BREEZY POINT -- As U.S. Senate candidate Mike Ciresi sees it, Americans have an historic opportunity in this prosperous era. They can pursue their own self-interest or they can invest in the common good.
Historically, he said, Americans have chosen the latter option.
To illustrate his point to some Republicans he spoke with recently he started to describe a government program that would pay for citizens' college education and provide them low-interest loans for businesses or their first home. Ciresi could see by his audience's reaction that they figured this was another Democratic tax-and-spend scheme until he told them he was describing the GI Bill that was enacted after World War II.
That bill, in Ciresi's mind, was the "singular most successful" legislation of that era.
"It built the middle class in this country ... and that bill could not pass the Republican Congress today," he said.
This week Ciresi highlighted his own plan to make sure all Americans share in the prosperity -- his Family Security Act. The plan would take 20 percent of the non-Social Security surplus (about $400 billion over 10 years) and use it to promote savings and economic growth.
Ciresi, 54, said the very wealthy have benefited from tax cuts and the Democrats have started to help the very poor, but many people in the middle-income levels are still struggling. The 10-year plan would offer tax credits and tax-free savings accounts controlled by the individual that can be used for items such as a first home, life-long education after the age of 18, catastrophic health problems or retirement.
He would like to see 15 percent of the non-Social Security surplus go to Medicare with the balance going to such investments as health care, affordable housing and paying down the national debt.
Rural America, where 20 percent of the population lives, also must be revitalized, he said.
Ciresi, a trial lawyer for 30 years, earned a reputation as a successful litigator scoring big victories against manufacturers of an intra-uterine birth control device and against big tobacco companies. This is his first run for public office.
Although the public image of lawyers is often controversial, Ciresi said he's receiving a warm reception from Minnesotans he meets. He said he believes people don't discount him just because he's acquired wealth as an attorney.
"People admire and respect someone who has lived the American dream," he said. "You don't lose your values because you've lived the American dream."
There are less than three weeks before the Sept. 12 primary, where Democrats must choose between Ciresi; Mark Dayton; Sen. Jerry Janezich, DFL-Chisholm; Rebecca Yanisch; and four other DFL candidates.
Ciresi said he believes his legal skills as an advocate are easily transferable to a career in the Senate. He also believes he has the best chance to oust incumbent Republican Sen. Rod Grams.
"I believe I'm the only candidate who can beat him," Ciresi said.
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