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(Arlo K. Abrahamson/U.S. Navy/Getty Images) (Arlo K. Abrahamson/U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

(Arlo K. Abrahamson/U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

By D.L. Davis June 4, 2021

No, American Rescue Plan does not cost more than World War II

If Your Time is short

  • The price tag on the American Rescue Plan is $1.9 trillion.

  • Once inflation is factored in, U.S. spending on World War II was much higher -- and estimated $4.69 trillion.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, there have been some eye-popping numbers coming out of Washington, D.C., including this one: $1.9 trillion.

That’s the price tag for the Biden Administration’s COVID stimulus plan. The measure cleared the Senate and House on narrow, largely party-line votes. All of Wisconsin’s Democrats supported the plan, while all Republicans were opposed.

Republican Derrick Van Orden, who lost to 12-term U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, by fewer than 3 percentage points in 2020, and has said he’ll run again in 2022, has been hammering Kind on the package’s cost.

For example, on May 11, 2021, Kind sent this tweet:

"Thanks to the #AmericanRescuePlan, Wisconsin is receiving over $50M in funding for our seniors. This money will help provide relief and expand access to meals, vaccines, caregiver support, health resources, and more." 

That same day, Van Orden retweeted Kind’s message and added this, in part: 

"@RepRonKind Has spent more $ in 100+ days than was spent fighting WWII, setting the country on the road to record inflation that will destroy our senior's retirements."

Is Van Orden right about the cost of the American Rescue Plan, the primary measure that has passed since Biden took office in January?

In short, let’s say the claim is, well, inflated.

Cost of America’s wars

Van Orden did not respond to emails from PolitiFact Wisconsin requesting backup for his claim. 

But let’s dig in anyway, with this important note up front: When comparing dollar amounts over time -- particularly a period of about eight decades -- you can’t just look at raw spending totals. Everything costs far more now than it did then.

In other words, for a fair comparison, you have to control for inflation.

In June 2019, USA Today published an article titled "What were the 13 most expensive wars in U.S. history?"  To compile the list 24/7 Wall St., a Delaware company that runs an online financial news operation, used a 2010 report from the Congressional Research Service titled "Costs of Major U.S. Wars" and updated the numbers for inflationary purposes. 

For some context, here are the top five wars, and total U.S. spending (all in 2019 dollars).

5. Korean War: $389.81 billion

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4. Vietnam War: $843.63 billion

3. War in Afghanistan: $910.47 billion

2. Iraq War: $1.01 trillion

1. World War II: $4.69 trillion


So, World War II -- which the U.S. entered in 1941 and which lasted until 1945 -- is the most expensive, by far. 

But it was far more expensive than the Biden Administration’s stimulus package, not the reverse as Van Orden claimed.

What’s more, the $1.9 trillion stimulus passed under President Joe Biden was less than the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed under Republican President Donald Trump in March 2020. All told, the various stimulus and relief bills passed under Trump in 2020 tallied $3.8 trillion.

To be sure, Biden has proposed several massive spending plans, including a separate American Jobs Plan -- a $2.3 trillion development package aimed at improving the nation's aging infrastructure, among other spending. His recently-unveiled federal budget includes $5 trillion in new federal spending over the next decade. 

But Van Orden did not cite those measures in tweeting his claim about Kind.

Rather, he specifically responded to a Kind tweet about the American Rescue Plan and cited what Kind had already voted for, not what is on the table.

Our ruling

Van Orden said "@RepRonKind "has spent more $ in 100+ days than was spent fighting WWII." 

According to a 2010 Congressional Research Service report, and additional calculations to cover more recent inflation, World War II’s price tag (in 2019 dollars) was $4.69 trillion.

The American Rescue Plan signed into law in March by Biden -- and supported by Kind -- carries a cost of $1.9 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. 

We rate Van Orden’s claim False.



Our Sources

Twitter, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, May 11, 2021

Facebook, American Rescue Plan.

Twitter, Derrick Van Orden, May 11, 2021.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Ron Kind defeats Derrick Van Orden in Wisconsin's 3rd Congressional District race," Nov. 4, 2020.

Wausau Daily Herald, " ""Derrick Van Orden announces 2022 bid against Rep. Ron Kind for Wisconsin's 3rd Congressional District," April 8, 2021.

USA Today "What were the 13 most expensive wars in U.S. history?" June 13, 2019.

Congressional Research Service, "Costs of Major U.S. Wars," June 29, 2010.  

Congressional Budget Office, Estimated Budgetary Effects of H.R. 1319, American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 As passed by the Senate on March 6, 2021." 

National Association of Counties, "American Rescue Plan Act Funding Breakdown" April 12, 2021.

U.S. Department of the Treasury "Fact Sheet: The American Rescue Plan Will Deliver Immediate Economic Relief to Families," May 18, 2021.

Senate RPC "H.R.1319 – American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 – Final Text" March 10, 2021

24/7 Wall Street " "What were the 13 most expensive wars in U.S. history?" June 13, 2019.

USA TODAY "All of the COVID-19 stimulus bills, visualized," March 17, 2021.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Vice President Kamala Harris touts Biden administration infrastructure plan in Milwaukee visit, tours clean energy labs," May 4, 2021.

CNBC "Biden’s budget will include $5 trillion in new federal spending over the next decade," May 28, 2021.



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