Today's question: What policies would you support to stimulate economic growth?
For more than a century, Philadelphia was known as the Workshop of the World. Our workers wove textiles and built ships for the nation, and in doing so were able to provide for their families and get a foothold in the American economy.
When I was growing up, working parents like my own - a police officer and a restaurant hostess - were also able to put food on the table, send their kids to school, and maybe even spend a week down the Shore in the summer.
For too many people across Pennsylvania today, though, that sounds like a fantasy. Every day in Scranton, Pittsburgh, or right here in Philadelphia, I meet with hardworking people who remind me of my own parents: moms, dads, grandparents, and children who put in the hours every day. But their hard-earned dollars just don't go as far as they once did and no matter how hard they work, they still find themselves coming up short.
Not only is this a terribly troubling new status quo, it is also tears at the fabric of our society, undermining the basic bargain America is built upon: When you work hard, you can get ahead. And that's why I'm running for Senate - because I know that our nation is strongest when our middle class is strong and working people can look their kids in the eye and honestly say: "Honey, I got you."
In the Senate, I would start at square one, by supporting federal initiatives to reinvest in high-quality public education from pre-K onward. Time and again, studies have shown that good schools help our communities thrive and prepare our students to pursue higher education - whether that means four-year college, community college, or a hands-on apprenticeship.
With scholarships and loans I was able to afford to attend St. Joe's and study chemistry. Some of my brothers pursued a different path and built good lives as welders, heavy-equipment operators, and as a printer. I want to make it so every young person has the opportunities my siblings and I had. That means tackling the excessive cost of college and bringing back good training and apprenticeship programs.
Here's what we can do to take on costs: Cut interest rates on federal student loans, let families refinance loan debts they already have, expand middle-class tax credits for college, and protect critical financial-aid programs like Pell Grants.
There is good news with respect to skilled jobs: Employers across the state have told me they are ready to hire, and the jobs pay well. So let's encourage people by showing them there is a future in the trades and manufacturing and expand opportunities for training by partnering with community colleges, labor unions, and potential employers.
While we are making strides in education, there are steps we can take today, right now, to help create new jobs.
Let's get moving on a major infrastructure initiative, because we know we need to: Pennsylvania recently earned a C-minus on the American Society of Civil Engineers' infrastructure report card. Crumbling infrastructure is an economic and public safety problem - but it is also an opportunity to create hundreds of good-paying jobs.
By building strong, resilient roads and bridges, modernizing our public transit systems, and developing an innovative clean-energy grid, we can put people to work in good-paying construction jobs and strengthen our entire economy, while taking on critical issues like climate change.
More broadly, we need to get going in boosting wages across the board. Service jobs should be family-sustaining jobs, too. I've met so many hardworking people across this commonwealth, and we should honor and reward their strong work ethic with decent wages and benefits.
That means finally raising our minimum wage to a real living wage and standing with working parents by supporting efforts to expand access to quality, affordable child care, and ensuring workers have paid sick days and family leave.
And it is past time for us to act on equal pay for equal work. It is unacceptable that women earn only 79 cents for every dollar earned by a man in an equivalent position. And let's be clear: This is more than just a "women's issue." In 2012 alone, if women had been paid equally to men, it would have added $448 billion to our national economy. This is a key family issue - women have a right to be paid equally and families need it.
We can end this disparity once and for all by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would increase accountability and allow women to advocate for themselves in the workplace without fear of punishment or retaliation.
These simple, commonsense policies can spur our economy by putting dollars in the pockets of families who have had to make too many difficult and painful choices about how to make ends meet. They will restore the sense of faith that middle-class and working families like mine felt - knowing that if they worked hard they would be able to get ahead. By making sure that all Pennsylvanians have access to good schools, good jobs, and decent pay, we can build a strong, inclusive economy that truly works for everyone.