, $1.9 trillion in FY2009, and $1.7 trillion in FY2010.
United States public debt2
The US Federal Debt from 1800 to 1999 (debt held by the public)Graph of U.S. gross public debt between 1940 and 2010 as a percentage of GDP, brokendown by presidential terms. Year numbers refer to
of the
year (that is, each yeartick points to October 1 [July 1 before 1977] rather than January 1 of its calendar year),with the rationale that the fiscal activities of the previous President and Congress impactthe economy for some period of time after the January inauguration of the subsequentoffice-holders.
The United States has had public debtsince its inception. Debts incurredduring the American RevolutionaryWar and under the Articles of Confederation led to the first yearlyreported value of $75,463,476.52 onJanuary 1, 1791. From 1796 to 1811there were 14 surpluses and only 2deficits. The first dramatic growthspurt of the debt occurred because of the War of 1812. In the first 20 yearsfollowing the War of 1812, 18surpluses were experienced and the USpaid off 99.97% of its debt.The second dramatic growth spurt of the debt occurred because of the CivilWar. The debt was just $65 million in1860, but passed $1 billion in 1863 andhad reached $2.7 billion following thewar. In the following 47 years Americareturned to the practice of runningsurpluses during times of peaceexperiencing 36 surpluses and only 11deficits. During this period 55% of theUS national debt was paid off.The next period of major growth indebt came during WWI reaching $25.5billion at its conclusion. It wasfollowed by 11 straight surpluses andsaw the debt reduced by 36%. Thebuildup and involvement in World WarII plus social programs during the F.D.Roosevelt (because of the GreatDepression) and Truman presidencies in the 1930s and '40s caused a sixteenfold increase in the
gross public debt
from $16 billion in 1930 to $260 billion in 1950.After this period, the growth of the
gross public debt
closely matched the rate of inflation where it tripled in sizefrom $260 billion in 1950 to around $909 billion in 1980.
Gross debt
in nominal dollars quadrupled during theReagan and Bush presidencies from 1980 to 1992. The
net public debt
quintupled in nominal terms.In nominal dollars the
net public debt
rose and then fell between 1992 and 2000 from $3T in 1992 to $3.4T in 2000.During the administration of President George W. Bush, the
gross public debt
increased from $5.7 trillion inJanuary 2001 to $10.7 trillion by December 2008.
Under President Barack Obama, the debt increased from $10.7trillion to $14.2 trillion by February 2011.
Since the U.S. economy has grown nearly every year since World War 2, the size of the national debt relative to theeconomy (i.e., as a percentage of gross domestic product or GDP) is another key measure. Gross debt relative to
United States public debt3GDP rose to over 100% to pay for WW2 and then declined thereafter, rising during the 1980s as part of the ColdWar and again due to recessions and policy decisions in the early 21st century. During the 1970s, debt held by thepublic declined from 28% GDP to 26% GDP. During the 1980s, it rose to 41% GDP. During the 1990s, it rose to50% and then was reduced to 39% by the end of the decade. From 2000-2008, it rose from 35% to 40% and to 62%by the end of fiscal year 2010.
Valuation and measurement
Public and government accounts
Detailed breakdown of government holders of treasury debt and debt instrumentsused of the public portion.
The total or gross national debt is the sum of the "debt held by the public" and"intragovernmental" debt. As of February2011, the "debt held by the public" was $9.6trillion and the "intragovernmental debt"was $4.6 trillion, for a total of $14.2trillion.
The national debt is also described in termsof marketable vs. non-marketable securities.As of February 2011, total marketablesecurities were $9.0 trillion while thenon-marketable securities were $5.2 trillion.Most of the marketable securities areTreasury notes, bills, and bonds held byinvestors and governments globally. Thenon-marketable securities are mainly the "government account series" owed to certain government trust funds suchas the Social Security Trust Fund, which represented $2.5 trillion dollars in 2010.
Other largeintragovernmental holders include the Federal Housing Administration, the Federal Savings and Loan Corporation'sResolution Fund and the Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund (Medicare).
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac obligations excluded
Although not included in the debt figures reported by the government, the U.S. government has moved to more explicitly support the soundness of obligations of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, starting in July 2008 via the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, and the September 7, 2008 Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)conservatorship of both government sponsored enterprises (GSEs). The on- or off-balance sheet obligations of thosetwo independent GSEs was just over $5 trillion at the time the conservatorship was put in place, comprised mainly of mortgage payment guarantees.
The extent to which the government will be required to pay these obligationsdepends on a variety of economic and housing market factors. The federal government provided over $110 billion toFannie and Freddie by 2010.
Guaranteed obligations excluded
Starting in late 2008, the U.S. federal government is guaranteeing large amounts of obligations relating to mutualfunds, banks, and corporations under several new programs designed to deal with the problems initiated by theFinancial crisis of 2007
2010. Guarantees are off-balance sheet and therefore excluded in the calculation of federaldebt. The funding of direct investments made in response to the crisis, such as those made under the Troubled AssetsRelief Program, are captured by the debt totals.

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