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What is the Total National Debt?

National Debt: Strictly speaking, the US national debt is the total of federal, state, and local debt. But people often talk about the debt of the federal government as the “national debt.”

At the end of FY 2018 the US national debt was “guesstimated” to be $24.56 trillion, including federal $21.46 trillion, state $1.19 trillion, and local $1.9 trillion.

Also, see Federal Debt, State Debt, and Local Debt.

 

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Recent US Total National Debt

Chart D.11t: Recent US National Debt

Chart D.12t: Recent US National Debt as Pct GDP

Public Debt in the United States is principally the debt of the federal government.

In 2005 federal debt was about 60 percent of GDP, state government debt was about 6 percent of GDP and local government debt was about 10 percent of GDP.

But in the last ten years the federal debt has almost doubled to 103 percent GDP, while state government debt has stayed at a little over 6 percent GDP and local government debt has increased a little to 10.6 percent GDP.

US Total Debt Since 1900

Chart D.13t: Total National Debt in 20th Century

Government debt began the 20th century at less than 20 percent of GDP. It jerked above 45 percent as a result of World War I and above 70 percent in the depths of the Great Depression. Debt has breached 100 percent of GDP twice since 1900: during World War II and in the aftermath of the Crash of 2008.

Federal, State, Local Debt in 20th Century

Chart D.14t: Total National Debt by Government Level


At the beginning of the 20th century debt was equally divided between federal and state and local debt, totaling less than 20 percent of GDP. After World War I, the total debt surged to 45% of GDP. But by the mid 1920s debt had declined to below 35 percent of GDP. Then came the Great Depression, boosting total public debt to 70 percent of GDP. World War II boosted federal debt to almost 122 percent of GDP in 1946, with state and local debt adding another 7 percent. For the next 35 years successive governments brought the debt below 50 percent of GDP, but President Reagan increased the federal debt up over 50 perent of GDP, and total debt towards 70 perent to win the Cold War. President Bush increased the debt to fight a war on terror and bail out the banks in the crisis of 2008.

Suggested Video: All About Debt

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Find NATIONAL DEBT today.

See FEDERAL BUDGET breakdown and estimated vs. actual.

See BAR CHARTS of debt, debt.

Check STATE debt: CA NY TX FL and compare.

See DEBT ANALYSIS briefing.

See DEBT HISTORY briefing.

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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 measuringworth.com.

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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Gross Federal Debt

Debt: $21,818,103,811,690.47

Data Sources for 2014_2023:

Sources for 2014:

GDP, GO: GDP, GO Sources
Federal: Fed. Budget: Hist. Tables 3.2, 5.1, 7.1
State and Local: State and Local Gov. Finances

Sources for 2023:

GDP, GO: GDP, GO Sources
Federal: Fed. Budget: Hist. Tables 3.2, 5.1, 7.1
State and Local: State and Local Gov. Finances
'Guesstimated' by projecting the latest change in reported spending forward to future years

> data sources for other years
> data update schedule.

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
Budget
billions
Outcome
billions
Receipts $3,340$3,329
Outlays$4,130$4,108
Deficit$833$779

usgovernmentspending.com 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 usgovernmentspending.com to post details of federal receipt actuals for FY 2018.

This FTS report on FY 18 actuals is a problem for usgovernmentspending.com 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 usgovernmentspending.com 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 usgovernmentspending.com 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.

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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