It began when the president called reporters into the Rose Garden to brag a little.
"We received more good news, that our strategy is working," said Mr. Clinton.
The government, the president went on to say, is finally taking in more than it spends, and there will be a surplus of $115 billion.
That sent Republicans running to the mikes to trumpet their version of the good news.
"When the American people gave us control of Congress, we had deficits as far as the eye could see. We held spending in check and the nation now enjoys prosperity and surpluses for as far as the eye can see," said Rep. Dick Armey of Texas.
Not quite -- because both sides have glossed over a small detail. The government is actually swimming in red ink and ran up a $9 billion deficit this year. The only surplus is the money piling up in the Social Security trust fund. The only way that politicians in either party can claim that government is operating in the black is by dipping into that money in the Social Security trust fund.
Just a little something to remember the next time you hear one of them promise they'll only use Social Security money for Social Security.