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Middle-class woes? A letter to Lou Dobbs.

America's trade deficit is evidence of its economic vigor and promise, not a cause for concern.

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Dear Mr. Dobbs, Congratulations on having a large new bloc of voters bear your name! Politicians ignore the "Lou Dobbs Democrats" at their peril.

Every night on CNN you claim to speak for these people. They are America's middle class: decent folks who work hard and play by the rules but who, you insist, are abused by the powerful elite. Free trade is one of the policies allegedly supported by the elite and for which you reserve special vitriol. You thunder that imports destroy American jobs, reduce wages, and make the economy perilously "unbalanced."

But you are mistaken.

First, some basic facts about the state of middle-class Americans. The US unemployment rate now is at a healthy 4.5 percent. This rate is lower than the average annual unemployment rate for the 1970s (6.2 percent), the 1980s (7.3 percent), and even the high-growth 1990s (5.6 percent). Inflation, meanwhile, is running below the average for the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Here's more good news for ordinary Americans. The percentage of Americans who own their own homes is higher than ever, even though the size of today's typical home is larger than ever. Workers' leisure time, too, is at historically high levels. And jobs are just as secure today as they were in the late 1960s, according to a research paper by University of California-Davis economist Ann Huff Stevens.

Perhaps you think that this prosperity exists only because so many of today's households require two income earners. But women started leaving homes for paid employment at least a century ago, with no jump since the end of World War II in the rate at which women enter the workforce, according to a recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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