Site Map 



Debt and Deficit Facts

Right now the Gross Federal Debt is $19,845,865,829,114.05.

At the end of FY 2016 the debt was $19.5 trillion, or 105.6% GDP.
The highest federal debt in US history was 119.0% GDP in 1946 just after World War II.

At the end of FY 2016 the federal deficit was $587 billion, or 3.2% GDP.
The highest federal deficit in US history was 29.0% GDP in 1943 in World War II.

a briefing:

smaller text  bigger text    print view

US Government Debt
in Recent Decades

Government debt has been getting bigger.

Debt Steadily Increasing

Government debt in the United States has steadily increased from $2 trillion in the mid 1980s to over $19 trillion today. But as a percent of GDP it has grown from 55 percent to over 100 percent of GDP today.

Chart 4.11: Government Debt in dollars

Government debt, including gross federal, state, and local, reached $3 trillion in 1987, and then breached $4 trillion in the recession year of 1990. In the 1990s debt reached $5 trillion in 1992, and $7 trillion at the peak of the business cycle in 2000. Debt breached $10 trillion in 2006 and $15 trillion in 2010. Gross debt, including all levels of government, exceeded $20 trillion in 2014.

Chart 4.12: Government Debt as Percent of GDP

Viewed as a percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) government debt shows a different aspect. At 55 percent of GDP in 1985, debt increased as a percent of GDP until the mid 1990s when it peaked at 78.7 percent of GDP in 1995. Then a steady decline in debt as a percent of GDP set in for the rest of the 1990s, declining to 68.8 percent of GDP in 2000. But debt resumed a climb in the 2000s reaching 78 percent of GDP at the peak of the business cycle in 2007.

In the Crash of 2008 government debt increased sharply to bail out the banks and to provide “stimulus” to the economy. Debt reached 101 percent of GDP in 2009. But debt is expected to plateau at about 120 percent of GDP in the next few years.

Recent Debt by Government Level

Federal debt has increased sharply after the Crash of 2008.

Chart 4.13: Government Debt by Level

Federal debt stood at 42 percent of GDP in 1985. State government debt was 4.9 percent of GDP and local debt was 8.1 percent of GDP. By the mid 1990s federal debt had increased to 64 percent of GDP. State debt had increased to 5.6 percent of GDP and local debt had increased to 9.1 percent of GDP.

By 2000 federal debt had decreased to 55 percent of GDP by 2007, state debt was essentially level at 5.3 percent of GDP and local debt declined modestly to 8.8 percent of GDP. In the 2000s debt started to climb again, with federal debt reaching 62 percent of GDP by 2007. State debt was 6.5 percent of GDP and local debt was 10.2 percent of GDP in 2007.

Chart Key:
- Federal debt
- Local debt
- State debt

Then came the Crash of 2008. By 2011 federal debt had exploded to 95 percent of GDP, state debt stood at 7.3 percent of GDP and local debt increased modestly to 11.5 percent of GDP.

In the mid 2010s, federal debt is expected to stabilize at 102-105 percent of GDP, state debt at 6.4 percent of GDP, and local debt at 10.2 percent of GDP.

Gross vs. Net Debt

The difference between gross and net is the amount of debt held by the federal government

Chart 4.14: Recent Federal Debt by Component

As reported by the federal government in Historical Table 7.1 of the federal budget, the gross debt of the general government is composed of three items: debt held by the Federal Reserve System and therefore monetized, debt owed to government agencies (e.g., Social Security), and debt held by the public, including foreign governments.

In 1985, the Federal Reserve System held debt amounting to 3.9 percent of GDP. Federal debt held by the federal government amounted to 7.1 percent of GDP and debt held by the public amounted to 31 percent of GDP.

Chart Key:
- Debt held by public
- Debt held by federal gov.
- Debt held by Federal Reserve

Debt monetized by the Federal Reserve System increased to over 5 percent of GDP in 1998 and slowly increased, reaching 5.7 percent of GDP before declining in 2008 to 3.4 percent of GDP. In 2009, after the Crash of 2008, the debt held by the Federal Reserve System had increased back to 5.5 percent, and then, following a policy of “quantitative easing” and “zero interest rates,” increased to 14.1 percent of GDP in 2014.

Debt held by the government, principally IOUs to the Social Security system, has climbed steadily, exceeding 10 percent of GDP in 1988, 15 percent of GDP in 1992, and 20 percent in 1999. Debt held by the government exceeded 25 percent of GDP in 2005 and 30 percent of GDP in 2009. Debt held by the government is expected to decline in the future as a percent of GDP.

Federal debt held by the public (excluding the Federal Reserve System) amounted to 31 percent of GDP in 1985. It reached 41 percent of GDP in 1992 and peaked at 42.5 percent of GDP in 1993. Debt held by the public declined to 28.2 percent of GDP by 2000 before settling at about 29 percent of GDP till 2007. with the Crash of 2008 debt held by the public started increasing sharply, reaching 59.7 percent of GDP by 2012.

Recent Interest Payments

Chart 4.15: Recent Interest Payments

The burden of interest rates has declined in recent decades. Running at a little under 4 percent of GDP in the mid 1980s, the cost of interest payments began an historic decline that extended throughout the boom of the late 1990s and the recession of 2000-01. The cost of interest payments increased in the recovery of the mid 2000s, then declined below 2 percent of GDP after the Crash of 2008.

Interest payments as a percent of GDP are expected to increase in the future, as the Federal Reserve unwinds its current “quantitative easing” and “zero interest rate policy.”


Spending 101 Courses

Spending | Federal Debt | Revenue | Defense | Welfare | Healthcare | Education
Debt History | Entitlements | Deficits | State Spending | State Taxes | State Debt

There’s More...

Where you go to get facts about government.

Prepared by Christopher Chantrill.

Click the image on the right to buy’s ebook.
It costs only $0.99 and it contains all the analyses of spending history
on the website and more.

Top Debt Requests:

Find DEFICIT stats and history.

US BUDGET overview and pie chart.


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.

Take a COURSE at Spending 101.

Make your own CUSTOM CHART.

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 1890.

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

Site Search

Win Cash for Bugs

File a valid bug report and get a $5 Amazon Gift Certificate.

Next Data Update

> Federal Budget FY18

> data update schedule.

Data Source

Source: CBO Long-Term Budget Outlook .

> data sources for other years
> data update schedule.

FY18 Budget Blueprint Released

On March 16, 2018 the Trump administration issued a Budget Blueprint outlining proposed changes to "discretionary" spending for Fiscal Year 2018. The following table shows the major changes to Budget Authority in excess of $2 billion per agency.

AgencyFY18 Change
in $ billion
Health and
Human Services
State and Intl Aid-10.9

Because usgovernmentspending spending data is based on Historical Table 3.2, it shows spending by function rather than by agency. Until Table 3.2 is published in the final version of the FY18 budget we cannot exactly predict how the Table 3.2 numbers will change at the subfunction level.

But we have applied the Budget Blueprint budget authority changes into the budgeted FY18 outlays by guessing the application of agency level changes to subfunction changes to give a rough feeling of what the Trump changes look like. You can check out what is going on here or here.

The numbers will change when the final FY18 federal budget numbers come out.

Spend links

us numbersus budgetcustom chartdeficit/gdpspend/gdpdebt/gdpus gdpus real gdpstate gdpbreakdownfederalstatelocal201520162017californiatexas

Masthead was designed and executed by:

Christopher Chantrill.

Email here.

presented by Christopher Chantrill

Data Sources  •   •  Contact