Election 2016

In Tonight's Debate, Mitt Romney Will Say That You're Chinese

Another ubiquitous lie from the campaign.

Mitt Romney doesn't hate Big Bird -- Big Bird's just the right height! -- he says wants to cut funding for PBS  because he's "not willing to borrow money from China so that PBS doesn't have to run advertising." 

If you repeat something often enough, people will come to believe it to be true, even if it's not. So it is with the widespread belief that we finance our public debt by "borrowing from China" -- it's become a ubiquitous talking-point.

That doesn't mean it's true. The reality is that, as of May, China held 7.4 percent of our public debt. Chinese holdings combined with those of our second biggest foreign creditor, Japan, represent less than 15 percent of the debt. 

Less than a third is held by foreign entities. The largest creditor is the government itself -- a bit more than 40 percent of all federal debt is held in the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, trust funds for various military and civilian retirement plans, etc. 

The rest is owned by American individuals, corporations, charities and the like. 

A full run-down of who owns the debt can be found here.

Joshua Holland is Senior Digital Producer at BillMoyers.com, and host of Politics and Reality Radio. He's the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy. Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter