Who or what is the greatest single owner of the U.S. national debt?
At the close of the federal government's 2021 fiscal year, the Federal Reserve owned 19% of the U.S. national debt, more than any other entity. For comparison, China owned 4% of the debt, and mutual funds owned 11%. Since 2008, the amount of national debt owned by the Fed has increased from $484 billion to $5.9 trillion, or by 12 times. This dramatic increase is primarily due to a policy called "quantitative easing" in which the Fed prints new money to buy debt from governments and corporations. The stated purpose of this policy is the keep interest rates low, but it can have many other effects like causing inflation and shifting wealth from middle-income households to high-income ones.