I know how they feel.
Eldar Shafir, a Princeton University researcher, is the senior author of a study reported in the journal Science that shows being broke seriously hinders the brain's ability to make decisions. The findings were reported this week by USA Today reporter Dan Vergano.
That may help explain why people in poor economic circumstances often make bad decisions -- decisions that help keep them in the cycle of poverty in which they are enmeshed.
I'm not broke, but having recently been laid off and forced to negotiate the unemployment insurance claims process as a requisite to obtaining my former corporation's version of severance pay, I have a little insight.
If ever there were a process designed to make you feel like a failure and a dope, it is applying for unemployment.
The application process is dense, bureaucratic and tedious. It seems, in fact, designed to discourage people from filing claims. Claims for payment from a system into which I and others have paid for years in case of just such an emergency.
I called a friend for help three times in the six and half hours it took me to complete the process. And still I missed something and was told by email the next day to repeat a portion of that effort PROMPTLY or have my claim delayed or denied.
The math skills test I had to take taxed the recesses of my brain to which Algebra II had been confined since I was a sophomore in high school.
I had a resume on my computer, but that didn't stop the system from demanding I repeat that information in its dots-and-boxes format so the "Job Wizard" could match my work history to its database.
For every week I claim unemployment, I must apply for five jobs and enter them into yet another website's database to prove I am not looking to live off the dole.
Heaven help me if I had had to beg a ride to a claims center or public library computer and forgotten a previous employer's mailing address and phone number or hourly pay rate.
Or I had only a passing familiarity with a computer. Or found I would have to come back on another day to take more skills assessments. Or even to ask someone a question.
The clearest language in all of the process is the language that tells you the criminal penalties for fraud if you try to improperly or dishonestly try to claim your $275 a week.
That part they put in the big type.
Soon, I will enter into the circle of hell known as COBRA, where to continue the health insurance I have for myself and my children, I will be required to pay almost double what I have been paying.
The authors of the study in Science suggest that just being poor so stresses the brain's decision-making power, the likelihood of making bad, impulsive decisions increases.
One thing that may help, the study's authors say in the Vergano's story: Streamlining the long forms and repeated appointments imposed by unemployment agency bureaucracies.
But I live in a state and of this great nation in the thrall of a political worldview that makes being poor a moral failing instead of a social circumstances.
I won't hold my breath for that.