In 1989, New York real estate investor Seymour Durst spent $120,000 to erect a "National Debt Clock" in Times Square to track the exact amount of money that the U.S. federal government was borrowing to pay its bills. At the time, the country had run up a $2.7 trillion tab, but that figure seems almost quaint today. In 2008, the clock briefly ran out of available digits when the debt topped $10 trillion. By June 2021, the upgraded clock — which can now display up to a quadrillion dollars — registered more than $28 trillion [source: US Debt Clock].
Now, it's important to understand that U.S. doesn't owe that entire $28 trillion to its creditors, which include individuals, businesses and foreign governments who purchased U.S. Treasury bonds and securities. More than 20 percent of the national debt, or $6.2 trillion, is incurred for intragovernmental holdings, which are funds the U.S. government owes itself, mainly for the Social Security and Medicare trust funds [sources: Amadeo, U.S. Treasury]. In June 2021, these two trust funds alone accounted for some $2.4 trillion of the national debt.
But the question we want to answer today is, who owns the bulk of that $28 trillion in public debt? You can find out by perusing our global parade of America's biggest sugar daddies, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. (Note, the most recent figures released in June 2021 cover up to April 2021.)