Regarding the April 16 Catherine Rampell column, "No, seniors - you haven't paid for your benefits" and the April 24 letter, "Congress took funds from Social Security":

I am reminded of two often-used quotes: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics" and "The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose." I would paraphrase this as "Economists can quote statistics to suit their purpose."

Recently, after hearing similar opinions from my brother-in-law, I did some personal-history research. Using data from my Social Security Administration account and my personal tax records, I calculated the value of my and my employers' Federal Insurance Contributions Act contributions.

It is true that I will receive back more than the nominal value of my payments. Five years into retirement, I am already close to that figure. I fully expect to live long enough to collect the nominal value of my employers' contributions also.

However, if you assume a 6 percent annual compound growth, the numbers are substantially different. Had my and my employers' contributions been invested for my benefit from 1960, when I first had FICA taxable income, until 2009, when I retired, this fund would provide a 30-year payout of more than double the value of my checks from the SSA.

I accept that Social Security uses some, actually a lot, of my contributions to fund payments to widows, orphans and the disabled. Some money was used to increase payments to people who retired early. What I and others who were fortunate enough to earn at the high end of the FICA scale most of our careers resent is the implication that the current payments are some sort of unearned entitlement.

I am on Medicare and am very grateful that it is available. I do pay for Part B, Part D "medigap" coverage and various co-pays. While I do get full value from these plans, it should be noted that, for the first time since my children left home, my wife and I have a Form 1040 Schedule A deduction for medical expenses. My children were very surprised to learn this when they made the mistake of saying their taxes were paying for all of my medical expenses.

MICHAEL E. McGURKIN

Surf City