Why It’s So Bad Here

Dean Baker:

The US, unlike most western European countries, is not set up to sustain long periods of high unemployment. Its system of social welfare is very much centered on work. This is most evident with health care. The vast majority of non-elderly people get their health care through employer provided health insurance. Individual policies tend to be very expensive, especially for people with any history of medical problems. When people lose their jobs, they generally lose their health care coverage as well. While there is a public program for low-income families, it doesn’t cover most of the unemployed, and the quality is often quite poor.

The same is true of other forms of public support. The US was never very generous to people who are not working, and it has become less so in the last three decades. That is why the prospect of a prolonged period of high unemployment in the US is likely to mean serious hardship for large numbers of people.