Fox Tries To Find Social Security Insolvency By Pointing To Tiny Portions Of Its Payments

A Fox News guest falsely claimed that payments received by dependent children and divorced spouses of retired wage earners are bankrupting Social Security. In fact there is no major problem with Social Security's finances and the benefits Fox criticized make up a miniscule portion of the benefits Social Security pays out.

Despite evidence to the contrary, right-wing media have frequently questioned the financial health of Social Security. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that Social Security spending will not rise sharply in the future, only rising from 4.87 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2011 to 6.63 percent of GDP over the next 75 years. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities noted that Social Security's shortfall over the next 75 years can be almost completely made up by simply allowing the tax cuts passed during the Bush administration to expire for the wealthiest Americans.

On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy asked if payments received by dependent children and former spouses of retirees is “why [Social Security] could be going broke.” Doocy called these payments part of a “great big gravy train.” His guest, Michael Huffman of the Daily Caller, said that these payments are part of “what's wrong with Social Security,” and added that these payments have “got to be contributing to bankrupting the system.”

In fact, these old-age payments to dependent children and ex-spouses do not account for a sizable number of Social Security recipients or payments.

In its semi-annual Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Program fact sheet which highlighted the month of June 2012, the Social Security Administration made benefit payments to more than 56 million people. Only 609,000 of those recipients were dependent children collecting old-age benefits, accounting for slightly more than 1 percent of recipients. While the Social Security administration does not provide figures for ex-spouses receiving old-age benefits because of the retirement of their former spouse, it does provide figures for all spouses. Spouses receiving these benefits accounted for slightly more than 4 percent of all recipients of Social Security benefit payments.

The percentage of payments old-age benefit payments paid to spouses and children in an average month is even smaller. Payments for dependent children receiving old-age insurance benefits account for only .58 percent of the total monthly payments. And payments to spouses account for 2.2 percent of the total monthly payments.