Crowdsourcing Social Problems
William Eggers' praise for Luis von Ahn's reCAPTCHA idea overlooks one vexing problem ("Crowdsourcing Social Problems," January). A number of the displayed words are from ancient texts and contain the long s (?), as in unju?tly or Per?ephone, widely used in English printing until about 1800. The original printing in 1789 of the proposed Bill of Rights to our Constitution, for example, refers to "due proce?s of law" and was proposed by the "Congre?s OF THE United States." reCAPTCHA insists you type these images using the modern letter "f." Eventually, the Internet is going to end up with digital editions of things like Paradife Loft and The Pilgrim's Progrefs, not to mention due procefs of law.
San Jose, CA
Slouching Toward Bankruptcy
In "Slouching Toward Bankruptcy" (January), Veronique de Rugy claims that in 2010 Social Security began to draw from the reserves in its trust fund to cover the shortfall in revenues. This is not true. There are no reserves to draw from. The "trust fund" is and always has been nothing more than a book-entry ledger of the government debt obligation to the program, now about $2.7 trillion. By law, the Social Security Administration can claim this as an asset. At the same time, it is carried as a $2.7 trillion debt in the federal budget.
Charles Blahous, senior Social Security trustee, has tried to set the record straight. "This gap," he wrote in a letter to The Washington Post, "is filled entirely by revenue the federal government borrows."
Some claim that none of this really matters, that the fund obligation carries the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. Well, so does the other roughly $60-70 trillion in unfunded liabilities. In what fantasy world is this reassuring?
Sierra Vista, AZ
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