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Andrew Yang: It's time to rewrite the rules of this economy

Democratic presidential hopeful says 2020 campaign is about moving beyond ideas of the past

Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang addresses the crowd during a campaign rally Saturday at the Englert Theatre
Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang addresses the crowd during a campaign rally Saturday at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City. (David Harmantas/Freelance)

If he’s successful, Andrew Yang will be the third-youngest person to become president of the United States.

His age, 45, and his experience as an entrepreneur in the tech sector — and lack of experience in politics — give him a perspective on the campaign and the presidency unlike his rivals for support in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.

The 2020 election “is about an opportunity for us to actually catch up to the real problems of 2020 and move our country forward,” Yang said during a weekend interview. “We need to solve the problems of today and tomorrow instead of constantly talking about ideas that have been around for decades.”

Like other presidential hopefuls, Yang talks about health care, education and the Green New Deal, for example. He also talks about how technology, automation and artificial intelligence have changed and will continue to change job opportunities and the economy from rural Iowa to major metropolitan areas.

“I’m telling people that we need to turn things around so that they work for us and our families” instead only the largest, most profitable corporations, said Yang, who on Saturday had town hall meetings in Iowa City and Marion.

At the heart of Yang’s agenda is his Freedom Dividend, a universal basic income of $1,000 per month for every American adult over the age of 18. In a time when Iowa has lost 40,000 manufacturing jobs and many common jobs, such as retail clerk and truck driver, are disappearing, he is proposing a “a “trickle-up economy” that puts individuals, families and communities first.

Yang, who studied economics and law at Brown and Columbia universities before launching a dot.com and working at a series of start-ups, predicted that in the next 12 years, one out of three Americans will be in danger of losing their job to new technologies, automation and artificial intelligence. Unlike previous industrial revolutions, the new jobs will not be created quickly enough or in large enough numbers to offset those losses.

His Freedom Dividend would be expensive, “but I would say we’re already paying for it,” Yang said. “Companies like Facebook, and Amazon and Google are selling and reselling our data for billions of dollars a year, and we’re not seeing a dime.”

After talking to thousands of Iowans, Yang has yet to find anyone who says it is appropriate for a trillion-dollar tech company like Amazon to pay less in taxes than they pay.

“If we get the people of Iowa your fair share of every Amazon sale, every Google search, every Facebook ad, and eventually every robot truck mile and artificial intelligence work unit, we can easily afford $1,000 dividend for everyone here in the state,” he said.

“And that if you put this money into our hands, it’s going to go right back into our local economies to car repairs and day care expenses and Little League signups as well as local nonprofits and religious organizations,” he said.

Yang, who was making his 25th campaign trip to Iowa, said the campaign is “very invigorating and inspiring because we’re in the homestretch and the people here in Iowa are trying to figure out who they’re going to support, whose vision they’re going to take the rest of the country.”

Although the time away from his wife, Evelyn, and their two sons is difficult, Yang is having fun campaigning and thinks Iowans who attend his events are having fun, too.

“There’s a lot of joy to this campaign,” Yang said. “If I can’t have a blast trying to make my country a better place, and having millions of Americans get excited about that vision, then frankly, I would think I was doing something wrong. It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity for us all to actually rewrite the rules of this economy to work for us and our families.

“That’s what the Iowans I talk to are eager about — trying to actually move the entire country to 2020 and solve the problems of the 21st century rather than continue to look backward,” Yang said.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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