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What is our U.S. publicly held federal debt?

  • $16.2 trillion (48% people answered this)
  • $3.6 trillion (11% people answered this)
  • $11.3 trillion (36% people answered this)
  • $16 billion (4% people answered this)

1675 people answered.


Correct answer is: $11.3 trillion

As of September 2012, U.S. publicly held debt had reached $11.27 trillion. The U.S. government regularly runs an annual deficit, spending more than it takes in from taxes and other revenue. To make up for that shortfall, the government borrows money, adding to the debt it already owes. Check out an enlarged version of the full infographic to learn more about the federal debt and how it could affect you:


Up to Us, a nationwide campus competition created by Net Impact, the Clinton Global Initiative University and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, is an opportunity for students to take action on an issue critical to their future: our federal government’s long-term debt. Following a competitive application process, eleven student teams selected from across the country are designing and running thought-provoking, fun, and impactful campaigns around the effects of rising federal debt on economic opportunity. Their objective is to raise awareness and engage their peers on the issue, making their generation’s voice heard at this critical time. Each team’s campaign will be executed from January 21 to March 1, 2013. Teams’ campaigns will be judged by a panel of experts on their effectiveness and creativity at raising awareness, illustrating students’ personal connection to the issue, and inspiring action on campus and beyond. The winning team will be awarded a $10,000 cash prize and other opportunities in addition to being recognized by President Clinton at Clinton Global Initiative University 2013. Up to Us is a partnership between three nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations dedicated to engaging the next generation of leaders on important issues: Net Impact, CGI U, and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

Enlarged version of the INFOGRAPHIC:
Did you guess $16.2 trillion? Our *gross* national debt is, in fact, over $16 trillion. About $11.3 trillion of that is debt held by the public. The other $5 trillion is intragovernmental debt, which includes non-marketable securities such as the Social Security Trust Fund. When you see debt-to-GDP ratios for different countries, that ratio is referencing publicly held debt, not gross debt. 
 "What the heck's the debt got to do with me?" Many people are aware the federal debt is a major issue, but have a hard time understanding how it could directly affect them. We have the right to know what's at stake if our country does not eventually address the growing federal debt, once the economy has recovered. Check out an enlarged version of the INFOGRAPHIC here:


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