Effec­tively, this means that those states that have offered ben­e­fits for any­where from under 26 to 73 weeks will now be lim­ited to offering 26 weeks or less. (See what that looks like in these helpful maps from the Wash­ington Post.)

At the very least, a tem­po­rary sus­pen­sion of emer­gency unem­ploy­ment assis­tance will delay ben­efit checks for these 1.3 mil­lion Amer­i­cans, reducing their pur­chasing power — not to men­tion their stan­dard of living. As North­eastern Uni­ver­sity econ­o­mist Barry Blue­stone points out below, when poorer people can’t spend money, the economy wal­lows and unem­ploy­mentfor everyone remains higher.

In light of the eco­nomic hit 1.3 mil­lion Amer­icas are about to bear, we’re exam­ining the state of eco­nomic inequality in America on Friday’s New­sHour. Is it a big deal? And to what extent is it related to unem­ploy­ment and mobility in this country?

Like Blue­stone, former Labor Sec­re­tary Robert Reich, who will appear on the New­sHour Friday, argues that inequality is a problem for everyone — not just those Amer­i­cans who haven’t found a job in 27 weeks. It’s “Inequality for All” — the title of the recent fea­ture film in which he stars. Watch his con­ver­sa­tion with Paul Solman about the moral and eco­nomic case against inequality.

An unequal society, in which income wealth is con­cen­trated at the top, cannot sus­tain an economy whose main driver is con­sumer spending, Reich and Blue­stone agree.

But doesn’t that inequality have its pur­poses? Does it not spur those in society’s lower rungs to try to move up? That is, in part, the Repub­lican argu­ment against extending unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits: ben­e­fits dis­in­cen­tivize the poor from accepting the jobs that are avail­able to them — or from working at all.

In 2011, lib­er­tarian law pro­fessor Richard Epstein of New York Uni­ver­sity School of Law explained how eco­nomic inequality drives inno­va­tion and moti­vates upward mobility.

Read the article at PBS NewsHour →