Americans are innovators, risk-takers and, above all, hardworking. I learned that lesson early on, watching my mom pursue her teaching degree while raising our family, and later during the past 20 years of my own career in business. Growing up in a trailer park, my siblings and I faced our share of challenges. But we never doubted we had a fair shot at creating better lives. I’m worried that now, for too many families, a fair shot at the middle class is slipping away.

Thanks to reasonable tuition, student loans and part-time jobs, I went to college and chased my own American dream. After graduating, I spent two decades helping grow medical-technology companies — most recently as an executive at Minnesota-based St. Jude Medical.

I’m running for Congress because we need representatives who will work hard — and work together — to ensure that all families benefit from our growing, 21st-century economy.

Twenty years in the business community taught me that we can’t succeed if we don’t invest in, and feel secure about, our future. That’s why I will focus on policies that encourage both the public and private sectors to better prepare our future workforce, improve our transportation and energy infrastructures, and ensure that Americans can count on a secure, dignified retirement.

Our future economic growth depends on higher education that’s more available and more affordable, whether it’s tech school, a university, community college or apprenticeship training.

Any serious discussion about the future of our middle class must address student debt. More than 70 percent of Minnesota’s college graduates used some form of debt. The average price tag? $31,579. This keeps young people from buying homes and saving for retirement.

Some of the solution lies with Congress — we need to expand Pell Grants and allow people to refinance college debt. The private sector also has a responsibility to contribute to the benefits it receives from an educated workforce.

More employers are offering a new benefit: student-loan reimbursement. This should be more common, as should efforts to help people earn money while they train for a technical job, either right out of high school or as a career change.

I know what it’s like to be in a family that feels trapped by low skills without the means to pay for an education that would be key to advancing. That’s precisely why I’m so focused on public-private partnerships that help bridge the skills gap. Take, for instance, some of the work going on right here in the Second District.

General Motors created a model partnership with Dakota County Technical College, where high-skilled automotive technicians are trained for available good-paying jobs. While I was at St. Jude, I spearheaded internal programs to help veterans and women move into new careers and leadership roles.

Congress can help more companies do right by their employees. We should incentivize student-loan reimbursement with tax credits and encourage GM/Dakota-style partnerships that train people for the good-paying technical and trade jobs so many companies say they can’t fill.

Our transportation and energy infrastructure is outdated, and we’re falling behind the rest of the world. Taxpayers can’t be expected to pay for years of neglect all at once, though. We should carefully target tax dollars to rebuilding roads, bridges, and an energy future — prioritizing investments that give us a competitive edge with the rest of the world.

Finally, we must make good on one of America’s most basic bargains: If you work hard your entire life and play by the rules, you deserve a secure retirement. Unfortunately, Social Security benefits have not kept up with inflation, and the size of our aging population puts Medicare on shaky footing.

Some politicians, like my opponent Jason Lewis, want to cement this trend into law by raising the retirement age for Social Security and advocating for policies that would gut programs seniors depend on. I oppose any cuts to Social Security or Medicare, and I’ll work tirelessly to reduce the burdensome cost of prescription drugs.

I’ll bring a solutions-oriented, pragmatic approach to Congress, just like I did as an executive at St. Jude. My opponent believes “gridlock is a good thing” and says compromises make him “nervous.” That‘s why Washington is broken. Reasonable people from both parties should be able to compromise and recognize that a good idea is a good idea no matter whose party generates it. If you send me to Congress, I’ll work across the aisle to help Minnesota businesses thrive and empower hardworking families to get ahead and stay ahead.

 

Angie Craig is the Democratic candidate for U.S. House in the Second Congressional District.