United States Public Debt
The United States total public debt, commonly called the national debt, or U.S. government debt, is the amount of money owed by the United States federal government to holders of U.S. debt instruments. Debt held by the public is all federal debt held by states, corporations, individuals, and foreign governments, but does not include intragovernmental debt obligations or debt held in the Social Security Trust Fund. Types of securities held by the public include, but are not limited to, Treasury Bills, Notes, Bonds, TIPS, United States Savings Bonds, and State and Local Government Series securities.
On 30 September 2008, the total U.S. federal debt passed the $10 trillion mark for the first time, with about $32,895 per capita (that is, per U.S. resident). Of this amount, debt held by the public was roughly $5.3 trillion. Adding unfunded Medicaid, Social Security, Medicare, and similar obligations, this figure rises to a total of $59.1 trillion, or $516,348 per household. In 2007, the public debt was 36.9 percent of GDP, with a total debt of 65.5 percent of GDP. The CIA ranked the total percentage as 27th in the world.
Public debt is the amount owed by the government to its creditors, whether they are nationals or foreigners. External debt is the debt of all sectors of the economy (public and private), owed to foreigners. In the U.S., foreign ownership of the public debt is a significant part of the nation’s external debt. The Bureau of the Public Debt, a division of the United States Department of the Treasury, calculates the amount of money owed by the national government on a daily basis.
The total debt has increased over $500 billion each year since FY 2003, considering both budgeted and non-budgeted spending. The annual US budget deficit declined from $318 billion in 2005 to $162 billion in 2007, but increased to $455 billion in 2008.]Since FY 2002, the deficit reported by the media has been significantly less than the annual change in the debt, which surpassed $1 trillion for the first time in FY 2008.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Treasury Department have warned that debt levels will increase dramatically relative to historical levels, due primarily to mandatory expenditures for programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest. Mandatory expenditures are projected to exceed federal tax revenues sometime between 2030 and 2040 if reforms are not undertaken. Further, benefits under entitlement programs will exceed government income by over $40 trillion over the next 75 years. The severity of the measures necessary to address this challenge increases the longer such changes are delayed. These organizations have stated that the government’s current fiscal path is “unsustainable”.