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The view from Main Street

The government has released its monthly unemployment numbers, and the nation saw the jobless rate decrease slightly from last month. That means that 12.5 million Americans are still out of work, figuring out how to get by. John Larson reports from Sumner, Wash., on how people in one small town are doing just that, getting by, despite frustration over the economy and the war in Afghanistan.

An hour southeast of Seattle, population just above 9,000, Sumner lies beneath Mount Rainier in a green valley. We came here for one week in April, to listen to people who live and work on Main Street, to see how they’re doing almost five years after the beginning of the Great Recession. We heard a lot of good news here: how the city managed to keep all its police officers and reorganize its fire department despite city revenues dropping 25 percent. We learned this from a man who lives at 15919 Main Street, who happens to be the mayor.

Most of the antique shops, small businesses and restaurants on the historic west end of Main Street survived the recession, the new shopping area at the East End appears busy, no boarded up windows here. But talk with almost anyone here and you begin to hear that behind the picture postcard, life on Main has been a struggle.

Sumner’s Main Street is just miles from one of the nation’s largest military bases, and closer than any other Main Street to the home of the army sergeant — now charged with killing 17 innocent civilians in Afghanistan. We heard how and why Americans are changing their opinion of our country’s military mission.

We also got an earful about government, about loss of faith in our leaders and about all the politicians who claim to understand what’s happening to Main Street.

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