I was dismayed to see that none of the letters (Jan. 31) dealing with your excellent editorial "Owing the World" commented on its opening statement: "The biggest share of the federal budget goes for payments to individuals through Social Security, Medicare and the like."
This perpetuates the myth that Social Security is part of the general budget and thus contributes to the huge federal debt. The fact is that, although the Social Security trust fund is shown as part of the general budget, it is a self-sustaining program raised by the payroll tax for a specific purpose, and does not contribute to the federal deficit. Actually, the U.S. Treasury has been borrowing from the fund.
Originally, the fund was separate from the general budget, and was placed there during the Johnson Administration as a bookkeeping gimmick to make the then increasing deficit caused by the Vietnam War look smaller. When Social Security is not shown as part of the general budget, the share of military spending becomes almost 60% of the federal budget. Under the most recent Social Security legislation, after 1990, Social Security will be removed from the general budget, and the real situation will become apparent.