This Year (and a Half) In Stimulus

Yesterday, the House passed the $26 billion bill that would extend increased Medicaid matching to states and education funding to prevent teacher layoffs. The cost of the bill will be fully offset, a great move by Congress given the debacle with HR 4213. This way, support for the short-term economy will not further jeopardize our fiscal health down the road.

On a related note, on Ezra Klein's blog, Dylan Matthews estimated the total amount of stimulus enacted, in the context of a question about whether the size of the 2009 stimulus (ARRA) was too small. Of course, there have been many extensions of ARRA provisions and new measures passed since ARRA, so he tried to account for all of them. Using calculations from Mark Zandi and Alan Blinder, he came to a total of $1.156 trillion from 2008 to the present. But, as he notes, measuring from 2008 means including measures that were already baked into the cake by the time ARRA passed.

Luckily, we have a handy database, Stimulus.org, that allows us to see how much total stimulus has been passed in just the past year and a half. For these calculations, we pulled out specific provisions from all these stimulus bills, so as not to be thrown off by offsets or blatant non-stimulus provisions. Also, we have not included measures undertaken by TARP in 2009, such as HAMP and auto industry support, or any actions taken by the Federal Reserve, since these fall outside the normal realm of fiscal policy.

The grand total of stimulus enacted through deliberate legislation since February 2009 (including ARRA): $1.025 trillion. This means that $170 billion in additional stimulus has been passed since ARRA. Our number differs slightly from the one that Zandi and Blinder came up with--$1.067 trillion--for a few reasons: they include costs of the 2008 stimulus, don't include the just-passed state aid bill, and have different cost estimates for some of the measures (especially ARRA, since their total is based off initial projections, not CBO's updated figure).

We've broken down the parts of that $170 billion in the table below.

Total Stimulus Enacted Since ARRA
Provision Gross Cost (billions)
ARRA $855*
Cash for Clunkers $3
Homebuyer Tax Credit Extension $13
Net Carryback Loss Extension $33
UI Extensions $70
HIRE Act Provisions** $16
COBRA Extensions $9
Medicaid Extension $16
Education Jobs Fund $10
Subtotal Since ARRA $170
Total With ARRA $1,025

*This number includes savings from the provision of the state aid bill that ends the food stamp increase in March 2014.

**These include $13 billion for the job tax credits, $2 billion for qualified tax credit bonds, and $1 billion for business expensing.

Of course, people will have differing opinions over which measures constitute actual stimulus, but this seems to be a good measure of everything we have done legislatively in the way of expansionary fiscal policy over the last year and a half. A full measure of "stimulus"--fiscal or otherwise--since 2009 would have to incorporate not only these legislative changes, but also the expansionary impacts of Fed actions, TARP, and normal automatic stabilizers that moderate upturns and downturns.

Remember, you can check out anything that the government has done in the fiscal, monetary, or financial realms to support the economy at Stimulus.org

UPDATE: CBO's August Budget Update has revised its estimate for ARRA to $814 billion, bringing our stimulus number down to $984 billion.  This number will change as CBO continues to update its estimate (usually twice per year), though the number for post-ARRA stimulus should remain constant until something new is passed.

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