We will need to decide whether we’ll be there for people like Linda Wright, a school bus driver in Tukwila, Wash., who cares for her paralyzed mother-in-law. Like many Americans, Linda knows firsthand the human cost of cuts to Medicare, which is no less than a lifeline for her mother. If lawmakers slash Medicare or hike prescription drug costs, Linda’s family will struggle to make up the difference, and Linda’s already teetering middle class existence will come to an end.
If there is anything I learned on the road talking to some of the 100,000 SEIU member volunteers this election, it’s that working people believe we should all work hard and take care of our families – just like Linda. Working people also believe that when our neighbors need our help, they shouldn’t be on their own. They reject a country where government has no role in solving our nation’s biggest problems. They reject the vision of a country that gives business free rein to ship jobs overseas and game the tax code, where the sick and the poor fend for themselves, and the middle class take a backseat to the rich. Instead, time and again, I heard people talk about a vision of an America built on hope and shared prosperity.
After the election, we can count on conservatives to once again hone in on the nation’s debt – not the dwindling middle class, stagnating wages, or the growing gap between the rich and everyone else – as the real problem. They will intensify their call for deep, job-killing spending cuts and more tax breaks for the rich as the solution to virtually everything, despite predictions by economists and plain history that show the contrary.
The reality is that we cannot slash our way to prosperity, but we can thrive again by investing in America -- and each other. After a season dominated by political scientists and pundits, we must remember elections are about real people who have a stake in the outcome. This is crystal clear every time I talk to voters in cities such as Milwaukee, Toledo and Las Vegas, whose first priority is supporting their families, not following the political horse race.
The real winners or losers on Nov. 6 will be working people, who will be affected not only by the outcome of the election, but in the governing and legislation that will follow. Will working people win with lawmakers who will choose to invest in America, create jobs and grow our economy? Or will working people lose when the rich are let off the hook while Medicare, Medicaid and Head Start are cut, leaving seniors, people with disabilities and children hanging in the balance?
These are the choices we must make even after the campaign stops have ended, the stump speeches are over, and the endless commercials stop running. It’s time for lawmakers to listen to voters this election and ensure that working people are the winners – hands down – now and in the future.
Henry is president of SEIU, Service Employees International Union.