Lou Dobbs’s hour-long special “War on the Middle Class” should have been titled “Vote for Bigger Government This Election Year.”
With barely an attempt at journalistic objectivity, against the backdrop "America Votes 2006," the October 18 special painted a teary-eyed picture of a suffering middle class and placed blame squarely on the shoulders of those currently in power.
“We begin tonight with the complete failure of Congress to represent the interests of the largest group of constituents in the country: middle class Americans,” Dobbs said.
He insisted that “Republicans and Democrats alike have been putting their own partisan interests ahead of the concerns of working American families,” but over the course of the next hour he pressed for left-wing, big-government solutions that liberal Democrats tend to favor.
Reporter John King took over, touting the upcoming election and featuring Claire McCaskill, a Democratic Senate candidate in Missouri, and Sen. Jim Talent, the Republican incumbent.
After McCaskill spoke, Democrat talking points filled the screen. The graphic included items such as raising the minimum wage and “affordable health care.”
But these Democratic action items match the talking points Dobbs regularly pushes on his daily “Lou Dobbs Tonight” program and in his book, “War on the Middle Class.”
In October 17’s “Lou Dobbs Commentary” on CNN.com, Dobbs wrote: “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.”
On page 173 of his book, Dobbs wrote, “Health care – and the ability to afford it – is something we used to take for granted. Now it is so expensive that even our biggest companies are trying to get out of providing basic coverage to their employees,” and “The United States is one of the only industrialized nations that doesn’t provide health care to all its citizens…”
Another theme underpinning Dobbs’ special was that America’s best days are long behind us.
Thanking the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, Mo., for hosting his event as he opened the program, Dobbs waxed nostalgic about the how the theater “was built almost 80 years ago” in a working class community “to make plays, films, and shows accessible to working people, not just the rich and privileged,” making the Uptown “an appropriate venue for our town hall meeting tonight.”
But with his suggestion that America is worse off now than it was on the eve of the Great Depression, he failed to account for the advances in wealth, standard of living and access to medical care Americans now enjoy that were unimaginable in 1928 when the Uptown opened.
“At one time in this country, having a good-paying job and health insurance meant you were a member in good standing of the middle class; that’s not so any more,” Dobbs insisted as he introduced the story of the Curtis family, a union household in the state of Washington facing bankruptcy as they sought to pay for their infant son’s numerous surgeries.
While reporter Katharine Barrett focused on how father Lendell Curtis’s health insurance wasn’t enough to pay for the surgeries, she failed to mention that a child with numerous birth defects would have been unlikely to survive years ago, regardless of the income and resources of the parents.
Grace-Marie Turner, president of the free-market health policy group The Galen Institute, criticized Dobbs for presenting an “exceptional” case as “an example of overall failings” in the health care system.
Turner told the Business & Media Institute that a focus on insurance to pay for routine care has “sort of turned health insurance upside down,” leaving health care consumers less prepared for the catastrophic situations for which insurance is designed.
“We have insurance for exceptional costs” for property and fire damage, automobiles, and life and dismemberment, but “we don’t think of health insurance in that way,” she said, which leads to high costs for routine care paid by insurance pools. Turner added that health savings accounts coupled with catastrophic insurance for major surgeries or cancer treatment would be a wise alternative for many consumers.
Neither Dobbs, nor Barrett, nor any of the program’s guest panelists criticized government for failing to adopt market-driven reforms to improve health care. Yet joining the Curtis family in the audience was Ron Pollack, executive director of the liberal Families USA advocacy group, whom Dobbs called “part of the solution.” In 1994, Pollack unsuccessfully lobbied for President Clinton’s plan to nationalize health care.