Congress Blocks Unemployment Benefits

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In an ideal world, Congress would pass short-term stimulus and long-term deficit reduction. In a less ideal world, Congress would add short-term stimulus today, but leave long-term deficit reduction for the near future. In an even less ideal world, Congress wouldn't add stimulus but at least keep the stimulus we have today and push off long-term deficit reduction for some other year.

But in the real world, we get neither. Congress votes against extending unemployment benefits for up to two million people without work, the most basic and obvious piece of welfare/stimulus, while it debates whether we should add $3 trillion to our long-term debt or merely $2 trillion plus change. It's the will of the people, or something?

The House failed Thursday to pass a bill that would have given the unemployed three more months to file for extended jobless benefits.

Congress has extended the deadline to file those applications four times in the past year. The last jobless benefits extension -- which lasted six months and cost $34 billion -- faced a lot of opposition on deficit conscious Capitol Hill before it finally passed in mid-July.

The $12.5 billion bill that was on the floor Thursday needed two-thirds approval, or 275 votes, a tough hurdle. The vote was 258 to 154.

Read on at CNN. Here is a FLASHCARD explainer that sums up the arguments for and against unemployment benefits.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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