Apr 202010

Some people (*cough* Dave in Hawaii *cough*) will tell you things like how the Federal Reserve supposedly owns close to half of all US government debt.  This is supposed to be part of some plot of bankers profiting from continual inflation or some such.  Let’s look at the facts on this.

Let’s take a look at the pie chart that Dave used to claim that the Federal Reserve owns close to half of all US government debt.  There’s a section in blue for Federal Reserve and Intragovernmental Holdings.  Most of you are probably already asking aren’t those two separate categories merged together.  Yes they are.  Anyone when making a pie chart can combine or separate categories as they see fit.  Debt held by the Federal Reserve is just that.  Intragovernmental Holdings is debt held by government agencies such as the Social Security Trust Fund and the Medicare Trust Fund.  At this point many of you must be asking how do we know what the percentages for each part of the blue section are.  From the pie chart we don’t.  Dave in HI will point to this as evidence that it’s nearly all the Federal Reserve yet more investigation is needed to make such a claim.

Let’s do that investigation and see if Dave in HI is right.  Let’s use numbers from June 2008 to be completely consistent.  I went to Treasury Direct which publishes debt amounts for the US government.  I used a date of 6/30/2008 because I want to be consistent with the pie chart.  (If you want to repeat this test be sure to use that date so you do everything consistently.)  As of June 2008 the debt amounts are:

Total debt: $9,492,006,123,003.80

Intragovernmental Holdings: $4,206,942,429,625.55

Debt held by the Public: $5,285,063,693,378.25

The public that Debt held by the Public refers to is everyone outside of the US government.  This also includes foreign governments and entities (i.e. China and Japan).  The number for Intragovernmental Holdings is just for Intragovernmental Holdings or otherwise it would say Federal Reserve and Intragovernmental Holdings.  If you don’t believe this, then let’s test it.  We have the total debt so let’s multiply that by the percentage of the blue section on the pie chart:

49.37% * $9,492,006,123,003.80 = .4937 * $9,492,006,123,003.80 = $4,686,203,422,926.98

Notice how the debt amount for the blue section of the pie chart is greater than Intragovernmental Holdings.  Since its bigger by over $400 billion it’s not a rounding error.  Let’s get the total debt that is owned by the Federal Reserve by subtracting Intragovernmental Holdings from the blue section of the pie chart amount:

$4,686,203,422,926.98 – $4,206,942,429,625.55 = $ 479,260,993,301.43

The Federal Reserve had a little over $479 billion dollars of US government debt in June 2008.  That’s around 5% of US government debt not nearly half.  You don’t have to take my word for it. All of these numbers are published.  Repeat my calculations.  Prove it to yourself.  I’m not the one asking you to believe in shadowy plots by bankers with no evidence.  I am giving you hard numbers that are published and available to anyone.  Run the same test that I did.

Here are some other things about the Federal Reserve.  The Federal Reserve Board of Governors is an agency of the US government not a private corporation.  This is why Congress can force the Federal Reserve to focus on “maximum employment” that it can’t do to a regular private business.  The Federal Reserve does not generate a profit for itself.  Nearly all of its profits (around 95% consistently since 1914) end up in the US Treasury where they have to go by law.  Nearly all of the $45 billion that the Federal Reserve made in 2009 when to the US Treasury.  I know someone is going to say what about the 6% dividend that the Federal Reserve has to pay banks that have to by law buy its shares.  Add up the profits banks made in 2009 from their Federal Reserve shares.  It’s nowhere near $45 billion.

It’s possible to produce hard numbers since all of these things are published and available to anyone.  If you want to make a different claim, produce numbers that pass basic math or its BS.

I’m not getting into whether the Federal Reserve, fiat money, the gold standard, etc. are good or bad ideas.  There are good arguments for both sides.  However, false facts and claims of secret plots by bankers aren’t good arguments.  You can argue against the Federal Reserve without pulling a conspiracy out of your ass.

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