First of all, if a mass of purchasing power was not poured into both the majority of Americans as well as businesses, we would have had food riots the likes of which I would rather not contemplate.
Yes, although it might not have gone that far. But food insecurity rose in virtually every country, there were long lines at food banks throughout the world where those are available, and in some countries *(India, which did little) it is said the pandemic resulted in a “hunger catastrophe”.
I give the government, (and especially the IRS) props for quick action in attempt to forestall disaster instead of waiting until afterwards. With that, at least for the first round, comes waste, as people who are in no danger get monies they really didn’t need. (Like us. But we gave ours away.)
The IRS, it goes without saying, is not a charity organization, nor are they particularly equipped to do anything except know taxpayers addresses (and income), but then there are a lot of people who don’t even file because their income is so low, so who finds them? Getting out front of a looming disaster necessarily implies some misallocated resources, there is no other way. Even using “last year’s income” is fraught, as many people have lumpy tax bills with capital gains, home sales, periods of unemployment, etc.
But by the time the second - and the third - wave came along I suppose more could have been done. Better targeting (there was some) would have reduced both the debt burden and the unnecessary payments, but of course a lot of people would have complained about “welfare” and the like.
The European response was better, I think, in flowing monies through corporations to prevent layoffs - an even giving those companies a work force that could do things they otherwise might not: rehabbing equipment, cleanup, etc. But we surely would have had complaints about already profitable companies getting government funds (because unlike Europe we have freedum), and some companies would have engaged in fraud, as we have seen here as well.
There is/was no perfect solution. The fact that we came through it without serious damage is pretty amazing if you think about it. The 1918 “Spanish Flu” came on the heels of a world war, so there was already massive dislocation and such programs would not have been considered anyway. And so went the politics of several countries into the crapper in the 20’s, BTW.
Anyway, not perfect, perhaps not even excellent or very good, but better than depression and starvation in my book. And if we all have to pay a little something for it, well, nobody said it was going to be a free ride.