Ask David Wessel

first_imgQ: One hears a lot about which foreign countries own the most U.S. debt. How much of the government debt do U.S. citizens and corporations own? Frank Skerbetz Thornton, Colo. A: As of the end of June 2005, the latest period for which detailed data are reported in the December 2005 issue of the government’s “Treasury Bulletin,” the federal government had debt outstanding of $7.8 trillion. Of this total, though, slightly more than $4 trillion was held in the Social Security trust fund and other government accounts or by the Federal Reser ve; that’s essentially money one arm of the government owes to another arm of the government. That leaves about $3.8 trillion. Of this amount, the Treasur y said, about $2 trillion, roughly 53%, was held by foreigners of all sor ts, from individual investors to foreign central banks. That leaves roughly $1.8 trillion held by Americans. The biggest chunk of that-nearly $850 billion-is owned by pension funds, insurance companies, mutual funds and banks. They are in the business of taking savings from those who have them and lending that money to those, including the federal government, who need it. An additional $430 billion in U.S. government debt is held by state and local governments. And there is more than $200 billion in oldfashioned savings bonds. The rest of the money is held by various investors, largely Americans although sometimes foreigners hold U.S. Treasur y bonds in U.S. accounts. Not included in any of these figures is the amount of U.S. currency held outside the countr y, often by foreigners who trust the dollar more than their own currencies. According to the Federal Reser ve, recent estimates show that between onehalf and twothirds of the $780 billion wor th of U.S. currency in circulation is held abroad. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa Anita160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more