How the American Unemployment System Failed

The nation’s unemployment insurance program, was meant to keep jobless workers and their families from suffering drops in income that could tip them into poverty or force them to liquidate their assets. However, the tussle in Congress last month was a reminder that the system as designed has not been up to its task (New York Times)

While a federal backstop may make sense for times of economic upheaval, the repeated recourse to Capitol Hill underscores the shortcomings of a chronically underfunded, patchwork system that has not kept up with changes in the workplace and puts the unemployed at the mercy of the nation’s political winds.

While the surge in unemployment caused by the pandemic could offer an opening to overhaul the program — an opportunity strengthened by Democrats’ takeover of the White House and the Senate — any push for change must overcome powerful incentives vying to further shrink the program.