The U.S. government is poised to spend an unprecedented sum of money on its response to the coronavirus crisis, with a potential final price tag of nearly $5 trillion if lawmakers get the full extent of what they’re seeking in as many as five separate bills.
While there is a bipartisan consensus on the need to help millions of laid-off or furloughed workers, as well as struggling hospitals and local governments, fiscal hawks are starting to raise alarms about the pace and scale of the spending by Congress and President Trump.
With three “phases” of the coronavirus response already passed, the U.S. government has so far committed roughly $2.4 trillion to relief efforts. But two more pieces of legislation are being discussed that could roughly double that, if the most expensive proposals are, in fact, signed into law.
For anyone short of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the sum is so large as to be essentially inconceivable. But put into context, that would be more than the annual federal budget.
The $5 trillion number, adjusted for inflation, would also be more than five times the amount spent on the entire New Deal in the 1930s and just under three times the total cost of the Temporary Asset Relief Program (TARP) and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) combined — the two pieces of legislation enacted by the Bush and Obama administrations to pull the U.S. out of the 2008 Great Recession.
The counter-coronavirus spending is being done in a bipartisan manner with overwhelming support as few on either side of the aisle have brought up the potential fiscal impacts of the expenditures, despite the fact conservatives decried TARP and ARRA as wildly irresponsible deficit spending just a decade ago.