Public expenditures on social programs--health care, pensions, transportation, housing, education, unemployment assistance--have risen sharply as a percentage of GDP over the past two years. In fact, for the first time in history, public social spending in the United States has surpassed 30% of GDP.
Here is a chart with the details on the spending. The figures taken from usgovernmentspending.com (which is unfortunately a teabagger site, but still has good data). The chart includes figures for all levels of government--federal, state and local. It only looks at social investment programs, rather than things like defense and interest on the debt:
Social safety net spending as a percentage of GDP, by category, 1970-2010
About 30% of the increase over the last two years comes entirely from increased public expenditures on unemployment. Another 15% comes from an increase in public spending on pensions. A bit more comes from the recession itself, as GDP has not increased much even in absolute terms over the past few years.
Still, the chart suggests that progressives are making real advancements in expanding the social safety net in America. About half of the increases come from non-recession, non-demographic related areas like health care, education, and the "other spending" category that focuses on a wide variety of public services (environmental protection, scientific research, housing, water, communications, waste management, etc) Further, even with the projected end of the stimulus, the end of the recession (at least in GDP terms), and increase in employment, the long-term forecast is for social investment spending to stay above 30% indefinitely.
The New Deal regulatory structure has indeed been gutted, and union density has declined markedly since the mid-20th century. These twin developments have played major roles in the rise of wealth inequality in the U.S.. However, conservatives not only failed to gut Great Society and New Deal social safety net programs, but those programs continue to expand.
In 1940, under FDR, public social investment spending was less than 14% of GDP, far less than it is today. No matter how frustrating the fights may be, we are indeed making progress.