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Debt and Deficit Facts

Right now the Gross Federal Debt is $21,850,844,847,464.58.

At the end of FY 2018 the debt was $21.46 trillion, or 107.1% GDP.
The highest federal debt in US history was 119.0% GDP in 1946 just after World War II.

At the end of FY 2018 the federal deficit was $779 billion, or 3.9% GDP.
The highest federal deficit in US history was 29.0% GDP in 1943 in World War II.

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US Agency Debt History

A Half Century of Agency Debt

Not all the debt of the Government of the United States counts in the official total of the federal debt kept by the Department of the Treasury. This additional debt, typically the bonds of government-sponsored agencies (GSEs) like the Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Loan Board, has grown to be a substantial part of government-sponsored debt in the post World War II era.

Chart 4.21: Federal Agency Debt 1945-2020

Agency debt started the immediate post World War II era at a level of debt less than 0.5 percent of GDP and didn’t hit 1 percent of GDP till 1957.

But then agency debt began an exponential rise, with debt hitting 2 percent of GDP in 1965, blowing past 5 percent of GDP in 1973, reaching 10 percent of GDP in 1981.

Agency debt blew past 20 percent of GDP in 1988, exceeded 30 percent of GDP in 1995, and hit 40 percent of GDP in 1999, and agency debt peaked at 52 percent of GDP in 2003 at the end of the 2000-02 recession.

In the 2000s expansion agency debt declined to 46.7 percent of GDP by 2006, but then blew off in the Crash of 2008, peaking at 56.1 percent of GDP in the Great Recession year of 2009.

After the Crash of 2008 agency debt decreased rapidly to 46.6 percent of GDP by 2012 and then began a more gradual decline to 45.5 percent of GDP by 2014.

Agency Debt Compared to US Treasury Debt

Chart 4.22: Agency Debt vs. Treasury Debt

At the end of World War II, the gross public debt issued by the US Treasury hit 114 percent of GDP. The agency debt, at agencies like the Federal National Mortgage Association, was a tiny 0.38 percent of GDP.

By 1980 the Treasury Debt had been brought down to 32 percent of GDP, but the agency debt had increased to nearly 10 percent of GDP.

After 1980 Treasury debt began a sustained increase, during the Reagan defense buildup, reaching nearly 54 percent of GDP in 1990. Agency debt increased rapidly too, reaching nearly 24 percent of GDP in 1990. The increase extended into the 1990s, with Treasury debt peaking at 64 percent of GDP and agency debt exceeding 30 percent of GDP in 1995.

In the late 1990s the Treasury debt declined, down to 54 percent of GDP by 2001. But agency debt kept on climbing, hitting 50 percent of GDP in 2002. By the peak of the 2000s expansion in 2006 Treasury debt had increased to 61 percent of GDP to fight the war in Iraq, while agency debt had declined to 47 percent of GDP.

Then came the Great Recession and the Crash of 2008. By 2014 Treasury debt had increased to 102 percent of GDP. Agency debt, now mainly Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds in receivership, peaked at 56 percent of GDP in 2009, and then declined to 45.5 percent of GDP by 2016.

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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 1820.

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

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Data Source

Source: CBO Long-Term Budget Outlook .

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Federal Deficit, Receipts, Outlays Actuals for FY18

On October 15, 2018, the US Treasury reported in its Monthly Treasury Statement (and xls) for September that the federal deficit for FY 2018 ending September 30, 2018, was $779 billion. Here are the numbers, including total receipts, total outlays, and deficit compared with the numbers projected in the FY 2019 federal budget published in February 2018:

Federal Finances
FY 2018 Outcomes
Receipts $3,340$3,329
Deficit$833$779 now shows the new numbers for total FY 2018 total outlays and receipts on its Estimate vs. Actual page.

The Monthly Treasury Statement includes "Table 4: Receipts of the United States Government, September 2018 and Other Periods." This table of receipts by source is used for to post details of federal receipt actuals for FY 2018.

This FTS report on FY 18 actuals is a problem for because this site uses Historical Table 3.2--Outlays by Function and Subfunction from the Budget of the United States as its basic source for federal subfunction outlays. But the Monthly Treasury Statement only includes "Table 9. Summary of Receipts by Source, and Outlays by Function of the U.S. Government, September 2018 and Other Periods". Subfunction amounts don't get reported until the FY20 budget in February 2019. Until then estimates actual outlays by "subfunction" for FY 2018 by factoring subfunction budgeted amounts for FY18 by the ratio between relevant actual and budgeted "function" amounts where actual outlays by subfunction cannot be gleaned from the Monthly Treasury Statement.

Final detailed FY 2018 actuals will not appear on until the FY 2020 federal budget is published in February 2019 with the actual outlays for FY 2018 in Historical Table 3.2--Outlays by Function and Subfunction.

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