Ciresi remarks he would use Senate seat to give the nation's middle class a boost
WILLMAR -- When Mike Ciresi grew up, the rules were simple -- play by the rules, work hard, and you'll do better than your parents. "That promise has been eroded over the last seven years," Ciresi, a candidate for U.S. Senate, said Wednesday. Cir...
WILLMAR -- When Mike Ciresi grew up, the rules were simple -- play by the rules, work hard, and you'll do better than your parents.
"That promise has been eroded over the last seven years," Ciresi, a candidate for U.S. Senate, said Wednesday.
Ciresi, 61, is seeking the Democratic endorsement to run against Republican Sen. Norm Coleman next year.
Ciresi is probably best known for negotiating a $6 billion settlement in the state's lawsuit against tobacco companies in 1998. His most well-known Democratic opponent is comedian and author Al Franken.
Ciresi stopped in Willmar during a campaign swing through central and western Minnesota this week.
A cornerstone of his campaign is his belief that the federal government needs to pay attention to the needs and the potential of the country's middle class.
Access to health care and education has become difficult and expensive for many people, he said, and that can limit what they can achieve in life.
Many young people leave college with so much debt that it's "a mortgage without a house," he said. Ciresi would increase grants for qualifying students, and he proposed a 21st Century Education Fund, which would provide government guarantees to lower interest rates.
Education is one of the major issues people talk to him about, he said, but the top issue is the war in Iraq.
It's his belief that the war has made the country less safe and further destabilized the Middle East, Ciresi said, and the country has paid a huge price in human and financial terms.
He proposes a "surge in diplomacy" in the Middle East, including a U.N.-sponsored regional peace conference. He also favors a planned redeployment of troops and a renewed emphasis on training Iraqi troops "so they can fight their own civil war." U.S. troops would then be redeployed to the borders of Iraq to prevent infiltration, he said.
Lots of people want to talk about immigration, too, Ciresi said. He thought a compromise proposed last spring might be something the public could support, "but people started playing politics with it," he said.
He proposes a three-part plan. The first and most crucial is to secure the country's borders. More than building a fence, he said, he would increase Border Patrol numbers and training.
Once people are assured that the borders are secure, significant bilateral discussions with Mexican authorities should be the next step, followed by a "realistic guest worker program."
It isn't possible or practical to try to send all the undocumented people in their country back to their home countries, he said. "We need to find a way for them to earn citizenship over a long period of time," he said.
Ciresi's ideas are ambitious. He acknowledged that implementing them would require a strongly Democratic Congress and a Democrat in the White House.
He's confident that will happen in 2008.
"I'm tired of politics as usual, and most folks I talk to feel the same," he said.
To raise the money for his ideas, he said, he'd revamp the federal tax code. He would reduce incentives paid to oil companies and shift them to companies developing alternative energy.
He'd tighten laws that allow corporations to avoid paying taxes by using offshore accounts. He would also repeal tax cuts given to the wealthiest Americans in recent years.
Ciresi called it "redirecting tax policy to favor the middle class."
Campaigning more than a year before the election is "more than strange," he said. When he ran for Senate in 2000, he announced about a year before the election. This time, he announced nearly a year and a half before the election.
Franken's early entry into the race led Ciresi's advisers to urge him into the race earlier than he would have liked, Ciresi said. People who are likely to attend precinct caucuses next winter are paying some attention at this point, but many voters aren't, he said.