[ THIS PAGE IS OBSOLETE; click here to see latest pie chart. ]
This pie chart brings in more traffic than lengthier articles I write—and who am I to argue with success? The chart below is an update, using the latest estimates from the Treasury. (To make it easier to dispel the popular-but-false rumors about China’s share of our federal debt, I added some percentages in the bigger slices. To end the suspense, the Chinese own 4% of it.)
I assume this chart is mostly self-explanatory. Seems to me that we have a diverse and inclusive array of Treasury-security owners spanning the globe, but concentrated in the USA. Click to enlarge.
I corrected this chart on 4/10/07 to properly include the Fed's debt portfolio in the US publicly-held debt; it was in the wrong place on the original chart. The debt owned by the Fed is the ever-increasing inventory of bonds resulting from the Fed’s open market operations (purchasing bonds from the public, to maintain its targeted Fed Funds rate). [For what it’s worth, I picture the Fed’s continually-growing inventory as a T-bond “boneyard.” The military parks its old, unneeded aircraft in the Mojave Desert, and the Fed parks the government’s old, unneeded T-bonds in the Fed’s boneyard: $780 billion and growing.]
I usually ignore nitpicking, but I'll make an exception in this case. Excel expert John Walkenbach has judged this to be a "bad" chart, because, as he explained to me, "a bar chart would convey the information much better."
Well, John and I will just have to agree to disagree on this. Here's one of many links to explanations of which chart types to choose when. Not sure if John has seen it, or one like it, but it's a concise summary.
The shares of the federal debt owned by various entities as of Jan. 2007 call for a pie chart. It's a snapshot in time, and it's a compact representation of all the portions (unlike a bar or column chart that's spread out vertically or horizontally).
In my judgment, this chart makes it much faster and easier to check the facts against the political rhetoric. John disagrees. So be it.