Growing up, my family moved a lot. My parents divorced when I was young, and I lived with Mom for the most part. When she got a new job, we would move. That was just how it was. Dad started working for Chevron when he was 18. He didn’t go to college, but he worked his way up to be a manager. Eventually Chevron merged with Texaco and they decided to fire all the managers who didn’t have a college degree. At 51 years, for the first time in his life, Dad had to find a new job. Now he’s into his 60’s, currently working as a safety supervisor on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, out in the hot sun every day, battling melanoma, hoping one day to be able to retire.

My story is the story of too many Tennessee families. People are working harder and longer than ever before, and still can’t manage to get ahead, let alone plan for retirement. They have seen our economy turn millionaires into billionaires while their wages have stayed the same and their benefits have gotten worse. The cost of groceries, rent and healthcare go up every year and families can’t keep up. People my age are thinking about how they can help their kids go to college and make sure their parents can live out their golden years with dignity. For a lot of us, it just isn’t possible to do both, and in many cases, to do either.

It didn’t used to be this way. For decades, the United States middle class was the envy of the world. We defined the American Dream as a family that could own a home, take vacations, and have security, all on one income. How many of us can say that today? What changed so much that these very reasonable ideals have become so hard to achieve? The answers lie in changes to policy made in Congress over time, but I think it is simpler than policy. We used to have people serving in Congress who understood the average American family because they lived in one. They came home from DC and talked to their neighbors, went to church on Sundays with their community and shopped in local businesses where they knew the owners.

While Tennesseans are working hard and playing by the rules, Washington isn’t. Our members of Congress eat in places we can’t afford where lobbyists pay the bills. They spend more time in Washington cocktail parties and making fundraising calls then they do talking to the people they represent. Instead of making decisions based on what will help their district, they listen to consultants and party leaders who only care about winning the next election or appeasing big corporate donors. Sadly, the concerns of American families doesn’t make their list of priorities.

I’m a teacher, and a mother, and I’m running for Congress to fight for a fair economy that works for everyone. An economy where families who work hard and play by the rules will get ahead. It is not impossible to restore the dignity of hard work and rebuild the strong, vibrant middle class we once had. But that can only happen if we change the way Washington works, and that means changing the type of people we send there.