CURRENT DEBT LEVEL: Link to Treasury's Debt to the Penny
- Foreign Holders of US Debt
- Latest debt projections: CBO's 2012 August Update
- Unsustainable Debt: The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected in its August 2012 Update that, under current revenue and spending policies, "debt held by the public will climb to 90 percent of GDP by 2022 -- higher than at any time since shortly after World War II." Currently, debt is 73 percent of GDP. See also GAO's December 2012 Long-Term Budget Outlook.
- A stable debt level is generally regarded as 60 percent of GDP.
- Debt held by the public, generally regarded as the most accurate measure of a nation's debt burden, includes money borrowed by foreign investors, mutual funds, state and local governments, commercial banks, insurance companies and individuals, and does not include money held by the social security and other governmental trust funds.
The two major bipartisan plans to stabilize the growing U.S. public debt were developed by the President's Commission (usually referred to as "Simpson-Bowles") and the Bipartisan Domenici-Rivlin Debt Reduction Task Force. Link to both plans below.
Additional Resources on Deficits and Debt
Deficits and Surpluses FY 1990 -2000
The great fiscal turnaround of the 1990s can be attributed to the enactment of three major deficit reduction agreements in 1990, 1993, and 1997 as well as the economic effects of the "Internet boom."
Growth in Debt Held by the Public FY 2001-2011
Debt held by the public (i.e. U.S. debt held by individuals, institutions, and governments) grew dramatically during the last decade due to a number of factors: (1) The Bush tax cuts of 2001; (2) The 2001 Recession; (3) The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which were financed by borrowing; (4) Entitlement growth including the addition of a Medicare prescription drug benefit, financed by borrowing; and (5) The financial crisis and the Great Recession which significantly reduced federal revenues and increased federal benefits and stimulus spending.
Deficit Projections for FY 2011 - 2021
These projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service show projected deficits for the next decade assuming extension of the Bush tax cuts, indexing of the Alternative Minimum Tax, and preventing automatic cuts in Medicare physican payments. The numbers also reflect the $2.1 trillion in spending reductions (primarily defense and domestic discretionary spending) mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (the Debt Ceiling Agreement of August 2011). The continuing upward trend in deficits beginning in FY 2016 reflect the rapidly escalating costs of Medicare, Medicaid, and -- to a lesser extent Social Security -- due to the aging of the population and health costs growing much faster than the economy.