There are two schools of thought when it comes to extending unemployment benefits: one is economic and the other is emotional. If Congress does not prolong the payments, two million Americans will lose their benefits right away, and the Obama administration estimates seven million Americans will be affected if a year-long extension isn't passed.
Forty percent of those unemployed right now have been out of work for six-plus months and unemployment has risen to 9.8 percent.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) said that extending benefits is the best type of deficit spending. Pelosi says whatever money you give to jobless Americans goes back into the economy immediately and without it the recovery will stall, causing more people to lose their jobs.
"...Unemployment insurance returns $2 to the economy for every $1 spent," said Pelosi last week. "This is money that is needed by families to buy necessities, to heat their homes... and immediately injects demand into the economy, creating jobs."
The counter argument is that the country is already so deep in debt that we need to stop digging it into a bigger hole. The extension bill proposed by Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus(D-Mont.) would provide long-term unemployment benefits through the end of 2011. The Congressional Budget Office estimates this would add more than $56 billion to the deficit over 10 years.
Some economists argue that extending these benefits is a disincentive for people to find work and that it's time to get the long term unemployed off the "government dole" and find a job, even if it's not perfect."A lot of folks put off looking for a job if they have 99 weeks of unemployment, and that's bad for them because after about six months or so it becomes much tougher to get a job," said University of Maryland economist Peter Morici. "Employers start to become very shy about hiring people who have been out of a job for a long period of time."
Republicans say they are not against extending benefits, only that the bill should be paid for by cutting spending elsewhere. Passing this bill would violate PAYGO, or pay as you go -- a promise made by Democrats in 2006, to control the deficit by making corresponding cuts with added spending. "Additional unemployment benefits are not a good way to spend money right now," said Morici. "It takes the pressure off the president to finally address what's broken in the economy. These palliatives simply don't work. Remember the best social program is a job."
So how much will this cost you? Check out the taxpayer calculator. The calculator will estimate your share of a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits. You can also vote. Do you think this is a wise use of your money?
The extension bill needs a 2/3 majority to pass. If Congress allows it to expire, it will be the first time in 75 years that jobless benefits weren't extended with an unemployment rate higher than 9 percent.
Laura Prabucki contributed to this report