The mentally ill and unemployment

There's a provocative editorial in this month's Scientific American which discusses the prevalence of mental illness in the United States and how its effects tend to disproportionately affect the poor, who often do not have health insurance and/or cannot afford proper care.

Something that is often overlooked in the debates on welfare and health insurance is that many people are not out of work because they choose to be, but because mental disability prevents them from being able to work. And without work, they cannot afford access to treatment, leading to a vicious cycle: they can't find work because they can't get better, and they can't get better because they can't find work.

It's issues like this that make me a political liberal. All you have to do to be a liberal is to recognize that the playing field is not level, and that there are millions of people who are condemned to poverty through no fault of their own and who need our help. It could be argued that the government is not the most efficient means to accomplish this, but only through federal law could we guarantee every American access to the health care they need. But such ideas are criticized as "socialism" by conservative critics, and the poor deemed to be so simply because they lack the willpower to make their lives better.


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