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Shutting Down the Economy

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The political drama churning out of Washington these days has more twists and turns than a whodunit potboiler. You honestly couldn't write it like this; what superpower would willingly take its economy to the brink?

But even after the government is reopened and the debt ceiling is raised, the same old problems underlying our economy will remain in place. Washington will have to face the inconvenient fact that the economy it's supposed to steward simply isn't creating enough work for the millions of Americans who remain underemployed or out of a job. And for this, there is bipartisan blame aplenty.

There are plenty of good policy ideas on how to help the private sector create more middle-class jobs. We've offered our own bipartisan solutions here.

But let's be honest: There wasn't much of a meaningful conversation on jobs coming out of D.C. before Congress made its latest mess on America's kitchen floor. And the ongoing government shutdown has since idled a few hundred thousand federal workers and produced a ripple effect through the economy -- goods stuck in export limbo, loans not getting unapproved, and contractors going unpaid.

And if you like a little insult to go with your economic injury, you're in luck: We don't even have recent employment data with which to measure the damage.

That's because the monthly jobs report -- that first Friday of each month that Washington could be counted on to acknowledge the underwhelming labor market it reigns over -- was one of the hundreds of government functions deemed nonessential. We have no official jobless number for September, and as long as the shutdown continues, the jobs conversation will remain largely shelved.

It's not acceptable to simply shrug off the stories of millions of struggling Americans who have no voice in the current debate.

So: No jobs report? No problem. At the Alliance for American Manufacturing, we produced our own report. We reached out through social media to supporters across the nation and asked them to send in a jobs report, as they saw it in their communities. And the responses have been illuminating. Here are a few of them:

From Virginia G. in Arizona:

I have a "real" job. It took me two years to find this job, and I've had it for two years. In the meanwhile, I had to work part-time, temporary, minimum wage stuff under the table to supplement my savings and unemployment insurance. I almost went broke before I found this job.

From David N. in Colorado:

There is a real increasing in manufacturing jobs but again mostly low paid. If you are a skilled CNC operator you can earn up to about $15 an hour. Many other (jobs) require experience in bio-medical but these pay closer to $10 an hour.

From S. Kaye N. in Tennessee:

(Following a layoff at) my factory job at Briggs & Stratton, I was left looking and there were no jobs close to home or anywhere I could work and earn a pay check and have money to take home. Now Briggs & Stratton is closed down. There are very few jobs in our area. I don't see things getting any better now.

These stories tell of an economic reality that our political leaders dutifully ignore: America doesn't want a political circus. America wants to go to work.

That's why I'm asking you to help us tell the jobs story that Washington won't. Have you -- or your friends, family, or neighbors -- started looking for work recently? Have you stopped? Send in the jobs report from your town to info [at] aamfg [dot] org, tweet it to us at @KeepitmadeinUSA, or contact us via Facebook.

Will Washington ever tire of its theatrics, or conclude that it's a whole lot easier to resolve fiscal challenges if its citizens can find work? At some point, it will. But millions of Americans who are still looking for steady employment can't wait for the political class to finally focus on job creation. Their stories deserve to be heard now. Help us tell some of them.