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America’s Debt Count

Risks To Economic Growth

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Debt levels may affect economic growth rates. In 2010, economists Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart reported that among the 20 developed countries studied, average annual GDP growth was 34% when debt was relatively moderate or low , but it dips to just 1.6% when debt was high . In April 2013, the conclusions of Rogoff and Reinhart’s study came into question when a coding error in their original paper was discovered by Herndon, Ash and Pollin of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Herndon, Ash and Pollin found that after correcting for errors and unorthodox methods used, there was no evidence that debt above a specific threshold reduces growth. Reinhart and Rogoff maintain that after correcting for errors, a negative relationship between high debt and growth remains. However, other economists, including Paul Krugman, have argued that it is low growth which causes national debt to increase, rather than the other way around.

Commenting on fiscal sustainability, former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stated in April 2010 that “Neither experience nor economic theory clearly indicates the threshold at which government debt begins to endanger prosperity and economic stability. But given the significant costs and risks associated with a rapidly rising federal debt, our nation should soon put in place a credible plan for reducing deficits to sustainable levels over time.”

Advisory Board For The Peter G Peterson Foundation

Our Advisory Board provides advice on the Foundations strategic direction, priorities, initiatives and annual activities. To best serve our mission, the Board features a wide range of backgrounds, experience and perspectives:

  • Sec. Robert Rubin: Co-Chairman of the Advisory Board, Peter G. Peterson Foundation Co-Chairman, Council on Foreign Relations Former United States Secretary of the Treasury
  • Diana Aviv: Former CEO of Feeding America and former President and CEO of Independent Sector
  • Craig Barrett: Former Chairman, Intel Corporation
  • Richard Beattie: Chairman, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
  • Sen. William Bradley: Managing Director, Allen & Company LLC Former United States Senator
  • Barry Diller: Chairman, IAC/InterActiveCorp
  • Roger Ferguson, Jr.: President and CEO, TIAA-CREF
  • Harvey Fineberg: President, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
  • William Novelli: Professor, Georgetown University Former CEO, AARP
  • Richard Plepler: Chairman and CEO, Home Box Office
  • Richard Salomon: Managing Partner, East End Advisors LLC
  • Sheryl Sandberg: Chief Operating Officer, Facebook
  • David Beaumont Smith: Managing Director, Presidio Institute
  • David M. Walker: Former Comptroller General of the United States

Forms Of Government Borrowing

In addition to selling Treasury bills, notes, and bonds, the U.S. government borrows by issuing Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities and Floating Rate Notes . Its borrowing instruments also include savings bonds as well as the government account securities representing intergovernmental debt.

Other nations have borrowed from international organizations like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as well as private financial institutions.

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Social Security System Strains

For decades, payroll tax receipts earmarked for Social Security have exceeded benefit payments, producing system surpluses that have masked the structural U.S. budget deficit.

But those surpluses shrank before turning into a shortfall in 2021, and in the near future the deficits are expected to increase as Baby Boomer retirements swell the ranks of Social Security recipients.

The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund funding the Social Security payments for retirees saw annual gains that peaked at about $180 billion in 2006-2008. Those surpluses are projected by the trust fund’s board of trustees to give way to growing deficits topping $200 billion annually by 2028 and $300 billion from 2031. In combination with payroll taxes, the $2.75 trillion trust fund is expected to finance full benefit payments until it is exhausted in 2034.

Growing life expectancy and reduced fertility rates are expected to reduce the share of working-age population from 58.3% in 2021 to 54.6% by 2050. Over the same span, the ratio of working-age Americans to those of retirement age is projected to drop from 3.4-to-1 to 2.6-to-1.

Save A Starter Emergency Fund

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Before you attack your debt, make sure youve got $1,000 saved as a starter emergency fund. Why? As youre paying off debt, life will happenwere talking about the flat tire, leaking refrigerator and unexpected medical bill. If you dont have money saved up to pay cash for emergencies, youll be tempted to pull out a credit cardand go deeper in debt.

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How Bad Is National Debt

Americans living with high levels of government and private debt tend to see saving in a positive light, while treating borrowing as a problem. In fact, they go hand in hand since borrowings come from savings and provide savers with the interest they earn from deferring consumption.

U.S. national debt provides corresponding low-risk assets for pension funds and families, and enables consumption in excess of production for the country as a whole.

At the same time, nothing more than simple arithmetic is required to see the pace of the recent growth of government debt as unsustainable. That’s the term the U.S. Treasury used in the Financial Report of the U.S. Government for Fiscal Year 2021, after calculating that under prevailing trends the federal debt-to-GDP ratio would increase from 100% in 2021 to 701% by 2096.Economists and policy analysts on the left often differ from those on the right in evaluating the tradeoffs between the everyday utility of government debt and its growing risks amid rapid accumulation.

Critics of public debt often contend it can crowd out private investment, a theory not supported by U.S. credit markets developments in recent decades. In contrast, economists using Modern Monetary Theory argue government borrowing can improve economic outcomes if it fosters public investment that expands the economy’s productive potential.

How Has The Covid

According to the Congressional Budget Office, debt held by the American public will rise to 98% of GDP due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and legislative actions taken as a result. The CBO says that the main driver of the increased debt is a federal budget shortfall of $3.3 trillion, the largest since 1945.

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A Brief History Of Us Debt

Investopedia / Sabrina Jiang

Nearly all national governments borrow money. The U.S. has carried national debt throughout its history, dating back to the borrowing that financed the Revolutionary War. Since then the debt has grown alongside the economy, as a result of increased government responsibilities, and in response to economic developments.

Why Is This Important

Understanding the US economy | Charts that Count

Interests costs continue to rise, meaning that much of government spending may go towards paying it off. This means that areas of development such as education and infrastructure could receive less funding as more and more is allocated towards interest payments. In addition to this, higher interest rates create obstacles for private investments which affect economic growth. When the interest rate is high, it can be harder for businesses and individuals to receive funding and investments.

The national debt does not only affect the economy and its growth – it can also have a large effect on individuals and their livelihoods. As investments become harder to gain, businesses increase the costs of goods and services to balance out debt service obligations. In the long term, this can lead to lower investment returns. In addition to the possibility of paying more for goods and services, the average income for a family of four is projected to if debt continues to grow. This means that the money spent on necessities and luxuries will decrease. In addition to this, rising debt can equate to higher interest rates, meaning that houses, cars, and loans for college or businesses will become more expensive. In addition to this, the government may need to cut budgets around various programs which can affect those who rely on Medicare or Social Security to live.

Want to know more about how the debt is affecting our fiscal future? Check out our graphs and see it for yourself!

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Student Loan Debt Clock

The Student Loan Debt Clock gives insight into the current amount of federal and private loans that students have taken out to pay for college. Student debt in the U.S. is increasing by $2,853.88 every second. As of July 2020, the student debt loan clock is at $1.7 trillion. Loan amounts continue to rise as need-based grants are not growing as quickly as the average cost of attending college.

This Student Loan Debt Clock shows different items that are related to student debt in real time. As of July 21 2020, $91 million has been paid towards reducing student debt, but $153 million new student loans were borrowed. Full-time college students spent over $369 million on various college expenses, and federal student aid totaled oner $161 million.

Bernard Madoff Ponzi Scheme & Housing Bubble

Bernie Madoff, former chairman of the NASDAQ and owner of a large investment advisory firm, admitted to running one of the largest investment fraud schemes in Wall Street history. For years, Madoff had been using funds from investors to pay returns to other investors, defrauding his clients by around $18 billion.

This was also the year that the U.S. housing bubble burst. For most of the decade, housing values had been high, and just about anyone could qualify for an adjustable-rate mortgage with low or no down payment.

When interest rates rose and housing prices fell, homeowners couldn’t make their mortgage payments. Large financial institutions were left holding portfolios of worthless mortgage-backed securities.

National Debt: $10.205 trillion

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Pay Off Your Debt With The Debt Snowball Method

Next, pay off all nonmortgage debt from smallest to largest with the debt snowball method. Dont argue with our math and ask about interest rates. The point of the debt snowball method is momentum and motivation. You pay the minimum payment on all debts except the smallestthats the one you go after hard.

When its out of the way, you put all the money you were throwing at it onto the next-smallest debt. Repeat until youre debt-free. Youll get quick wins all along the way. And those quick wins will keep you moving.

Use our Debt Snowball Calculator to see how its done.

Who Owns Most Of Us Debt

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The largest percentage of US debt is held by foreign investors. International investors hold 29.5% of all US debt. However, these investors hold 40% of all debt held by the public, which amounts to about $6.7 billion. In terms of countries, the US Treasury department lists Japan and China as the largest foreign investors, holding 18% and 15%, respectively, of all foreign securities.

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What Is A Cds Spread

Credit default swaps are a type of derivative that provides a lender with insurance in the event of a default. The seller of the CDS represents a third party between the lender and borrower .

In exchange for receiving coverage, the buyer of a CDS pays a fee known as the spread, which is expressed in basis points . If a CDS has a spread of 300 bps , this means that to insure $100 in debt, the investor must pay $3 per year.

Applying this to Ukraines 5-year CDS spread of 10,856 bps , an investor would need to pay $108.56 each year to insure $100 in debt. This suggests that the market has very little faith in Ukraines ability to avoid default.

What Is The National Debt

The national debt is the debt that the federal government holds which includes public debt, federal trust funds, and government accounts. As the total amount of deficit that the government has garnered, it is a number that encompasses what the government owes itself and others. The national debt is looked at in three parts: debt held by the public, gross federal debt, and debt subject to limit. Debt held by the public is the money gathered to fund activities and programs, with money borrowed from external lenders. The gross federal debt includes the public debt, but also adds federal trust funds and governments. Debt subject to limit is similar to gross federal debt, but only includes debt issued by the treasury and Federal Financing Bank.

As of July 2020, the national debt is more than $26.5 trillion. This number equates to $80,422 for every person living in the u.S., and is 123% of the U.S.’s annual economic output. As of June 2020 the debt-to-GDP ratio was 120.5%, due to the economic strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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How The Large Us Debt Affects The Economy

In the short run, the economy and voters benefit from deficit spending because it drives economic growth and stability. The federal government pays for defense equipment, health care, building construction, and contracts with private businesses. New employees are then hired and they spend their salaries on necessities and wants, like gas, groceries, new clothes, and more. This consumer spending boosts the economy. As part of the components of GDP, federal government spending contributes around 7%.

Over the long term, debt holders could demand larger interest payments, because the debt-to-GDP ratio increases, and this high ratio of debt to gross domestic product tells investors that the country might have problems repaying them. That’s a newerand worryingoccurrence for the U.S. Back in 1988, the national debt was only half of what the U.S. produced that year.

Weakened demand for U.S. Treasurys could increase interest rates and that would slow the economy.

Lower demand for Treasurys also puts downward pressure on the dollar because its value is tied to the value of Treasury securities. As the dollar value declines, foreign holders get paid back in a currency that is worth less than when they invested, which further decreases demand. Many of these foreign holders would become more likely to invest in their own countries. At that point, the U.S. would have to pay higher interest payments.

How Much Would Each American Owe To Pay Off Its National Debt

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The US Census Bureau estimates the American population is 324,356,000 at the end of 2019. The US national debt as of 2019 was approximately $22.7 trillion. Thus, every American, regardless of age, would have to pay nearly $70,000 to resolve the US national debt. If only adults are taken into account, then the per capita debt would be about $90,500.

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How The Debt Compares To Gdp Plus Major Events That Impacted It

Kimberly Amadeo is an expert on U.S. and world economies and investing, with over 20 years of experience in economic analysis and business strategy. She is the President of the economic website World Money Watch. As a writer for The Balance, Kimberly provides insight on the state of the present-day economy, as well as past events that have had a lasting impact.

The U.S. national debt moved above $30 trillion on Jan. 31, 2022. It has grown over time due to recessions, defense spending, and other programs that added to the debt. The U.S. national debt is so high that it’s greater than the annual economic output of the entire country, which is measured as the gross domestic product .

Throughout the years, recessions have increased the debt because they have lowered tax revenue and Congress has had to spend more to stimulate the economy. Military spending has also been a big contributor, as has spending on benefits such as Medicare. In 2020 and 2021, spending to offset the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic also added to the debt.

When the debt gets so big that it hits the debt ceilingthe limit put in place by Congressinvestors may worry that the U.S. will default on the debt. In that case, the government will need to raise the debt ceiling or reduce the debt through higher taxes, spending cuts, and more.

Us National Debt Clock

The US National Debt Clock covers the outstanding debt owed by the federal government. Two-thirds of the clock shows the public debt by way of treasury bills, notes, and bonds – this covers individuals, businesses, and foreign governments. The other third of the debt is what the government owes to itself – this covers federal programs like Social Security.

The largest budget items include: Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, defense, and interest paid on the national debt. The former two items are a part of the mandatory programs that the government is required to fund with federal expenses. To give you an idea of how much more the U.S. spends compared to other countries, for the defense budget alone the U.S. spends more than China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil combined.

The Debt Clock also gives statistics on the demographics of the country, which is helpful in understanding where program funding may go. With a population of over 329 million, 60 million people are enrolled in Medicare and 79 million people receive Medicaid. In addition to this, there are currently 54 million retirees who seek Social Security benefits.

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United States National Debt: What Affect Does Hiding $5 Trillion From The Books Have On The Us Debt Clock

The United States is one of the world’s most eager consumers of national debt. Due to the high volume of new US national debt being added on an irregular basis, this clock is regularly updated.

US Treasury & website. US national debt statistics include Intragovernmental Holdings.

September 10, 2022


In this guide to the United States National Debt, we discuss the amount of the countrys debt, whats included in it, who manages the debt, the countrys debt ceiling, how it raises loans, and who holds the US debt.


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