Is That a Green Bean in the Napkin?

Moms are good at sniffing out trickery. We've detected green beans stuffed in napkins, ratted out feigned illnesses with our trusty thermometers, and we're pretty sure the dog didn't eat that missing homework. So, when some of our elected leaders tell us that they can afford to extend tax cuts for the rich, but can't afford to continue unemployment benefits for our millions of families searching for work, we're a bit suspicious.

According to most estimates, extending the Bush tax cuts for millionaires would increase the deficit by an estimated $700 billion over the next ten years. By contrast, keeping the emergency federal unemployment benefits programs in place for another year for the millions of families who are still desperately looking for work would cost only a small fraction of that. Can you see why we're a bit skeptical? The issue appears not to be fiscal responsibility, but a question of which families are going to benefit from government tax and spending policy.

Let's get our priorities straight. My vote goes for investing our limited national resources on families who are struggling to keep a roof over their children's heads like this MomsRising member from Texas:

I was RIFed [laid off] from a company for which I had worked for over 16 years as a highly compensated individual producer. I was shocked. The credit card industry closed in on me and my family was soon forced into bankruptcy. Being around 50 and in Chapter 13 made it impossible for me to find another job. Then the bottom fell out of the housing market. My house was worth $100,000.00 less than I owed on it. I kept thinking I might find a job and trying to get a modification. I exhausted my savings, including my retirement, trying to keep everything going because it was so hard to believe that I would be unable to find another job either writing or teaching (I am also a certified teacher). Now my home loan has been modified but if I lose my unemployment I will lose my home. I am finally starting to get more interviews. Eventually I'm sure someone will hire me. But if there is another housing collapse because people lose their unemployment, the economy will start to fall and everyone will stop hiring again. I am getting foreclosure sale notices in my email again. I am frightened. I have three children still in public school. They are in the gifted and talented program. Are we going to throw their futures away too. This is just one story.

Indeed, MomsRising has collected hundreds of other stories from across the country from our members in equally desperate situations. To read more family stories go here.

These stories of families who are living on the edge demonstrate that extending unemployment benefits is not only good for families who are struggling to find work, but it helps all of us by strengthening the economy. Unemployed workers spend their UI benefits because they have to in order to survive. That means that unemployment insurance benefits go right back into the economy, bolstering local businesses and saving jobs. According to a report by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, every dollar spent on benefits increases the domestic product by $1.60. "A failure to extend the unemployment insurance program could hamper the fragile recovery," the report said. It predicts that consumer spending will fall by $50 billion over the next year if benefits are not extended, and that economic growth will be reduced by 0.4 percentage points by February 2011.

And unemployment benefits are not an entitlement -- workers have to prove they are actively looking for work to keep collecting their benefits. Thus, there's every incentive to find work, especially since the benefits average just $293 a week, which covers less than half of the average family's expenses for food, housing and transportation.

Reauthorizing the federal unemployment insurance program is not a partisan issue. It is about coming together to help millions of unemployed Americans get through the worst economy since the Great Depression, and helping our economy grow and create new jobs. Congress has to put politics aside and do what's right for Americans who've lost their jobs and are struggling to survive and for the communities that depend on the economic boost of UI.

Let's make sure Congress is straight with the American people about fiscal responsibility and does the right thing for middle class families and the nation by reauthorizing the federal unemployment insurance benefits program and keeping our economic recovery on track.

To hear many more perspectives on why Congress needs to extend unemployment insurance, see the MomsRising blog-a-thon.

This blog is part of the Peaceful Revolution series that explores innovative ideas to strengthen America's families through public policies, business practices, and cultural change. Done in collaboration with, read a new post here each week.