As of summer 2012, the federal government’s outstanding debt surpassed $15 trillion. Who are the nation’s creditors? The government owes the most money to — itself. U.S. government agencies, including giant trust funds of the Social Security and Medicare systems, and the independent Federal Reserve System account for 41 percent of the federal debt, more than $2 of every $5. Nearly one-third of the national debt is owed to other countries. China is the biggest foreign creditor ($1.144 trillion), followed by Japan ($1.076 trillion), but together they own less than 15 percent of it. Mexico and Canada together are owed $90 billion.

national debt

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  • Alabama State Capitol (Montgomery, Ala.)

    Pictured on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

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    Pictured on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Chris Miller)

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    Pictured on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

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    Pictured on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2006. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

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    Pictured on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 1999. (AP Photo/Bob Child)

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    Pictured on Monday, Jan. 3, 2011. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

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    Pictured on Tuesday, November 13, 2007. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

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    Pictured on Monday, Jan. 14, 2008. (Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

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    Pictured on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2004. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

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    Pictured on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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    Pictured on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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    Pictured on Thursday, April 15, 2010. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

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    Pictured on Wednesday, April 12, 2006. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

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    Pictured on Monday, Jan. 14, 2008. (Matthew HINTON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Maine State Capitol (Augusta, Me.)

    Pictured on Monday, Oct. 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

  • Maryland State House (Annapolis, Md.)

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    Pictured on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

  • Michigan State Capitol (Lansing, Mich.)

    Pictured on Wednesday, April 13, 2011. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

  • Minnesota State Capitol (St. Paul, Minn.)

    Pictured on Friday, July 1, 2011. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

  • Mississippi State Capitol (Jackson, Miss.)

    Pictured on Thursday, June 10, 1999. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)

  • Missouri State Capitol (Jefferson City, Mo.)

    Pictured on Friday, Oct. 16, 2000. (Photo credit should read ORLIN WAGNER/AFP/Getty Images)

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  • Nebraska State Capitol (Lincoln, Neb.)

    Pictured on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 1998. (AP Photo/S.E. McKee)

  • Nevada State Capitol (Carson City, Nev.)

  • New Hampshire State House (Concord, N.H.)

    Pictured on Friday, Dec. 28, 2001. (Todd Warshaw//Pool/Getty Images

  • New Jersey State House (Trenton, N.J.)

    Pictured on Friday, Aug. 13, 2004. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

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    Pictured on Sunday, March 16, 2008. (Photo by Daniel Barry/Getty Images)

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    Pictured in 1930. (AP Photo)

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  • Pennsylvania State Capitol (Harrisburg, Pa.)

    Pictured on Thursday, June 28, 2012. (BRIGITTE DUSSEAU/AFP/GettyImages)

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    Pictured on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 1945. (AP Photo)

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    Pictured on Monday, Jan. 21, 2008. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

  • South Dakota State Capitol (Pierre, S.D.)

    Pictured on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Doug Dreyer)

  • Tennessee State Capitol (Nashville, Tenn.)

    Pictured on Tuesday, Sept. 30, 1941. (AP Photo)

  • Texas State Capitol (Austin, Texas)

    Pictured on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011. (MIRA OBERMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Utah State Capitol (Salt Lake City)

    Pictured on Thursday, March 15, 2001. (GEORGE FREY/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Vermont State House (Montpelier, Vt.)

    Pictured on April 9, 1953. (AP Photo/Francis C. Curtin)

  • Virginia State Capitol (Richmond, Va.)

    Pictured on Wednesday, May 2, 2007. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

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    Pictured on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

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    Pictured on July 2, 2010. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Wisconsin State Capitol (Madison, Wis.)

    Pictured on Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Wyoming State Capitol (Cheyenne, Wyo.)

    Pictured on Tuesday, March 6, 2001. (Photo by Michael Smith/Newsmakers)