Home > economy > Who owns America’s $14.3 trillion debt?

Who owns America’s $14.3 trillion debt?

Americans, of course! Various entities within the U.S. own $9.8 trillion and the remainder $4.5 trillion are owned by foreigners and foreign governments. My own tally shows China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan combined for about $1.4 trillion, about $500 billion more than Japan. These data come from Business Insider and make for great reference since America is undergoing debates about raising the debt ceiling. Top holders of U.S. debt are listed below:

1 Social Security trust fund: $2.67 trillion (19%)
2 The U.S. Treasury: $1.63 trillion (11.3%)
3 China: $1.16 trillion (8%)
4 U.S. households: $959.4 billion (6.6%)
5 Japan: $912.4 billion (6.4%)
6 State and local governments: $506.1 billion (3.5%)
7 Private pension funds: $504.7 billion (3.5%)
8 United Kingdom: $346.5 billion (2.4%)
9 Money market mutual funds: $337.7 billion (2.4%)
10 State, local and federal retirement funds: $320.9 billion (2.2%)
11 Commercial banks: $301.8 billion (2.1%)
12 Mutual funds: $300.5 billion (2%)
13 Oil exporting countries: $229.8 billion (1.6%)
14 Brazil: $211.4 billion (1.5%)
15 Taiwan: $153.4 billion (1.1%)
16 Caribbean banking centers: $148.3 (1%)
17 Hong Kong: $121.9 billion (0.9%)

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  1. pug_ster
    August 1st, 2011 at 06:14 | #1

    I just love how the Western Media spins the 2.5 trillion spending reduction. First of all, that 2.5 trillion spending reduction is over 10 years, or 250 billion every year. Even if that was in force now, it does not reduce the deficit, which is 1 trillion a year, but merely slowing it down.

  2. raventhorn2000
    August 1st, 2011 at 07:10 | #2

    The politics of democratic impasse is a hostage drama starring the mob of the populus holding a gun to its own head.

    See “Blazing Saddles”

    [the Johnsons load their guns and point them at Bart. Bart then points his own pistol at his head]
    Bart: [low voice] Hold it! Next man makes a move, the nigger gets it!
    Olson Johnson: Hold it, men. He’s not bluffing.
    Dr. Sam Johnson: Listen to him, men. He’s just crazy enough to do it!
    Bart: [low voice] Drop it! Or I swear I’ll blow this nigger’s head all over this town!
    Bart: [high-pitched voice] Oh, lo’dy, lo’d, he’s desp’it! Do what he sayyyy, do what he sayyyy!
    [Townspeople drop their guns. Bart jams the gun into his neck and drags himself through the crowd towards the station]
    Harriet Johnson: Isn’t anybody going to help that poor man?
    Dr. Sam Johnson: Hush, Harriet! That’s a sure way to get him killed!
    Bart: [high-pitched voice] Oooh! He’p me, he’p me! Somebody he’p me! He’p me! He’p me! He’p me!
    Bart: [low voice] Shut up!
    [Bart places his hand over his own mouth, then drags himself through the door into his office]
    Bart: Ooh, baby, you are so talented!

  3. pug_ster
    August 1st, 2011 at 19:05 | #3

    What’s so funny is that Obama seems to throw in the towel and give those tea baggers what they want. Any numbskull who believes that US is still a democracy must be drinking the Western propaganda kool aid. This country already turned into a plutocracy where elitists rule and while the majority poor schmucks are suppressed. More than 90% of politicans are the rich elitists or serve the rich elitists. Personally, I would like to see those 99’ers stand up and create a new jasmine revolution.

  4. August 2nd, 2011 at 13:01 | #4

    The key problem is also with the U.S. media narrative over this debt ceiling ‘crisis.’ They have turned it into a spectator sport of Democrats vs. Republicans. What is lost is this idea that those politicians should be made accountable for not being able to come together and solve the debt problem in a meaningful way.

    What is lost is the polarization by the media that everyone stands to “loose” one way or another, but the truth is that Americans should chip in to tackle this together.

    So, the media wants the public cheer-lead this fight. The politicians are fighting. And, there we are. Nobody has any spine to address the underlying issue.

  5. August 2nd, 2011 at 13:53 | #5

    “turned it into a spectator sport of Democrats vs. Republicans.”

    Now we see the end of Democracy, as it turns serious government into idiotic reality TV series “Jersey Shore”.

    I guess we should call it “Potomac Shore”,

    starring Eric “the Situation” Cantor,
    Michelle “Snookie” Bachman,

    Am I the only one who sees the parallel of DC scripted drama vs. the Jersey scripted drama (which I avoid watching on both counts).

  6. pug_ster
    August 2nd, 2011 at 16:56 | #6

    This budget bill passed is basically kicking the problem down the road. There’s not much details of what things to cut, but to let bipartisan committee of 12 to recommend what to cut. So in a few months there will be this kind of 3 ring circus all over again. This kind of budget cuts as we are going to another recession is going be bad. The people who will pay are the 99’ers who are not protesting because they are getting unemployment checks. Now they are not getting their money, I see another jasmine coming. Considering that the dow went down by 265 points today, and moody’s still says that there’s a negative outlook, that’s not a good sign.

  7. August 3rd, 2011 at 13:44 | #7

    I believe the Tea Partiers will build a bonfire and celebrate the end of taxes, while they stand in line in front of the closed unemployment office.

    Yes, they are F*ing crazy.

  8. Cyril Edmund
    August 26th, 2011 at 06:45 | #8

    Tea partiers only blew the whistle on America’s debt problem. They did not cause it. Washington did because of their over spending. July 2008 Obama accused President Bush Jr of having accumulated 4trillion debt over 8 years. Look at him – Obama accumulated about that same debt over a mere 2 1/2 years. Can’t the left wing liberals see their own flaw. You cannot spend yourself out of debt. That’s not the way economics works.

  9. August 26th, 2011 at 06:48 | #9

    @Cyril Edmund

    no one is suggesting to spend way out of debt. (some suggested spend way out of “recession”, but that’s different).

    In any case, way out of debt, like way out of even an impending disaster, should be done ORDERLY, and not some free for all, mad dash everyone for himself!

  10. August 26th, 2011 at 07:42 | #10

    There’s a serious deadlock in capital hill. Other than moralistic arguments of abortion rights, immigration and gun rights both parties represent different interest groups in US politics.

    Republican = smaller govn’t + more defence + lower tax
    Democrat = bigger govn’t + less defence + higher tax

  11. raventhorn2000
    August 26th, 2011 at 07:51 | #11


    Republican = smaller govn’t + more defence + lower tax
    Democrat = bigger govn’t + less defence + higher tax

    I would dispute these terminologies a bit.

    Defence is part of government.

    it should perhaps be more appropriate to say:

    Republican = less social/civil programs + more defence + lower tax
    Democrat = more social/civil programs + less defence + higher tax

  12. August 26th, 2011 at 13:09 | #12

    If you put it this way basically both the Democrat and Republican want to keep the current govn’t spending, they just can’t decide on whose support base to cut.

  13. raventhorn2000
    August 26th, 2011 at 14:11 | #13


    ” they just can’t decide on whose support base to cut.”

    Oh slight modification, they KNOW they want to cut each other’s support base. Which means, they can’t AGREE to the other side’s demands.

    It’s all about taking from the other side.

    Now, if the “Tea Party” was really serious about cutting the debt and spending, they should be demanding that Republicans give up a lot of military spending (and I think Ron Paul has advocated that all along, but oddly enough, majority of Tea Party members do not propose to follow that line).

    In a CNN poll of American adults released March 23, 2011,

    Look at the answers on defense spending. 37 percent of all Americans want it cut a little, cut a lot, or eliminated.

    But only 20 percent of Tea Party supporters want defense budget cuts.

    Conclusion: Comparatively, Tea Party members tend to want the similar types of budget cuts as Republicans, ie. favoring cutting social/civil programs, but don’t want to cut defense. (I’m sure there are exceptions for some individuals).

    So, in the end, Tea Party argument is NOT just about whether or NOT to cut, but ALSO what to cut, and in reality and in effect, the Tea Party is not about smaller government either, because of their Republican-ish obsession about keeping the defense budget (which is a MONSTER chunk of the Federal budget).

  14. August 27th, 2011 at 08:02 | #14

    I have actually met people who think the current US defence spending is too low, which is close to 30% of tax revenue. On a side note Singapore spend nearly that percentage on defence and seems to be doing fine.

    I have used this analogy talking to my friends. The US is a household making 2 million a year but spent $3.6 million. If you have a friend who live this way, what advice would you give him?

    When China gave the advice to balance the expenditure, most ring wingers simply blew their tops, all those comments can be found on articles related that news. Most suggest stopping China’s import or simply not paying back.

  15. raventhorn2000
    August 27th, 2011 at 10:16 | #15


    30% sounds about the correct number for US right now. But I believe that’s ONLY what is listed as “DEFENSE DEPARTMENT BUDGET”, not the total “defense related budget”, which is scattered over other items in the Federal Budget.

    For example, CIA, State Department, etc., all have their own “defense and military related” budget items, for things like conducting intelligence operations in Afghanistan in support of military, establishing back door slush funds as “foreign aid” to some friendly pro-American regimes, etc.

    Some items are hidden away, like “surplus military arms procurement”.

    REAL US military spending is FAR greater than “defense Department budget”, since a lot of things in the US budget are DIRECTED at specific military objectives, not civilian objectives.

    *Additionally, I don’t think comparing US to Singapore is a good analogy, since Singapore as a small nation would naturally incur higher cost of maintaining its own independent military for defense.

    Larger nations would simply have the “economy” of their large scale, and it would require less proportions to operate a military. (hence, historically, smaller groups of People tend to group together into larger groups as “UNION”, for “mutual defense”, as it says in the US Constitution.)

  16. Cyril
    August 28th, 2011 at 20:31 | #16

    “Republican = smaller govn’t + more defence + lower tax
    Democrat = bigger govn’t + less defence + higher tax”

    It is for our good to have allowance for more defence spending. America has many enemies who want her downfall. Why else would 911 have happened ? Our way of life is exceptional. No where else can you realize the American Dream. Our rights to Freedom, Liberty and Justice is unequalled. Our Constitution is Supreme, next only to the Bible which is the Word of God (though many do not have an understanding of it).

    We need to have smaller government if we want to have lesser expenses and hence try to balance our budget (atleast balance) – we need surplus to beat our debt. If we have big government, we will just end up eating up our resources trying to pay for the big govt.

    I know we have to support/provide for people who are not able to provide for themselves. I support that idea. But only genuine cases need to be helped. People who pretend to have a disability when they can be out working and making their own life should not be benefitting from our social system. People who dont have jobs can be helped temporarily until they find their own job; once they have a job they should pay back into the system what they got before. How else can we help others who have need. You can only take out as much as you put in. It is only fair to ask to be paid back. We need to refine our social system.

    We do not need higher taxes. We only need to figure out how to balance the budget with the current taxes and some spending cuts. And we better do it ASAP. Wake up America!

    Please God Bless America.

  17. Charles Liu
    August 28th, 2011 at 23:45 | #17


    Yeah, ever heard of “blowback”? Had we not spent money on building up Osama bin Ladin and his Mujahideen “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan back in the 80’s, it wouldn’t have came back and bit us in the ass on 9/11.

  18. raventhorn2000
    August 29th, 2011 at 05:46 | #18


    Lots of countries have terrorist attacks like 9/11. Would they be justified to spend as much money as US does on military?

    As for the “American Dream”, is US spending that money to defend the “American Dream”, or someone else’s dream in other countries for dictators? Seems the later has been the record of history, in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, etc.

    I’m not sure spending money on those royal Oil barrons in the Middle East is your idea of defending the “American Dream”.

  19. August 29th, 2011 at 11:24 | #19

    Well, if you add in Dept of Energy, Homeland Security and NASA etc, the figure definitely becomes much higher but for guy like Cyril it is still not enough!

  20. raventhorn2000
    August 29th, 2011 at 11:38 | #20


    Of course we should, Afterall, Pentagon keeps saying that apparently, everything remotely has to do with Military in China should be counted as Chinese defense spending. (And I would note, PLA is also used to fight disasters in China, and that has NOTHING to do with war).

    Yet, when it comes to Pentagon counting its own money, it does not do the same.

    So, let’s be “transparent”, and demand Pentagon show the REAL defense budget of US. Otherwise, let’s just say the REAL US defense budget could be 3-5 times what Pentagon reports. (estimating $2 trillion rather than ~$600 billion).

    *And if we want to get REAL serious, we should also SEPARATEly count social/economic benefits paid to Veterans of US War, as a cost of “defense”/War, since US Veterans are sufferring significantly in the Recession, and many of them have unemployment benefits, food stamps, housing assistance, etc.

  21. raventhorn2000
    August 29th, 2011 at 14:42 | #21

    US civilian labor force 2010, about 150 million people, which includes about 22 million Veterans.

    Veterans have higher rate of unemployment vs non-Veterans, (~20% vs. ~10-15%).

    Now, if US is going to increase or keep defense spending, are they going to rehire the Veterans? Or are they just going to hire new recruits and fire the old veterans, or are they just going to replace Veterans with “Drones” and Smart bombs and even foreign contractors and Halliburton???

    Consider that when they start to take away Veteran’s Unemployment and disability checks.

    Then you realize where the “defense money” is flowing to, NOT to Veterans, but to Big Defense contractors to line their corporate pockets.

  22. Cyril
    August 30th, 2011 at 07:49 | #22

    Charles Liu:
    I have very well heard of the “blow back”. That’s what you get when you help undeserving guys. But that was done in good faith. Support was given in “The Soviet war in Afghanistan” that “was a nine-year conflict involving the Soviet Union, supporting the Marxist-Leninist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan[18] against the Afghan Mujahideen and foreign “Arab–Afghan” volunteers. ” (Quoted from Wikipedia).

    Again from wikipedia, The most famous of the Afghan Arabs was Osama bin Laden, known at the time as a wealthy and pious Saudi who provided his own money and helped raise millions from other wealthy Gulf Arabs.”

    At that point that was the right thing to do (supporting a people fighting for their freedom). If Osama turned around and fought us, shame on him. I am very grateful that he is no more. There are still the likes of him who we still have to destroy in order to have peace here. I hope that that happens eventually.

    Un-involved people, like all of us arguing here on this website, can say anything they want but they that have the responsibility at the appropriate times, make decisions based upon the current information that they have (they cannot work in retrospect as you cannot tell exactly which way things will go, right ?) If people who get helped bite back, we can’t help it that we helped them before. Now, we can atleast try to protect ourselves from them.

  23. Cyril
    August 30th, 2011 at 08:07 | #23

    I do agree that we cannot and must not spend the money we don’t have. But defense cannot be deprived. Do you want to keep having more 911s ? Don’t you want to rest peacefully every night knowing that someone is defending the peace in our country ? We definitely need to support veterans. They do a noble thing by putting their lives on the line, some sacrificing life and limb. They deserve our support. On the other hand, look at all the people who lose everything only because of the bad choices they make ? Most homeless people have misused credit cards and made other bad choices. As a nation we need to learn to live within our means. Not just the defense budget (which I would definitely excuse for all the explanations I have given) What do you say about home foreclosures ? Banks were giving loans to undeserving people. People who the banks knew could not pay back. Some good people with good jobs, still wanted some things that they could not actually afford – so they went ahead and bought it on credit – which they could not pay back. Then the interest accrues. Ofcourse, what about the house prices falling. People owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth. Tough things are going on. Each individual needs to learn to live within their own means. What about those people taking unemployment checks and spending it on not just food and necessities, but also on alcohol and tobacco ? That money could be saved and spent on another day’s food. I don’t want to sound legalistic. But bad choices can be avoided for our own betterment. If each of us will scrutinize ourselves and make the necessary changes, others will not have to advise us.

  24. raventhorn2000
    August 30th, 2011 at 08:49 | #24


    “I do agree that we cannot and must not spend the money we don’t have. But defense cannot be deprived. Do you want to keep having more 911s ? Don’t you want to rest peacefully every night knowing that someone is defending the peace in our country ?”

    What would be reasonable limit for defense spending to prevent more 911’s? I don’t think anyone can feel absolutely secure, even with all the money in the world to spend on defense. Celebrities can hire their own private armies, but do they feel secure?? No.

    How MANY would have to “defend” the peace in US for you to rest peacefully every night?? I don’t know, I don’t think you can quantify that.

    Then, it becomes a bottomless “abstract”, where you would want to keep increasing Defense to make you feel “safe”, but we would not know how effective the money is being spent.

    Maybe, Because 911 happened, US needs to reexamine the effectiveness of its defense spending, and NOT just keep pouring money down that hole.

    9/11 was a failure for US intelligence and military. That would be an argument for REVAMPING US military and intelligence, NOT increase funding.

    Certain, spending money on failure would be just wasting money and getting more failures, logically.

    Maybe US military strategy was wrong, all the foreign interventions were wrong, and they were the cause of 9/11, as many even Ron Paul have argued.

  25. Charles Liu
    August 30th, 2011 at 10:24 | #25

    @Cyril But that was done in good faith.

    Right, the “good intention, bad outcome” stuff. I guess you are also aware of the fact we weren’t in Afghanistan for freedom and democracy, but to stop the Russians from building a pipeline we wanted:


    And again the pipeline played a big part of why we went into Afghanistan:


    If we don’t look back and be introspective, we’ll never learn from history. Like right now in Libya, one of the leader of the rebellion is actually a known terrorist. Looks like we keep making the same mistake.

  26. raventhorn2000
    August 31st, 2011 at 08:26 | #26

    US Congressional Commission report “Conservative” estimate about $60 BILLION wasted in Defense Budget in last 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan alone.

    That’s pure waste, or even money simply lost, given as payoff under the table, etc. This does not include waste in inefficiencies of the total defense budget spending.


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