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Dobbs: Populist tide has elitists running scared

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

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The midterm elections, which produced the highest voter turnout in more than two decades, resulted in not only the Democratic takeover of both the House and the Senate, but a new political reality that has some free-trade-at-all-cost Republicans writhing in pain.

The free-trade orthodoxy, made up not only of Republicans but still a sizeable number of Democrats, appears to be spouting ever-louder lies and disturbing distortions of truth and reality as their desperation over the ascension of the "Lou Dobbs Democrats" on November 7 is becoming more shrill, verging on outright panic.

To these media merchants of obfuscation and hollow meaningless language, the very idea that ideology and blind partisanship may be giving way to truth must be frightening indeed.

"Roll Call" Executive Editor Mort Kondracke in his latest column implores President Bush to vigorously defend so-called free trade against alleged protectionist Democrats. Kondracke laments, "A tide of populism, protectionism, nationalism and xenophobia is washing over the country, fueled by right-wing radio talk show hosts, CNN firebrand Lou Dobbs and legitimate concerns that U.S. workers are falling behind in the global struggle for jobs and good wages."

Will the lies and distortion ever stop? While it's encouraging that Kondracke at least acknowledges the legitimacy of concerns about American workers and their families, he disappoints by trying to dismiss those concerns as a "tide of populism, protectionism, nationalism and xenophobia."

Elitists like Kondracke dismiss calls for balanced and mutual international trade as protectionism and nationalism. He and others completely disregard the $5 trillion in trade debt that the United States has built up through 30 consecutive years of trade deficits. That trade debt is rising faster than our national debt and is simply economically unsustainable, no matter what any faith-based economist would argue. Our political, business and media elites continue to disregard reality.

Like Kondracke, those elites dismiss continuing concerns about the security of our ports and borders -- more than five years after September 11, 2001 -- as mere nationalism and xenophobia. Not a single one of them has been honest enough to admit that failure to secure our borders and ports leaves this nation unacceptably vulnerable to terrorist attack and flooded with billions of dollars of illegal drugs. How can any rational, independent thinker accept such a reality?

And in the mind of those elites, any call to curtail illegal immigration is xenophobic, even though ours is the most racially and ethnically diverse society on the planet; even though we bring in one million immigrants legally to this country every year. Without question, I am an independent populist, and as I've said before, the antonym of populism is elitism, which I reject as simply un-American.

The chairman of the elite business lobbying organization, the Business Roundtable, Terry McGraw, took issue with the newly elected "Lou Dobbs Democrats." He dismissed the controversy over the business practice of outsourcing American jobs to cheap overseas labor markets, except "in certain areas and especially in areas where manufacturing companies have been particularly affected."

Unfortunately, those affected areas are expanding, not diminishing. And one has to wonder why the effect of putting our middle class in direct competition with the cheapest labor in the world isn't as clear to them as it is to most working men and women in this country. McGraw is a capable and intelligent businessman who should know better, and so should the CEOs of the multinational corporations the Roundtable represents.

Almost a century ago, Henry Ford doubled his workers' salaries so the people on the assembly line could afford the automobiles they manufactured. Ford and his employees helped build the strongest middle class in the world. But today, American business leaders seem intent on destroying jobs and looking at their American employees as liabilities, not assets.

Bankrupt auto parts maker Delphi CEO Steve Miller said of the company's recent collapse, "We are in a market for human capital, supply and demand. If you pay too much for a particular class of employees, you go broke." Delphi was and is one of the country's most enthusiastic outsourcers of American jobs and its business model is still a disaster. As Miller was making his remarks, he was also rationalizing the outrageous salaries and retention bonuses for the same senior management that had led the company into bankruptcy.

The Bush administration continues to display its contempt for truth and honesty about America's social and economic condition, whether describing our economy as strong when half the people in this country, according to the census bureau earn less than $33,000 a year, or boosting so-called free trade by suggesting the only other policy option is economic isolationism.

This month the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that 35 million Americans who struggle to put food on their tables are categorized as people with "low food security." This administration lacks the courage and the honesty to address truth and reality: The USDA tried not to say in its report that as good and strong as this economy is, 35 million of our fellow citizens are hungry. That's right; the USDA is talking about hunger, not food security.

We can all hope that the desperate distortions and lies are really the early death throes of the partisan propaganda threatening our very way of life.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.


Lou Dobbs says the midterm elections have been painful for many proponents of free-trade




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