June 14, 2011 -- As Vice President Joe Biden and the bi-partisan committee working to deal with deficit-reduction gets to work on three days of meetings, ABC News' Jon Karl got an exclusive insider look at ground zero for the national debt. He spent the morning in the place that enables the U.S. government to borrow trillions of dollars every year.
Our cameras were allowed inside the Bureau of Public Debt's Auction Room on a day when the government plans to sell $28 billion in four-week T-bills to investors around the world. The location of the room is secret and secure because any problems there could disrupt the country's financial lifeline. This is the room that will go dark if the country's debt ceiling is not raised by August 2.
So far this year the Treasury has held auctions for 78 issuances of government debt (Bills, Notes, Bonds and Inflation-Protected Securities) bringing in some $2.35 trillion in money to the government.
All told Uncle Sam currently shows a balance of $14.345 trillion (end of day on June 10), which is more than $50 billion above the Congressionally-mandated debt limit.
The biggest single lender to the U.S. government is the U.S. government; basically Uncle Sam borrowing from the Social Security Trust Fund. So how does it all break down beyond the biggest holder?
Want some insight into that big 31 percent chunk of the pie that is labeled "Foreign holders"? Here are the foreign lenders we owe money to:
It's this unimaginable pile of debt that the government is being forced to reckon with in the coming month and a half. According to the latest Treasury estimates and calls from the credit ratings agencies, if the debt ceiling isn't raised by August 2 the nation could be facing an "economic catastrophe."