The Capital Times invited candidates in statewide races and races in the Dane County and adjacent area to make their cases to voters as to why they should be elected Nov. 8. The first columns we are running are by the candidates vying for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Ron Johnson. Libertarian Phil Anderson's column ran Oct. 12, Democrat Russ Feingold's Oct. 13, and Republican Ron Johnson's today, Oct. 14.

It’s time to rethink our approach to helping people in need and local communities that are struggling. Wisconsin is full of good people who are giving everything they have to succeed, but who have been let down by failed government policies and regulations that hamper job creation and economic opportunity.

Hardworking Wisconsinites deserve better and I’m committed to fighting for them. I not only support working men and women — I am a working man. I started off working for minimum wage as a dishwasher at a Walgreens grill making $1.45/hour. I worked my way through college and then helped start a manufacturing company in Oshkosh, where I did everything from operating the machines on the shop floor to managing the books.

That real-world experience taught me that the No. 1 component of the solution is economic growth. A strong and robust economy will create jobs, raise wages, and increase opportunity for working men and women. I’m also using the lessons I learned in the private sector on finding areas of agreement and using a problem-solver’s approach to help create more opportunity for people and local communities that are struggling.

Unfortunately, government programs and policies are failing those in need. Look at our war against poverty. We spend around $1 trillion a year on dozens of programs, but what progress do we have to show for it? Since President Lyndon Johnson declared the War on Poverty in the 1960s, the poverty rate has remained virtually unchanged — hovering around 14 percent. I don’t think anyone would call that a success.

Government can’t be the solution to every problem we face. Instead, we need to look to local leaders who best know the challenges facing their own communities and the potential of their citizens.

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It’s why I’ve worked with Pastor Jerome Smith of the Greater Praise Church of God in Christ in Milwaukee to start the Joseph Project — an initiative that provides people in inner-city Milwaukee with soft skills and interview training, and then connects them with employers. It’s a locally based solution that’s breaking the cycles of poverty by helping one person at a time. Because of the dedication of Pastor Smith and others in the community willing to help out their neighbors, the Joseph Project has become an undoubted success, and is now coming to Madison.

That same type of innovation also holds the key to curing diseases and can literally be the difference between life and death. It’s why I’ve sponsored Right to Try legislation to give terminally ill patients the right to try experimental treatments that might save their life. My bill, the Tricket Wendler Right to Try Act — named after a Waukesha-area woman who died of ALS — would give Americans renewed hope in their fight to defeat disease and illness. When it comes to saving lives, government shouldn’t stand in our way — it should be our ally.

I’ve also teamed up with Sen. Cory Booker to introduce “Ban the Box” legislation to help formerly incarcerated people find a job after leaving prison. Our bipartisan bill would prohibit federal contractors and agencies from asking about someone’s criminal background until they receive a formal job offer. Not having to check a box on a job application about a past felony conviction will help people turn their lives around. We need to embrace the dignity of work to keep people from falling back into a life of crime, and instead help them become productive members of society.

There is so much we can do to help out our local families and communities, and these issues are just a few of the ways I’m working every day to make a difference. By continuing to use a problem-solver’s approach, I’ll remain committed to creating stronger economic growth and opportunity, and providing hope for people looking to turn their lives around.

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