As anyone who has ever suffered through Lou Dobbs’ show can tell you, to see it once is to see every episode. We’ve said it before: He has the best gig on television — or anywhere for that matter — in that he does the same show night after night. Every night he serves up a daily dose of misery and mayhem wrapped around a singular theme: America is going to hell in a handbasket. Indeed, it is the darker, TV equivalent of the movie, “Groundhog Day.”
And so it was on Tuesday when Punxatawney Lou’s clock radio turned over to 6:30 a.m. that he heard the strains of Sonny and Cher singing “I Got You, Babe.” He sat up, stretched, and steeled himself for another day. For this would be no ordinary day. No, this would be the day when he gets to fold all the worst of the detritus that he has broadcast over the past year into one grim speedball, Lou Dobbs’ doppleganger State of the Union. In one hour, he pinned the needle on the misery index with a heapin’ helpin’ of mayhem. Let’s review:
“It’s difficult to imagine”, said Lou, “That President Bush tonight will address the issue of class warfare in the United State.” Right. Why would he do that? Lou’s got that base pretty well covered. His website and the AFL-CIO’s website share too many similar themes and messages. War on the middle class. We know all about the middle class. It was manufacturing that created it, birthed in our image and likeness. Some actually vanished from the middle class because their earnings reached a level that moved them up a notch. Maybe Lou would rather drop ’em down a peg — y’know, just to help the statistics look better.
He opened with author and fellow Harvard-ite Elizabeth Warren, whose grim assessments of the state of the middle class were quoted favorably by the similarly dour Presidential candidate John Kerry. She says it’s tough to make ends meet (although presumably not on a Harvard professor’s salary), seemingly ignoring the fact that folks consume much more in food, housing, cars and general electronics and goodies than they ever did before.
David Gergen, clinging to relevance, opines that there will be nothing in the President’s speech on lobbying reform. After a riff on border security (a nightly feature), Lou goes back to his panel of Ed Rollins, the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund and “Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf.” Sheinkopf opines that the President “ought to stop engaging in symbolic politics”, adding, “Americans have spent three generations now watching the work of political consultants and spin-meisters.” Lucky for Mr. Sheinkopf, no?
Somehow Lou meanders into daily topic #2, the trade deficit. He illustrates with a trip to the Silicon Valley which has, Lou says, lost 212,000 jobs since 2000. This, of course, is one of the reasons Gov. Gray Davis was thrown out of office, i.e., that California had one of the most hostile business climates in the country. Companies have left in droves because of their onerous tax, environmental and legal climate. Oh, nevermind. He veers into the daily cheap shot at China, with backup fellow johnny-one-note and Lou regular Alan Tonelson. Trade is bad, trade agreements are bad. Does anybody want to point out that trade agreements open markets and that 90% of our trade deficit is with countries with which we have no trade agreement? Oh, what’s the point?
He makes a quick point on the need for socialized medicine, quoting noted health care expert, Rep. Dennis Kunicinich. God help us all. Everyone ignores the elephant in the room, i.e., that countries with socialized medicine also have rationing. A point worth considering, at least, but hey — why wreck a good buzz?
Finally, Lou returns to familiar turf with another grim look at trade and another shot at NAFTA. That’s right, there are still people fighting the NAFTA battle, in spite of the fact that we added some 300,000 auto jobs in this country in the years after NAFTA passed. Heck, even Al Gore agrees. Lou poses as his litmus poor Hertford, North Carolina, home of the hard-hit and celebrated Pillowtex plant. Had he picked San Antonio, Texas, his snapshot would have gone from dark to sunny. It’s all in what you measure. No matter, in Lou Dobbs’ America, all the store fronts are boarded, stomachs growl and every house needs a coat of paint. Wait — it’s Potterville!
John Fund, for his part, tries valiantly at the end to make the point that things ain’t all that bad. “I would remind you that the unemployment rate is 4.9%”, says Fund. “There’s a lot that’s right in this economy.” Off with his head.
At the end of the day, if Lou cared about trade, about the state of manufacturing in this country, he would have a laser focus on opening new markets for American goods and on lowering the (non-wage) cost of doing business in this country. Our manufacturers face the highest natural gas prices in the world, the highest legal costs in the world, among the highest corporate tax burdens in the world. Jobs left California because there were other states and countries that would provide a friendlier climate for business. We are in a global competition for jobs and it ain’t based on wages, either. If it were, Haiti would be an international powerhouse. Sadly, it is not. But we get the sense that Lou may be more interested in bolstering his sagging ratings than in solutions. The President, to his credit, proposed some things in his speech that will begin to boost American competitiveness. We applaud these initiatives and will continue to work to make sure that we are the best, most productive manufacturers in the world.
As for Lou, all we can say is “Happy Groundhog Day!” We’re good for another year. We watch so you don’t have to.
for more on this series, visit: www.dobbswatch.com
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