Warp-speed spending and other surreal stats of COVID times

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FILE - In this Thursday, March 11, 2021, file photo, a health worker loads syringes with the vaccine on the first day of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine being made available to residents at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles. California officials say much of the state will be able to reopen next week to indoor activities as coronavirus case rates remain low. At the same time, more than 4 million residents with certain disabilities or health concerns become eligible for a vaccine. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. effort in World War II was off the charts. Battles spread over three continents and four years, 16 million served in uniform and the government shoved levers of the economy full force into defeating Nazi Germany and imperial Japan.

All of that was cheaper for American taxpayers than this pandemic.

The $1,400 federal payments going into millions of people's bank accounts are but one slice of a nearly $2 trillion relief package made law this past week. With that, the United States has spent or committed to spend nearly $6 trillion to crush the coronavirus, recover economically and take a bite out of child poverty.

Set in motion over one year, that's warp-speed spending in a capital known for gridlock, ugly argument and now an episode of violent insurrection.

For a year now, Americans have grappled with numbers beyond ordinary comprehension: some 30 million infected, more than half a million dead, millions of jobs lost, vast sums of money sloshing through government pipelines to try to set things right.

How high can you count? At one turn after another, that may be the rhetorical question of these COVID-19 times.

THE TOLL

Once, the attack on Pearl Harbor was the modern marker for national trauma. About 2,400 Americans died in the assault on the naval base in Hawaii that drew the United States into the Pacific war. The nearly 3,000 dead from the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001, became the new point of comparison as the ravages of COVID-19 grew.