Mitt Romney needs to meet Richard Hayes. Mr. Hayes is a city of San Diego sanitation worker. His route includes the street in La Jolla, where Mitt Romney owns a $12 million oceanfront mansion. This is the house where he's putting in an elevator for his cars.
Mitt Romney's "47 percent" videotape revealed his contempt for tens of millions of Americans. He insulted seniors receiving financial and medical support through the Social Security and Medicare programs they paid for during their working lives, veterans accepting medical care at Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics, and students getting a start on a promising future through the help of Pell Grants and government backed student loans. "I'll never convince them," Romney said. "They should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
No one forced Romney to trash these Americans. He was simply stating, to a privileged audience behind closed doors, what he really believes. He never expected that his remarks would be heard by the wider public.
But we should not be surprised that Romney holds these views about half of the American population. Throughout his career, he has regularly attacked the aspirations of working Americans. From his days as a vulture capitalist outsourcing jobs to China to his campaigns for higher office in Massachusetts and nationally, he has always focused his attention on the top 1 percent, Wall Street and the wealthy corporations whose taxes he wants to cut.
As he made hundreds of millions of dollars, he sent American jobs overseas, ended the retirement security of workers at the companies he "harvested," and destroyed the chance of countless families to realize the American Dream. Now, he rails against the unions that working men and women join to give them a voice on the job and a chance at a better life. He wants to privatize public services that middle-class and working Americans rely upon in every community in this country. He wants to turn those services over to his corporate cronies who can turn them into profit centers where workers will be left with low-paying jobs, no benefits and no hope for entry into the middle class.
Richard Hayes gets to work at 6 a.m. each morning to keep that neighborhood beautiful. He works a second job late in the day. He is just one of the many workers who Mitt Romney doesn't see and doesn't respect who are toiling long and hard in his community to provide vital public services.
Mr. Hayes is featured in a new video AFSCME has produced to spotlight public service workers. The video - one of three being released - underscores Romney's arrogant dismissal of nearly half of all Americans and his agenda to cut and privatize public services. It's an agenda that would be a disaster for America's seniors, veterans, students and those out of work or struggling, like Richard Hayes, to get by in today's economy.
Romney seems only to be relaxed and at ease when he is surrounded by other millionaires and people willing to pay $50,000 to share a meal with him. And it is only those wealthy donors who get to know what is really on his mind. They spend more money than most Americans make in a year to ask Mitt Romney questions and listen to his reckless banter about Americans like Richard Hayes.
Now, as his poll numbers crater, Romney says he cares about working men and women. He says he has plans to help the long-term unemployed, our nation's heroic veterans and the poor, the sick and the frail. We should not be fooled by his late-in-the-game change of heart.
Romney's made clear what he really believes:
"I like to be able to fire people who provide services."
"Corporations are people, my friend."
"I wish we weren't unionized so we could go a lot deeper [laying off public employees] than you're actually allowed to go."
Consistently, he puts corporate interests over human interests and the accumulation of wealth over respect for working men and women.
It's the exact opposite of the attitude expressed so eloquently by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the night before he was felled by an assassin's bullet in Memphis.
"So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs," Dr. King told the striking sanitation workers who were members of AFSCME Local 1733. "But let me say to you tonight that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity and it has worth. All labor has dignity."
November's elections provide us with a choice. Will we be an America that shares the all-embracing values of Martin Luther King, Jr.? Or will we be a nation that rewards the greed and indifference of Mitt Romney? If you care about workers like Richard Hayes, the choice will be clear.
Follow Lee A. Saunders on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AFSCME