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Dobbs: Fighting back in the war on the middle class

By Lou Dobbs
CNN
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Editor's note: Lou Dobbs' commentary appears every Wednesday on CNN.com

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (CNN) -- "War on the Middle Class" is the title of my new book and our special report on CNN. Wednesday we broadcast live from the front lines of this all-out war, and we talked to American families facing the tough issues that are all but being ignored by our elected officials in Washington. Our middle class is the largest group of people in the country, but they are also the least represented in our nation's capital.

It's been a tough decade for the American middle class, which has been experiencing stagnant wages in the face of rapidly increasing costs for health care and prescription drugs, soaring energy prices and escalating tuition costs. But worst of all, the middle class is up against a Congress that is driven by powerful corporations and dominant special interests.

We were excited to give the middle-class families participating in Wednesday's town hall meeting in Kansas City a voice, because all too often they are simply ignored by their elected officials and the national media.

I looked forward to hearing from people like Mary in Louisiana, who wrote our broadcast to tell us, "The two parties in power really don't represent me any longer and haven't for quite some time. I write letters to my representatives almost daily, and only occasionally do I get a reply. It's obvious that I don't matter to these people. It's definitely time for a voter revolution in this country."

Bob in Louisiana is also fed up with our leaders in Washington, and I suspect he has more than a little company. Bob wrote: "What ever happened to the concept in which politicians were elected to do the will of the people? Regardless of what the polls show the American people want done, it seems our brilliant elected officials always find a way to do just the opposite. What part of 'of the people, by the people, and for the people' don't they understand?"

It seems the best way to ensure prosperity in this country is to run for office, said B.L. in Michigan: "I wish like our members of Congress, I could supposedly work 80 days out of the year, vacation the rest of the year and still get a substantial raise, health benefits and a nice retirement package. If they had to eke out a living like most of us Americans, they might decide to cater to their constituents rather than the lobbyists and big corporations."

Congress has passed too many laws over the past few years contrary to the interests of the citizens they represent. One has to look no further than the bankruptcy bill, which was all but written by the credit card companies. Decisions like that led Jerry in Georgia to look forward to our elected officials leaving Washington to take another vacation: "The way I see it, Congress going home...is the equivalent of a cease-fire in the War on the Middle Class."

When our representatives are actually in session, they're constantly at odds with the will of the people. There's been no Congressional action on raising the minimum wage since 1997, and inflation has eroded wages as a result. The minimum wage in the 21st century now stands at its lowest level since 1955, according to the Economic Policy Institute and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Sean in North Carolina responded to my bringing up this issue by saying, "Lou, while I appreciate your support of an increase in the minimum wage, isn't it about time we institute a maximum wage in this country? Corporate America must be getting hernias by now from hauling away all the loot. When is enough enough?"

Daniel in Florida says, "I think the Senate pay should be directly related to the average pay of the middle class. If we go down, they go down, too."

What about the parents of our brave men and women in uniform fighting to preserve our values and freedoms? Paula in Texas said, "Lou, can you tell me why I should not be outraged to find out that my son and his fellow military personnel are receiving the lowest 2.2 percent pay raise for their efforts in Iraq, and yet the grand ol' body in Congress passes a hidden expense of $20 million for a 2007 Victory party for the successes in Afghanistan and Iraq? Now that is just an outrage. My son just returned from Iraq and I pray he doesn't have to go back. He might miss the party."

Finally, James in Idaho is thinking the unthinkable: "The middle class is a purposeful construct, a buffer keeping the poor from the throats of the rich. The continued destruction of the middle class will result in class warfare, social strife, social revolution in our country, if the trend is not reversed."

Voter turnout for this year's midterm primary elections fell to the lowest level for any midterm election in American history. I hope the working men and women and their families you watched and heard in our town hall meeting will inspire you to raise the number of votes counted on November 7.


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Lou Dobbs hopes his broadcasts will get you to the polls on November 7.

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