Ruben  Navarrette Jr.,

The U.S. Census divides income levels into fifths and puts the top income bracket at families earning more than $150,000 per year. The folks in the bottom 20 percent make up the working poor. The people in between -- families making between $26,000 and $150,000 per year -- loosely comprise the middle class, the folks against whom war is supposedly being waged.

The people who gathered in Kansas City last week for a CNN special hosted by Dobbs sure seemed embattled. It resembled one of those Democratic town halls during the run-up to the New Hampshire primary where people spill out their problems and then demand to know what government is going to do to solve them.

Dobbs does get some things right. I've argued with him in the past over what I contend is the diminished work ethic of Americans today, especially the young. Now he is coming around. He writes: "There was a time when Americans respected work, no matter how menial, no matter how low the pay, whether it was digging a ditch, picking strawberries, cleaning restrooms, or collecting garbage. I'm afraid there's too much evidence that this is no longer the case."

Say, Lou, I know where you can find people who still respect that kind of work. They're coming across the border, and they're not blaming anyone for their plight. They're just working like mad and doing without many of life's comforts to improve it. And, all the while, they're maintaining their optimism.

Maybe Dobbs ought to think about whether there isn't a connection between this lost appetite for labor and the economic anxiety that some Americans are feeling. And maybe Americans who are struggling should try making different choices, doing without some comforts, and taking responsibility for improving their lot instead of waiting for government or corporations to do it for them.

Or, if they prefer, the folks in that other America can just throw in the towel and keep blaming the well-off, and those who aspire to be well-off, for the fact that others aren't doing as well as they would like.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.,

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a columnist and editorial board member of The San Diego Union-Tribune.

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