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dollar.gif (2270 bytes)*
Sept. 2018
by Michael Hodges - email
- a chapter of the Grandfather Economic Reports -

Everyone is talking about debt these days. Perhaps more than ever before - - with good cause. Huge debt levels with soaring trends can cause one to think America is becoming more addicted to debt than ever before. Like a drug junkie needing more each day, there are more and more debt junkies - - in all sectors.

America used to be an economy based on production and savings, with a strong manufacturing base. Later it was said America had become what they called a 'service economy', as manufacturing & saving ratios declined and trade deficits & debts to foreign interests soared. Perhaps some will say America now has become a 'debt society'. Who knows where that leads.

Two great questions:

  1. Can the production of debt forever replace the production of goods and savings?

  2. Can Americans forever borrow their way to prosperity? - - Forever and ever?

QUESTION > what does a summary of all debt in America look like?
Answer > see below.

Knowledge is Power, provided its based on hard data.

Three (3) chapters of the Grandfather Economic Report series cover Government, Private Sector and International Debt in America - - telling the debt story by use of color data graphics:
1. Federal Government Debt Report
2. America's Total Debt Report
- includes private sector and State/local government debt
3. International Trade & Debt Report

Readers requested an additional web page summarizing debt in America, in table form. Here it is.

AMERICA'S TOTAL DEBT (as of June, 2016)
- $67 Trillion -

- add another $117 trillion for other contingencies such as Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid -

Our Federal Government Debt Report shows $19 Trillion of debt as of end CY 2015, the State & Local Government Report shows debt of 3 Trillion, and $45 Trillion of private (household, business and financial sector) debt is revealed in America's Total Debt Report.

These sum to $67.2 Trillion - - equivalent to $210,000 per capita, or $840,000 per family of 4.
(This sum does not include the federal government's un-funded contingent liabilities such as Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid estimated at $117 trillion, plus additional unknown amounts (?) for other contingencies listed below.)

The following table summarizes Total Debt in America - - as of June 2016


($ Trillion)

Debt Per Child
(per capita)


Federal Government Sector debt $18.9 trillion - a record high starting the year 2016 - (a $800 billion increase over prior year).
(Treasury data and Federal Government Debt Report includes $6.3 trillion federal govt. owes foreigners, plus $7.4 trillion debt owed U.S. domestic public, plus $5.2 trillion surplus siphoned from and owed to trust funds) - total $18.9 Trillion

$ 18.92

State & Local Government Sector debt - a record high
(State & Local Government Spending Report)
$ 2.99 $ 9,285
Un-funded Social Security contingent liabilities estimated looking forward * ?  $24.9 $77,329
Un-funded Medicare contingent liabilities (part A $34.4 T, part B $34 T, Part D $17.2 T)* ?  $48.0 $149,068
Un-funded Medicaid contingent liabilities (Congressional Research Service report - 2/2005)

?   $ 8.4

$  27,662

Un-funded federal employee pension contingent liabilities (incl. Postal service)

?   $ 4.0

Un-funded federal employee medical contingent liabilities



Un-funded state & local government employee pension & medical contingent liabilities

?   $ 2.7


Other off-budget Federal Govt. borrowings



Financial Sector Disaster Bail-out not incl. above (2008/09 estimated*) ?   $2.5 $8,143

SUM above Government Debt

$112.4+ ?

$349,099 ?


(see America's Total Debt Report)
Household Sector debt - soaring record high $14.230 $44,192
Business Sector debt - record high $12,778 $39,683
Financial Sector debt (domestic) - explosive record high $15,247 $47,350
Other (extra foreign debt in addition to such included in numbers above sectors)   $  2.06 $  6,398
Un-funded business sector employee pension contingent liabilities

           ?  $ 0.5


Un-funded business sector employee medical contingent liabilities



Impact trillions of dollars of derivatives & over-priced 'assets' (+ off balance sheet debt) on above business & financial sectors



SUM above Private Debt

$42.3 + ?

$131,234 +?


SUM Government + Private Sector Debt (including Contingent liability items)

$154.7+ ?

$480,333 +?

SUM All Government + Private Sector Debt (exclude contingent liability items)



Restatement of above -  ($ trillions)             exclude contingency contingencies             total
Government              21.9             90.5            112.4
Private sector              45.3               0.5              45.8
     Total              67.2             90.0            131.3

We don't 'owe it to ourselves' -
- as of end 2016 we owe $18 Trillion (27%)
of $67 trillion debt to international entities,
($6.3 Trillion owed by federal government plus $11.9 Trillion by private sector) >



NOTES > ? = No reliable estimate available, or preliminary estimate only, or there may be other contingencies.
For discussion see the Federal Government Debt Report, America's Total Debt ReportTrust Fund Report articles, the State & Local Government Spending Report, the International Trade & Debt Report and the Grandfather Social Security Report. (Debt Data Sources: Federal Govt. Treasury Dept.; Private Sector and State & Local Govt. from Federal Reserve flow of funds accounts, table D.3; International Monetary Fund; * Social Security/Medicare - Fed Reserve Member R. Fisher May 2008 and David Walker, US Comptroller General 7/22/07; and U.S. Treasury Account Statement

Note: Although above data is exactly as published from the sources the author believes true debt is even higher.

A few examples > corporate debt is under-stated as evidenced by many companies with off-balance sheet debt (Enron, Citigroup, etc.), debt impacts of exotic instruments such as derivatives, and reported household debt does not include areas of non-recorded debt .

I think many will agree that individuals and corporations never over-state debt - - instead, many purposely under-state same.

(Note - if you trust reliability of data reported by the federal government, the Federal Reserve Board and the US Controller General then you must accept the above data, because those are the data sources. If you have data and sources for the unknown (?) areas in the above table, please email M. Hodges)

Debt Growth Chart

The above debt summary table is total debt as of year end 2016 - with contingincies data to be updated when reliably available.

[Chart to benatdebt-vs-natincome.gif (6843 bytes), updated as soon as final released by govt. for GDP and national income accounts]333nfunded mandates, this chart shows total debt in America (in 2016 dollars) vs. national income during past 59 years >>

- - where 2016 total debt (private and government) reached $70 Trillion ($22 trillion of federal, state & local government debts plus $45 private sector debt) - - equivalent to $480,000 per person (including those in diapers) - - which is equivalent to $1.9 million per family of 4.

Note - total debt (red line) increased about $3 trillion per year the past several years. BUT - in 2009 & 2010, for first time EVER, total inflation-adjusted debt stopped growing at $57 trillion, as if it hit a brick wall - and national income (blue line) stagnated and declined.. However, although total debt in America stopped growing in 2008, federal, state & local government debt zoomed upward FASTER than EVER - by more than $3.6 trillion in 2009 & 2010 while private sector debt decreased by about same amount - and, national income (blue line) stagnated. We know national income growth in the recent past was mostly fueled by $3 trillion annual debt increases instead of by sustainable savings and production. 2009 & 2010 data is further proof the economy cannot grow in a truly sustainable manner without adding more debt on top of prior debt, which appears to have peaked.

This chart, from the chapter 'America's Total Debt Report', shows the trend of $67 trillion debt (red line) - - soaring up and up much faster than the economy (blue line). Note, adjusted for inflation.

If we include several un-funded liabilities then total debt (private plus government) is $154.7 Trillion - - equivalent to $480,333 per person - - which is equivalent to nearly $2 million per family of 4

Total debt nearly 70 trillion is 466% of net national income - down slightly from 2009s 485% record high ratio - - indicating an economy more debt-dependent than ever. Each year more debt has been needed to produce a dollar of national income than the prior year - - a type of 'negative productivity.'

Zooming debt - - poor  real savings - - soaring trade deficits > > very troubling  trends !!


"No generation has a right to contract debts
greater than can be paid off during the course of its own existence."

- George Washington to James Madison 1789

"We hear sad complaints sometimes of merciless creditors;
whilst the acts of merciless debtors are passed over in silence."
- William Frend, 1817

"I place economy among the first and most important virtues,
and debt as the greatest of dangers to be feared." -
Thomas Jefferson"

"There is no means of avoiding the final collapse
of a boom brought about by credit (debt) expansion.
The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner
as the result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit (debt) expansion,
or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved." - Ludwig von Mises

"The decline of great powers is caused by simple economic over extension." - by Paul Kennedy

If you want to see data up-dates to this DEBT SUMMARY TABLE page,
click and book-mark this page at

Be sure to read 4 debt chapters

1. America's Total Debt Report (includes private sector debt)
2. Federal Government Debt Report
3. Trust Fund Debt Report (government siphons social security trust fund)
4. International Trade & Debt Report

each with color data trend graphics
to help tell the story of debt in America

- since a picture is worth a thousand words -

an Idea > > SEND A LINK to this page to others you think might benefit

Return to the HOME PAGE OF THE GRANDFATHER ECONOMIC REPORT which includes the table of contents of all graphic presentation chapters > > reviewing economic issues facing today's generation compared to prior periods > on government spending (federal, state & local), debt, family incomes, education quality, international trade, social security, energy, national security, regulatory compliance cost, voter turn-out, elections, healthcare, and more.

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Copyright 1997-2016 Michael W. Hodges. The Grandfather Economic Report series is the intellectual property of its author; all rights reserved under Copyright Conventions. Permission to redistribute all or part of this series for non commercial purposes is granted by the author, provided the associated web page address is included and full credit given to the Grandfather Economic Report and the author, Michael Hodges. Notice appreciated via email.