OPINION: We can do a lot better than what we’re getting from Ann Wagner; we can’t give up

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Voting against affordable healthcare. Voting against benefits for veterans. Voting against democracy. Voting against infrastructure. Voting with working families only nine percent of the time.

It’s what we’ve come to expect from Congresswoman Ann Wagner during her 30 years in Republican politics. I think that we can do a lot better.

I’m running for Congress in Missouri’s Second Congressional District because, despite the real challenges that we face as a region—affordability, population loss, violence, and more—and despite a political environment that’s more divisive and more hateful than anything we’ve seen in generations, we cannot give up. We have to find ways to work together to help workers and families across the state, across the region, and across the country.

KEY ISSUES
Here are some of the key issues that I am focused on.

We have to protect our democracy. Part of that is making sure that we defend the right to vote and restore faith in our elections, but we also need to keep our elected officials from subverting the will of the people.

The Missouri Legislature is still trying to push anti-labor (so-called) “right-to-work” legislation that Missourians soundly rejected in 2018. And they’re trying to make it harder for citizens to participate in democracy by curtailing our ability as voters to amend Missouri’s Constitution through ballot measures—exactly how we defeated “right-to-work” and expanded Medicaid.

We cannot let that happen; despite resounding victories in the past, we cannot let our guard down.

We have to push for better jobs and better wages in the St. Louis area. Anyone working a full-time job in the United States shouldn’t be living below the poverty line. In the St. Louis area, that means working toward a $15 minimum wage. As groceries and transportation have become more expensive, this is more important than ever.

PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE
Both of my grandfathers worked in the shoe business in St. Louis—back in our “first in booze, first in shoes, and last in the American League” days, and for a few decades after that. I’m a sixth-generation Missourian; I know that many of the jobs that my grandparents or great- or great-great grandparents worked here aren’t coming back.

But hundreds of thousands of Missourians still work in manufacturing, and we have to make sure we protect the rights of those workers—to protect their right to unionize and collective bargain and to protect health care access, for starters—and that we are preparing our workforce for the jobs of the future.

Working with our high schools, trade schools, and community colleges, we have to make sure our workforce is prepared for the jobs of the future—developing advanced microchips, and technical and IT services that have become critical in construction, the service industry, and manufacturing, for instance.

POISED TO BE A LEADER
Professionally, I’ve spent part of my career working on transportation infrastructure and in addressing climate change. I know how important a well-trained, well-compensated workforce is in building out safe and long-lasting infrastructure.

I also know that we can address climate change and make transportation more affordable through investments in electric vehicles, charging infrastructure, and broadband internet.

The St. Louis area is well poised to be a leader in electric vehicles and in bold investments in our nation’s infrastructure. We can, and must, advance toward a modern economy while creating good-paying jobs that allow working Missourians to support themselves and their families.

I’ve been part of that work firsthand. We just need leaders who want us to get there, rather than politicians committed to holding us back.

There is a lot to be pessimistic about in the world right now. But we cannot let ourselves think that way; there is too much at stake. Join me in being optimistic—persistent and strategic, but optimistic—about a future here that means better jobs, a better treatment for workers and working families, and less divineness and hate in our politics.

(Ben Samuels is running for U.S. Congress in Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District. You can learn more about Ben and his campaign on his website: https://samuelsforcongress.com/.)

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