U.S. government tricks hide trillions in debt - Investing Insight - Sympatico / MSN Finance:
"Some numbers don't add up But if you examine another figure, the gross U.S. federal debt, you'll see something strange.
First, the U.S. debt has increased in each of the past eight years, even in the two years when surpluses were reported. Second, the gross federal debt, which includes the obligations held by the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, has increased much faster than the deficits -- about $3.3 trillion over the same eight years.
That's $2 trillion more than the reported $1.3 trillion in deficits over the period. Can you spell 'Enron'? In other words, while the reported deficits averaged $164 billion over the past eight years, U.S. government debt increased an average of $418 billion a year.
That's a lot more than twice as much. How could this happen? Easy. The U.S. Treasury Department simply credits the Social Security, Medicare and other trust funds with interest payments in the form of new Treasury obligations. No cash is actually paid. The trust funds magically increase in value with a bookkeeping entry. It represents money the American government owes itself. So what happens if the funny money is taken away? When the imaginary interest payments are included, Social Security and Medicare are running at a tranquilizing surplus (that $181.5 billion mentioned earlier). But measure actual cash, and the surplus disappears.