Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Public Debt

A few weeks ago, after I posted an article on the decreasing federal deficit, one reader raised the issue of the total outstanding debt (a record value), and I gave a tongue-in-cheek reply saying that nobody knows who we own that money and we should just not pay.

But it made me curious, so I looked for some figures on how is that 8.5 trillion debt structured, and here it is:
40.6%: Federal Reserve and government accounts. This is money that one part of the government owns to another part, so seriously, it doesn't count.
22.7%: Foreign and international. Ok, so we owe about 1.9 trillions to foreign countries. Considering how much money we gave to other countries over the history, I think they could give us a break. Just count how many foreign debts we completely erased. And actually, a careful analysis could find it more profitable to just invade those creditor countries and make them erase our debt. Maybe even impose a tribute and get some extra money to the budget.
6.5%: Private pension funds
6.3%: Mutual funds
5.4%: Misc others
4.2%: State and local governments. Well, state and local receive a lot of federal money, so if they still want it, they should ignore the debt.
4.2%: Commercial banks, S&Ls and credit unions
3.5%: State and local government pension funds
3.3%: US Savings Bonds
3.3%: Insurance companies. Everybody knows they make huge profits, so they can just pass on that debt since they still make a lot of money from ripping off customers.

So this leaves us with only 29.2%, or about 2.5 trillions of debt (mostly to pension funds, bonds and other securities), which I would say is totally manageable.

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