Debt

Who Gave $1.5 Million To Pay Down The National Debt?

gifts to reduce the debt i i

hide captionClick on the graphic to see a full-size version.

(Irwin Chen/Redub LLC)
gifts to reduce the debt

Click on the graphic to see a full-size version.

(Irwin Chen/Redub LLC)

Every year, people give the government millions of dollars in gifts to reduce the national debt.

The government reports the total value of the contributions, but it doesn't say anything about the size of each donation, or how many gifts there are.

We wanted to learn more, so we submitted a Freedom of Information Act to the Treasury Department asking for details; they responded with a spreadsheet listing the amount of every donation they've received for the past five years.

The details are pretty interesting. As the graphic above shows, more than 1,500 people gave gifts of $100 or less (including a bunch of jokers who donated one cent). But there were some big donations as well — 17 gifts were for more than $100,000. The biggest donation was for more than $1.5 million.

Still, as that giant red circle on the right shows, the sum total of the gifts — just over $11 million — is a microscopic dot compared to the national debt, which is nearly $13 trillion.

The full graphic doesn't fit on the blog — that's just a thumbnail above. Click here, or on the graphic itself, to see a full-size version.

The Treasury didn't provide us any information about who these gifts came from. If you've given (whether it was $1.5 million or one cent) please let us know in the comments section below.

Here's the spreadsheet that has all the data. If you see any interesting trends in there — or come up with a clever way to graph the numbers — send us an email.

For more on gifts to reduce the debt, listen to our story on Thursday's Morning Edition.

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