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67.5% of US debt is held by the US citizens and entities.

Does that in any way give US citizens and entities leverage to economically or legally pressure the federal government into taking or not taking some political action?

  • So if Grandma buys a savings bond, you expect that somehow to re-write the Constitution so the sole power of the executive resides somewhere else? Totally confused by the question, quite honestly. – K Dog Nov 12 '16 at 21:02
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    @KDog I think you are over-fitting the data. Economic pressure =/= rewriting the constitution. – user10488 Nov 12 '16 at 21:05
  • So if they have a savings bond, the President would be more inclined to listen? – K Dog Nov 12 '16 at 21:07
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    Here is a more detailed breakdown of whom owes what. Most of the debt is intra-governmental: thebalance.com/who-owns-the-u-s-national-debt-3306124 – K Dog Nov 12 '16 at 21:13
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    And, if you think twice about it, it is lucky that you cannot use national debt holdings to pressure the government (who do you think holds more national debt, you and fifty of your friends together or any Rockefeller family member alone?) – SJuan76 Nov 13 '16 at 0:01
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The question, while more true at one time perhaps, is no longer true today. Prior to going off the Gold Standard, public bond sales were a chief way to fund the government during times when taxes couldn't be raised to cover off on the other expenditures. In World War II for example the US sold the Series E Bond. Many thought it was a patriotic duty to buy such bonds. Conceivably the bond holders could have clamored for changes in fiscal policy.

In December 1941, the US declared war on Japan and Germany declared war on the US shortly thereafter. This was the starting point for a large scale – and thus expensive — defense program. The problem of the financing of World War II was greater than that of World War I, as the struggle lasted longer and the amounts involved were larger.

The budgetary expenses for the years 1941–1945 amounted to some $317 billion, of which $281 billion was directly related to the war effort; expenditures climbed from $9.6 billion in fiscal 1940 to nearly $100 billion in 1945. Of these outlays some 45 percent was covered by taxes and other non-borrowing sources. The deficit had to be covered by selling bonds. The Treasury sold $185.7 billion of securities (over $2.1 trillion in 2016) to finance the war. The public debt rose from $50 billion in 1940 to $260 billion in 1945.

The first Series E bond was sold to President Franklin D. Roosevelt by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau on May 1, 1941.[3] These were marketed first as "defense bonds", then later as "war bonds".

During World War II the "drive" technique used during World War I was replaced in part by a continual campaign using a payroll deduction plan. However, eight different drives were conducted during the campaign. In total, the overall campaign raised $185.7 billion from 85 million Americans, more than in any other country during the war.[4]

However, after 1971, the US went off the gold standard, and alternative funding mechanism for the public debt grew in importance. Calls to go back on the gold standard are often given the motive to curb and control the government.

In short, gold acts as protection against fiscal and monetary abuses by governments. The proof of this is that both public deficit and inflation have dramatically increased since the gold standard ended. 45 years without gold

Of specific importance is Debt Monetizing

Monetizing debt is thus a two-step process where the government issues debt (Government bonds) to cover its spending and the central bank purchases the debt, holding it until it comes due, and leaving the system with an increased supply of money.

This practice all but assures the US can fund it's debt without the participation of individual Americans, and indeed, the US savings bond program today is a token percentage source for covering the debts of the US federal government Link

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Most of the US debt is in form of obligations they have in form of the social security trust fund. This is money the US government collects as part of payroll taxes and is going to pay to US citizens in form of pensions later, so from an accountants point of view it is a form of debt. The current and future receivers of money from that fund have no control whatsoever over how much money they pay or receive from this.

Other US debt to the public is in form of treasury bonds. A bond is basically a contract which says that you pay the government X dollar today and get X+interest dollar back at a specific later date.

Even though some forms of US treasury bonds are tradable securities, they are not like stock in a company. You don't get co-determination rights by owning them.

There are just two things you can do as an investor in treasury bonds:

  • Sell them to a 3rd party if allowed. But the US government doesn't care much who they pay back the money they owe. It doesn't make a difference to them.
  • Stop buying them in the future. Lowering the demand for US treasury bonds will make it harder for the US to sell them and will require them to give other investors a better deal. You will make it slightly more expensive for the government to take additional debt. But you will hardly make it impossible to do so. Global finance markets are pragmatic. They will buy whatever securities give them the best risk-reward ratio. When you don't loan money to the US government, others will.
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