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Structurally they are betting the farm and everything possible to get through these midterms, and they are just opening up the checkbook to do it. ' Public investment shrinks as safety net balloonsWhatever the immediate political impact, if President Joe Biden ultimately signs anything like the proposed program, it would mark a new era in Washington's role in the economy.Over the past 50 years, federal spending, as a share of the nation's economic output, has averaged about 20.6 %, according to calculations by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a centrist group that argues for budgetary restraint. Washington has significantly exceeded that level only in times of crisis : Spending reached 24 % of the nation's gross domestic product during Obama's first term immediately after the 2008 financial crisis and roughly 32 % during the Covid pandemic, federal figures show. ( Federal spending as a share of the economy reached its modern high of more than 40 % at the height of World War II.) Though federal spending over the past half century has remained relatively constant at about one-fifth of the economy, the composition of that spending has shifted dramatically. Over that period, public investment -- defined primarily as federal spending on infrastructure, education and training, and support for research and development -- has declined, while the safety net -- including such payments to individuals as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food assistance and various tax credits for families -- has soared. Its totally different from anything put forward by Obama or Clinton. In terms of any kind of coherent strategic focus theres been nothing like this since the build-out of the suburbs, and the buildup of the educational system.Josh Bivens, research director, Economic Policy InstituteIn 1969, federal figures show, public investment and payments to individuals each consumed nearly one-third of total federal spending, an amount equal to about 6 % of the economy. By 2019, the last year before Washington poured huge sums into the Covid crisis, public investment had fallen to just 12.5 % of Responsible Federal Budget while payments to individuals had grown past 70 %. Public investment now equals only about 2.5 % of the economy, while payments to individuals consume more than five times as much.The exact distribution between public investment and safety net spending in the Democratic plans isn't known, because the party hasn't released details on the funding levels in the $ 3.5 trillion budget blueprint that Senate Democrats recently agreed on. But it's clear that the proposal -- coupled with the bipartisan infrastructure agreement advancing on a separate track -- would represent a huge expansion on both fronts.The infusion of new money for public investment might be most striking, given how steadily it has lost ground in federal priorities. Public investment fell from about 30 % of federal spending in the late 1960s to about 20 % by the late 1970s and 15 % by the mid-1990s, a plateau from which it's since drifted further down except for a brief recovery under Obama's first-term stimulus plan. The budget plans Senate Democrats are advancing would provide a more lasting turnaround. The bipartisan plan would spend almost $ 600 billion on.

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