Left-leaning economists often argue that the $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was too small and that more stimulus is needed to get the economy going again. The real amount of fiscal stimulus pumped into the economy, however, may be much higher.
Tom Firey of the libertarian Cato Institute estimates that the U.S. has dumped at least $2.5 trillion of fiscal stimulus into the economy since 2008.
"If you sum it all up, we've pumped an awful lot of fiscal stimulus into the economy since this recession started. Far more than anyone wants to acknowledge," Firey told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview.
"I've been watching the debate over stimulus measure since ARRA, since early 2009 … and it seems like each time a measure was passed, it was like nothing had preceded it and nothing would come after it," he continued. "And so I started tracking them."
Firey tracked fifteen pieces of legislation that were passed since 2008, including the 2009 stimulus bill, unemployment insurance extensions and the payroll tax cuts.
Some of the bills tracked by Firey were measures explicitly aimed at stimulating the economy, like the 2009 stimulus bill, by borrowing money to spend now, while paying it back down the road.
Other bills, like the bills extending unemployment insurance, were not explicitly intended to be stimulus measures, but Firey argues that they were in effect stimulus measures because they borrowed and spent money now, rather than redirecting money the government already has.