Bob Herbert, writing about Social Security in The New York Times of Jan. 25, said, “This crucial retirement program is being dishonestly lumped together with Medicaid as an entitlement program.”

The fact is, the Social Security Fund is not now, nor has it ever been, subsidized by the U.S. government. It is a complete and separate entity and is not connected to any branch of the federal government.

The federal government, by law, can borrow from the fund when a surplus exists that is not needed to pay current benefits. The ” borrowed” money, covered by government IOUs, is invested in government securities and used to finance myriad other programs. This kind of activity was made possible over 40 years ago when the Social Security Fund was put into the general fund, a catchall that is used for all kinds of financial manipulations.

Since that time, members of Congress haven’t been able to keep their hands out of the Social Security Fund cookie jar. Their eyes glaze over, they grow weak in the knees as they see all that surplus cash within easy reach.

The big problem is they have “borrowed” so much from the fund that with today’s economy in such dire straits, there is no way they can pay it back. So, to cover their transgressions, Bob Herbert says, “the demagogues want the public to believe that Social Security is unsustainable, but the Economic Policy Institute has explained that Social Security, emphatically, is not the cause of the federal government’s longtime deficit.”

In other words we are being sold a bill of goods by those have been trying for years to destroy the most beneficial and best-run government program ever devised for the people of this country.

Bob Roffler

North Yarmouth

AmeriCorps’ benefits to Maine? Incalculable 

The GOP recently announced its intention to eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), including one of our most prized national service programs: AmeriCorps. AmeriCorps is a highly effective national service program that provides opportunities for thousands of people to make a difference in their communities.

In 2009, nearly 9,000 people of all ages and backgrounds helped to meet local needs, strengthen communities and increase civic engagement through 36 national service projects across Maine. Through these projects, more than $7 million was invested in the state.

The work of AmeriCorps volunteers results in a triple bottom line: benefits to communities where a pressing need is addressed; benefits to the recipients of service; and benefits to the individuals who serve via work experience and education funds.

Our students in Maine have benefited to the tune of more than $1.3 million in 2009 alone. These AmeriCorps education awards were given to Maine students in exchange for service to their community. These awards ease the financial burden of attending college for Maine students and increase the likelihood they will stay in the state after graduating.

Service is a core component of who we are as Mainers. When there are people in need, we lend a hand, and when unemployment is high and an air of pessimism pervades many parts of our lives, the last thing we should do is gut our national service programs that have provided a stable force in our communities.

Andrew McLean

Gorham

City out of line adding extra burglar-alarm fee 

The other day I received a letter from the Portland Police Department informing me that the Portland City Council ratified changes to its code to include the establishment of a required yearly burglar alarm registration and associated permit fees. This applies in both commercial and residential circumstances.

I spent significant money installing my security system, and pay a significant maintenance fee every year to the security company. I also pay a significant amount of taxes each year to the city of Portland, which I understood went toward availing myself (and others) of the services of the Portland Police Department on the few occasions that I need them.

I find it appalling that the city should now tack on this additional fee for burglar alarm users. At the very least, it should be grandfathered for those who already have security systems in place.

Jody Sataloff

Portland 

EPA deserves support from Maine’s senators 

The pollution that is generated from burning oil and coal poses serious, life-threatening health risks, especially to children and senior citizens, and it cuts short thousands of lives every year. To these corporate polluters, their profits are worth more than our safety and health.

The oil and coal industries are also destroying our nation’s economic health by tying us to dirty, 19th-century energy sources, a constant burden to an already strained economy. As we’ve seen time and time again, with situations like the BP oil disaster in the Gulf, they can’t be trusted to police themselves. Without the EPA to enforce strong standards, we are only prolonging the health risks associated with pollutants.

I strongly urge Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to support the EPA for a clean energy economy and the health of our nation.

Chris Reed

Portland 

Kudos to Maine students for success in AP tests

In the Portland Press Herald on Feb. 10, there was a small article titled “Maine students 12th in the U.S. in gauge of college AP tests.” The article pointed out that nearly one in five Maine high school seniors took a college-level course and scored very well. Furthermore, the article noted that Maine had a higher percentage of students participating in AP courses than the national average, with a higher percentage doing well on the exam. There has also been a 4.8 percent increase in the number of students participating in AP exams over the last five years. Only three other states had a higher rate.

Hooray! Congratulations students, teachers and districts. This should be front page news.

Virginia Stelk

Yarmouth