Our mountain of debt

Foreign investors hold the largest share of the national debt. Estimated foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury securities have more than tripled since 2001. Some worry about the geopolitical consequences of foreign governments investing so deeply in U.S. Treasurys. But the investments also tie the fortunes of foreign governments more closely to those of the United States.

Total national debt

Total foreign debt

(in trillions)

Roll over chart for details

4.5

4.0

3.5

3

2.5

2

1.5

1

0.5

0

U.S. debt held by Asian countries

(in trillions)

3.5

3

2.5

2

1.5

1

0.5

0

U.S. debt held by European countries

(in trillions)

1.5

1.2

1

0.8

0.6

0.4

0.2

0

U.S. debt held by Middle Eastern countries

(in billions)

350

300

250

200

150

100

50

0

U.S. debt held by other North American countries

(in billions)

350

300

250

200

150

100

50

0

U.S. debt held by Australia

(in billions)

350

300

250

200

150

100

50

0

U.S. debt held by South American countries

(in billions)

350

300

250

200

150

100

50

0

U.S. debt held by other countries

(in billions)

350

300

250

200

150

100

50

0

Mar.
'00

Jan.
'01

Jan.
'02

Jan.
'03

Jan.
'04

Jan.
'05

Jan.
'06

Jan.
'07

Jan.
'08

Jan.
'09

Jan.
'10

Jan.
'11

Sources: Bipartisan Policy Center; U.S. Treasury Department; Congressional Budget Office; Congressional Research Service; Government Accountability Office; Office of Management and Budget; and Bill Gross, founder and co-chief investment officer of the investment management firm Pimco.

Graphic: Heather Billings and Todd Lindeman - The Washington Post. Published July 17, 2011.