The unlocking of the Social Security Chest ....."Off-Budget....to.....On-Budget"
[In early 1968 President Lyndon Johnson made a change in the budget presentation by including Social Security and all other trust funds in a"unified budget." This is likewise sometimes described by saying that Social Security was placed "on-budget."
This 1968 change grew out of the recommendations of a presidential commission appointed by President Johnson in 1967, and known as the President's Commission on Budget Concepts. The concern of this Commission was not specifically with the Social Security Trust Funds, but rather it was an effort to rationalize what the Commission viewed as a confusing budget presentation. At that time, the federal budget consisted of three separate and inconsistent sets of measures, and often budget debates became bogged-down in arguments over which of the three to use. As an illustration of the problem, the projected fiscal 1968 budget was either in deficit by $2.1 billion, $4.3 billion, or $8.1 billion, depending upon which measure one chose to use. Consequently, the Commission's central recommendation was for a single, unified, measure of the federal budget--a measure in which every function and activity of government was added together to assess the government's fiscal position.
This change took effect for the first time in the President's budget proposal for fiscal year 1969, which President Johnson presented to Congress in January 1968. This change in accounting practices did not initially put the President's budget proposal into surplus--it was still projecting an $8 billion deficit. However, it is clear that the budget deficit would have been somewhat larger without this change (it is difficult to say how much larger because this change was mixed-in with the other legislative, budgetary and fiscal policies the President was urging Congress to adopt). In early 1969--just five days before leaving office--President Johnson sent his 1970 budget message to Congress, also using the revised accounting procedures.] ...