This sort of long-term hopelessness has the potential to truly change our nation. In the same way Great Depression thinking lingered long after the 1930s, the sense that things aren't going to get better could stick with people like Peters and her kids.
"The American worker is very pessimistic about the future," said Carl Van Horn, a professor at Rutgers who worked on a recent survey on the topic. "Only 19% (of people surveyed) said they thought the next generation would do better than theirs. That's a very, very depressing number, if you think about it. That's not a typical American viewpoint. Talk about American exceptionalism ... -- that's the opposite of it. "
Plenty of things have been suggested to help get the long-term unemployed back into the workforce again. The trick is figuring out what would be effective.
It seems each policy solution comes with additional problems.
Laws aimed at preventing discrimination against unemployed people could backfire. Job training programs might not provide the right skills. Investing in a new stimulus package, including federal contracts to build roads and such, might end with employed people being rehired, said James Sherk, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. Giving tax breaks to employers who hire the long-term unemployed seems smart to me, but Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, writes that some employers may be turned off by the extra paperwork.
Extending unemployment insurance is a political nonstarter. A raised minimum wage, which Obama proposed on Tuesday, helps only if you're working.
What the problem really comes down to, Peters told me, is ignorance.
Most people don't know what it's like to be unemployed for months or years. If they understood, they'd be slower to toss the resume of an unemployed person.
And Congress could use a little education.
"How are the American people going to get back to work," she asked, "if we all don't work together?"
She told me she used to look down on unemployed people, too. Not anymore. If and when she does get back on her feet, she wants to devote much of her time to helping people get out of the circumstances that currently have her trapped.
Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.
Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.