Unexpectedly Intriguing!
26 October 2021

When Joe Biden was sworn in as President of the United States on 20 January 2021, the U.S. national debt had reached $27.8 trillion. Through the end of the U.S. government's fiscal year on 30 September 2021, the total public debt outstanding increased to $28.4 trillion.

The following chart identifies the entities who have loaned the most money to the U.S. government. The percentage shown for each indicates how big each entity's share of the U.S. national debt is as of 30 September 2021.

20 January 2021: To Whom Does the U.S. Government Owe Money?

The values for foreign nations shown on the chart represent a first estimate because the U.S. Treasury Department's data for the amount of U.S. government-issued debt held by foreign entities only reflects its estimates through August 2021. Data through September 2021 will become available next month, which will be subject to revision before being finalized sometime in 2022.

Once again, the U.S. Federal Reserve is Uncle Sam's largest single entity creditor, outranking its former top creditor, Social Security's Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, by a widening margin. That margin is widening because Social Security is running in the red, which means it has to cash in its holdings of U.S. Treasuries to keep paying benefits to Social Security beneficiaries at promised levels.

But what is really remarkable is the extent to which the U.S. Federal Reserve is funding the U.S. government's spending above and beyond what it collects in taxes that has taken place during Joe Biden's tenure in office. Since 20 January 2021, the U.S. national debt has increased by $669.3 billion, but the U.S. Federal Reserve's holdings of U.S. government-issued debt securities has increased by $687.5 billion.

That's possible because the U.S. Federal Reserve has more than offset a net reduction of $520.4 billion in the amount of money other U.S. entities have loaned to the U.S. government during this time. At the same time, foreign entities have boosted the amount of money they've loaned to the U.S. government by $502.2 billion, which when combined with the other figures, accounts for the overall net change since 20 January 2021. Here's a visual rundown of the net national debt change math as presented using a waterfall chart:

20 January 2021: To Whom Does the U.S. Government Owe Money?

As of the end of the U.S. government's 2021 fiscal year, the Federal Reserve had loaned nearly one out of every five dollars the U.S. government owed through the end of September 2021.

About the Data

These figures represent the most current information available as of 30 September 2021, which for the total public debt outstanding and data on U.S. government entity holdings is current through that date. The Federal Reserve's holdings is fully current through 29 September 2021. Data for foreign holdings is based on estimates through August 2020 that were published on 18 October 2021.

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