Government

Presidential hopeful Andrew Yang pitches 'Freedom Dividend'

Yang would tax industry automation to fund base income

Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang (from left) on Monday high-fives Hunter Staszak, a junior at the University
Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang (from left) on Monday high-fives Hunter Staszak, a junior at the University of Iowa, as he talks with UI Democrats before an event at the Iowa Memorial Union. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Automation has led to the loss of about 4 million manufacturing jobs in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Iowa and that job loss has a direct correlation to voting patterns, according to Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang.

“Those are the states that went from blue to red and enabled Donald Trump to win” the 2016 presidential election, the New York entrepreneur told University of Iowa Democrats on Monday evening. “The more we automate away manufacturing jobs in a congressional district, the more red it becomes.”

Yang, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, told about two dozen students that in the next 12 years a third of American workers will be at risk of losing their jobs to technologies like robots and artificial intelligence.

And he warned them not to depend on Washington for a solution.

Yang said when he took his concerns to senior Democratic officials, they either didn’t want to talk about them or called for more study and expanding government training programs for displaced workers.

So Yang’s platform addresses what he sees as the “greatest economic and technological transformation in the history of the world.”

At the core of his solution to massive job displacement is his Universal Basic Income that would guarantee every citizen age 18 to 64 a minimum income of $1,000 a month tax-free without passing a means test or being required to work. He’s rebranded it as the Freedom Dividend “because it tested better.”

Yang said he’d pay for it with an automation tax, similar to value-added taxes levied by European governments.

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A plan nearly identical to Yang’s passed the U.S. House in 1971 during the Nixon administration, but Democrats stalled it in the Senate. It’s similar to the oil dividend Alaska residents receive.

“What is the oil of the 21st century?” he asked. “Automation.”

According to Yang, his plan would create 4.6 million jobs and grow the economy $2.5 trillion.

Yang concedes his plan is a radical change from current economic and social policy. That’s why he’s trying to win the support of Iowans who are “superpowered relative to other Americans” because of the first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses.

“You all are worth 2,000 and New Yorkers are worth .001,” he joked.

In a crowded 2020 Democratic campaign, he predicted it will take between 30,000 and 40,000 caucusgoers — about the same number as the jobs Iowans have lost to automation — for him to win the caucuses.

Yang also favors “Medicare for All,” moving toward 100 percent renewable energy and reducing student debt by controlling college costs and allowing students to have their debt forgiven if they pay 10 percent of their salary for 10 years after graduation.

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

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