Hubert Humphrey once said that "the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped."
This Labor Day and in the days leading up to the election, Republican candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, will pay lip service to America's workers and talk about their plans to strengthen the middle class. But instead of offering any serious solutions for creating jobs with benefits and wages that can support a family, Romney and Ryan have made it clear that they are planning to balance the budget on the backs of America's workers and the poor.
There is no denying that the Romney/Ryan budget plan would critically wound and significantly impact services for the middle class and those who are in the dawn, twilight and shadows of life -- including making significant cuts to K-12 education, job training and grants which help kids go to college, replacing Medicare with a voucher system that would increase health care costs for seniors and gutting Medicaid for the working poor. The only groups benefiting from the Romney/Ryan plan are the wealthiest Americans -- whose tax cuts would be permanent if Romney and Ryan have their way -- and corporations, which would receive tax breaks even as they continue to ship good middle class jobs overseas.
The Romney/Ryan plan to cut programs that help the poor and middle class will lead to fewer jobs and slow down our country's recovery from the economic downturn that President Obama inherited from the previous administration. These cuts will also cause unnecessary suffering and weaken Americans' confidence in their government at a time when many believe they will never achieve the American dream of owning a home, sending their children to college or retiring.
As the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow, it is clear that we need to stand together and demand that workers are paid what they need and deserve. Upholding the freedom of hard-working men and women to stick together to bargain for dignity and respect on the job and decent wages and benefits would strengthen America's middle class and level the playing field. Romney and Ryan and their corporate backers know this, and both candidates have challenged the very idea of a worker's right to stick together and bargain for basic rights -- including fair pay, health care and retirement benefits.
This election year, America's workers face a stark choice -- and a moral choice -- that boils down to a simple question: Do we want a leader who favors the wealthy one percent at the expense of the young, the elderly, the sick and the poor, or a leader who has given a voice to those who are too often overlooked and is fighting to create jobs and prosperity for all Americans?
Joseph T. Hansen is the president of the 1.3 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and chairperson of Change to Win. He also serves as a member of President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.