The Truth-O-Meter Says:
Santorum

"When I was born, less than 10 percent of the federal budget was entitlement spending. It's now 60 percent of the budget."

Rick Santorum on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 in a Republican presidential debate in Mesa, Ariz.

Rick Santorum charts explosion of federal entitlement spending since 1958

During the Feb. 22, 2012, presidential debate in Mesa, Ariz., Rick Santorum offered some historical comparisons of the federal budget.

"When I was born" -- which was 1958 -- "less than 10 percent of the federal budget was entitlement spending. It's now 60 percent of the budget. Some people have suggested that defense spending is the problem. When I was born, defense spending was 60 percent of the budget. It's now 17 percent. If you think defense spending is the problem, then you need a remedial math class to go back to."

We’ll split these claims into two separate items. Here, we’ll look at whether in 1958, "less than 10 percent of the federal budget was entitlement spending. It's now 60 percent of the budget."

We turned to data from the Office of Management and Budget. OMB provides historical figures for federal payments to individuals, including payments for such entitlement programs as Social Security and Medicare.

In 1958, such payments accounted for 25.4 percent of the federal budget -- more than double what Santorum said.

In fiscal year 2011, the comparable percentage was 65.1 percent, which is in the ballpark for what Santorum claimed.

This growth is not too surprising, since Medicare and Medicaid were signed into law in 1965 -- when Santorum was 7  years old -- and now occupy an increasing share of the federal budget. During that time, the U.S. population has grown significantly, as well.

Our ruling

Santorum is close on the current percentage of the federal budget going to entitlements, but he understates the figure for his birth year. This makes the expansion, which is dramatic in any case, seem even more so. With one statistic right and one wrong, we rate the claim Half True.

Advertisement
About this statement:

Published: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012 at 10:48 a.m.

Subjects: Federal Budget, Medicare, Social Security

Sources:

Office of Management and Budget, "Table 11.1—Summary Comparison of Outlays for Payments for Individuals: 1940–2017 (In Current Dollars, as Percentages of Total Outlays, as Percentages of GDP, and in Constant (FY 2005) Dollars)," accessed Feb. 22, 2012

Office of Management and Budget, Table 1.1—Summary of Receipts, Outlays, and Surpluses or Deficits (-): 1789–2017, accessed Feb. 22, 2012

Office of Management and Budget, Table 11.2—Functional Composition of Outlays for Payments for Individuals: 1940–2017, accessed Feb. 22, 2012

Email interview with Steve Ellis, vice president at Taxpayers for Common Sense, Feb. 23, 2012

Written by: Louis Jacobson
Researched by: Louis Jacobson
Edited by: Martha M. Hamilton

How to contact us:

We want to hear your suggestions and comments.

For tips or comments on our Obameter and our GOP-Pledge-O-Meter promise databases, please e-mail the Obameter. If you are commenting on a specific promise, please include the wording of the promise.

For comments about our Truth-O-Meter or Flip-O-Meter items, please e-mail the Truth-O-Meter. We’re especially interested in seeing any chain e-mails you receive that you would like us to check out. If you send us a comment, we'll assume you don't mind us publishing it unless you tell us otherwise.

Browse The Truth-O-MeterTM:
Subscribe: