08/13/2011 04:10 pm ET | Updated Oct 13, 2011

Stories of the People Behind the Unemployment Figures That Our Leaders Need to Hear

Never in my lifetime has the disconnect between Washington and the nation been so great. Americans are crying "jobs, jobs, jobs." Their leaders are saying "deficits, deficits, deficits." Whether we're heading toward another recession, we're facing an ongoing employment and economic crisis that shows no sign of abating. And, unbelievably, folks in Washington -- or at least those with the power to make a difference -- seem willing or resigned to letting the crisis continue.

As an academic who's examined how deeply the Great Recession has affected Americans lives and expectations, I often wonder what it will take to prompt a course correction. Clearly more studies aren't going to rescue us, and ultimately I'm convinced the pressure will have to come from people joining together to press for action. But to galvanize that movement, we could use something that seems sorely missing in much of the advocacy for a serious response: compelling stories of the people behind the numbing job statistics.

That's why I was so pleased to be involved in a documentary done by NBC on the ongoing effects of the economic downturn, focusing on the lives of three women in a hard-hit Georgia town, Millen. It will appear at 7PM this Sunday, August 14. Looking at the empty streets of Millen and watching the interviews with Krystal Chance, Sandy Becton, and Kimberly Thompson, it's impossible not to see just how fundamentally the downturn has affected the lives of millions of hardworking families -- men and women who are doing all they can to get back to work, but who've found the economy they once knew has disappeared. Washington has lost sight of the real human cost of the recession and the desperate need for "jobs, jobs, jobs." Maybe stories like Krystal's, Sandy's, and Kimberly's can help open a few eyes.