Matt Weidinger of the American Enterprise Institute looks back at the federal government’s recent spending history.

Americans may have difficulty keeping up with the reckless pace of spending coming out of Washington these days. Last week, it was college debt cancellation worth up to $20,000 per person (across over 40 million people). Nonpartisan experts estimate it will cost $500 billion or more—or at least four times the price of last year’s expanded child tax credit. The week before, it was over $350 billion for green new deal spending, including $7,500 subsidies for Americans who buy electric vehicles.

Whenever supposedly transformational new benefits like these are rolled out, proponents simply ignore existing programs or dismiss them as woefully inadequate. In reality, before the pandemic there were already over 80 federal programs that spent almost $1 trillion per year on education, energy, food, housing, health, income, and other support for low-income individuals and families. But post-pandemic, government check-writing advocates are taking it to another level—by also ignoring the unprecedented federal checks just paid to tens of millions during the pandemic, including to many poised to receive the latest new benefits and subsidies, too.

The first and most widely distributed pandemic payments were stimulus checks paid to an estimated 85 percent of all US households. Adults first received $1,200 and children $500 under the March 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. A second round of checks followed a December 2020 law, which provided $600 per adult and child. The Biden administration then sent a third round of checks via the March 2021 American Rescue Plan, which provided another $1,400 per adult and child. Like the prior rounds, those checks were paid to individuals earning up to $75,000 and married couples earning up to $150,000 per year. All told, a typical household of four collected $11,400, costing taxpayers a staggering $869 billion—more than the annual U.S. defense budget.