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What is the Federal Debt?

Gross Federal Debt: That’s the gross amount of debt outstanding issued by the US Treasury. “Debt held by the public” and “debt held by federal government accounts” here are components of Gross Federal Debt.

In end of FY 2015 the federal debt was $18.2 trillion. At end of FY 2016 federal debt is budgeted to be $19.3 trillion.

Also, see National Debt, State Debt, Local Debt,
Agency Debt, and Federal Deficit.

Federal Debt Clock

Today’s Federal Debt is about $18,743,774,837,000.

The amount is the gross outstanding federal debt issued by the United States Department of the Treasury since 1790.

But, it doesn’t include state and local debt.

And, it doesn’t include so-called “agency debt.”

And, it doesn’t include the so-called unfunded liabilities of entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Federal Debt per person is about $57,443.

Recent US Federal Debt

Chart D.11f: Recent US Federal Debt

Chart D.12f: Recent US Federal Debt as Percent GDP

Federal Debt shown here includes Debt held by the Public (not including debt held by Federal Reserve), Debt held in government accounts, and debt held by the Federal Reserve Board (i.e., as part of the monetary base).

Federal Debt was about $8 trillion in the mid 2000s, but the Great Recession of 2007-09 and associated bailouts has helped double the debt in ten years to over $18 trillion in 2015.

Viewed as percent of GDP the increase in federal debt is not so startling. But federal debt has still increased from 60 percent of GDP to over 100 percent of GDP in ten years.

US Federal Debt Since 1900

Chart D.13f: Federal Debt in 20th Century

Federal debt began the 20th century at less than 10 percent of GDP. It jerked above 30 percent as a result of World War I and then declined in the 1920s to 16.3 percent by 1929. Federal debt started to increase after the Crash of 1929, and rose above 40 percent in the depths of the Great Depression.

Federal debt exploded during World War II to over 120 percent of GDP, and then began a decline that bottomed out at 32 percent of GDP in 1974. Federal debt almost doubled in the 1980s, reaching 60 percent of GDP in 1990 and peaking at 66 percent of GDP in 1996, before declining to 56 percent in 2001. Federal debt started increasing again in the 2000s, reaching 70 percent of GDP in 2008. Then it exploded in the aftermath of the Crash of 2008, reaching 102 percent of GDP in 2011.

Federal debt has breached 100 percent of GDP twice since 1900: during World War II and in the aftermath of the Crash of 2008.

US Federal Debt since the Founding

Chart D.14f: Federal Debt since the Founding

The United States federal government began with a substantial debt, the cost of the Revolutionary War. Under Alexander Hamilton’s funding system the debt was paid off by 1840. Government debt has typically peaked after wars. It breached 30 percent of GDP after the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War I. It breached 100 percent of GDP in World War II. Government debt also breached 100 percent of GDP in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008.

Gross Federal Debt vs. Net Debt

Chart D.15f: Federal Debt Gross and Net

The US federal government differentiates between Gross Debt issued by the US Treasury and Net Debt held by the public. The numbers on Gross Debt are published by the US Treasury here.

Numbers on various categories of federal debt, including Gross Debt, debt held by federal government accounts, debt held by the public, and debt held by the Federal Reserve System, are published every year by the Office of Management and Budget in the Federal Budget in the Historical Tables as Table 7.1 — Federal Debt at the End of the Year. The table starts in 1940. You can find the latest Table 7.1 in here.

The chart above shows three categories of federal debt.

1. Monetized debt (blue), i.e., federal debt bought by the Federal Reserve System

2. Debt held by the federal government (red) e.g., as IOUs for Social Security

3. Other debt (green), i.e., debt in public hands, including foreign governments.

Top Debt Requests:

Find DEFICIT stats and history.

US BUDGET overview and pie chart.


See FEDERAL BUDGET breakdown and estimated vs. actual.

See BAR CHARTS of debt.

See PIE CHARTS of total debt, federal debt.

Check STATE debt: CA NY TX FL and compare.

See DEBT HISTORY briefing.

Take a COURSE at Spending 101.

Make your own CUSTOM CHART.

Debt Data Sources

Debt data is from official government sources.

Gross Domestic Product data comes from US Bureau of Economic Analysis and

Detailed table of debt data sources here.

Federal debt data begins in 1792.

State and local debt data begins in 1890.

State and local debt data for individual states begins in 1957.

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Gross Federal Debt

Debt: $18,743,774,837,000

Data Sources for 2011_2020:

Sources for 2011:

GDP, GO: GDP, GO Sources
Federal: Fed. Budget: Hist. Tables 3.2, 5.1, 7.1
State and Local: State and Local Gov. Finances
'Guesstimated' by projecting the latest change in reported spending forward to future years

Sources for 2020:

GDP, GO: GDP, GO Sources
Federal: Fed. Budget: Hist. Tables 3.2, 5.1, 7.1
State and Local: State and Local Gov. Finances
'Guesstimated' by projecting the latest change in reported spending forward to future years

> data sources for other years
> data update schedule.

Federal Deficit and Outlay Actuals for FY15

On October 15, 2015, the US Treasury reported in its Monthly Treasury Statement (and xls) for September that the federal deficit for FY15 ending September 30 was $439 billion. Here are the numbers, including total receipts, total outlays, and deficit compared with the numbers projected in the FY 16 federal budget published in February 2015:

Federal Finances
FY15 Outcomes
Receipts $3,176$3,249
Deficit$583$439 now shows the new numbers for total FY15 outlays and receipts on its Estimate vs. Actual page.

The Monthly Treasury Statement includes ""Table 4: Receipts of the United States Government, September 2015 and Other Periods." This table of receipts by source is used for to post federal receipt actuals for FY2015.

The Monthly Treasury Statement includes "Table 9. Summary of Receipts by Source, and Outlays by Function of the U.S. Government, September 2015 and Other Periods".   This table of outlays by function makes it possible for to estimate actual outlays by "subfunction" for FY2015 by factoring budgeted amounts by the difference between budgeted and actual "function" amounts where actual outlays by subfunction cannot be gleaned from the Monthly Treasury Statement.

Final detailed FY2015 numbers will not appear until the FY2016 federal budget is published in February 2015 with the actual outlays for FY15 in Historical Table 3.2--Outlays by Function and Subfunction.

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