Government

Iowans have chance to 'retake our government,' Andrew Yang says

Democrat's Monticello event draws attendees interested in 'freedom dividend'

Andrew Yang speaks at a campaign event Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, at The Jitney in Monticello. A crowd of about 100 people tu
Andrew Yang speaks at a campaign event Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, at The Jitney in Monticello. A crowd of about 100 people turned up to hear the Democratic presidential hopeful’s thoughts on economics, including his “freedom dividend,” or universal basic income. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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MONTICELLO — When Andrew Yang asked Washington politicians about the job-killing impact of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” they told him nothing would happen in Washington unless he created a wave of popular support they couldn’t ignore.

“You may not know it, but you are that wave,” Yang told about 100 people Monday afternoon at The Jitney, a Monticello wine bar. “You have to help us rewrite the rules of the 21st century to work for you, your families, your town, your community.

“This is our chance to retake our government,” he said.

Most Americans think their government is controlled by millions of dollars from corporate lobbyists, “and they are generally correct,” Yang said.

“You are the only people in the country who can do something about it” by participating in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses Feb. 3, Yang said.

Yang had his fans, but several audience members came out of curiosity about the former tech entrepreneur and his plans, especially his “trickle-up” economic plan that would have the federal government pay every adult $1,000 a month.

Yang believes the “freedom dividend” would stimulate economic activity in communities like Monticello that have been hurt as jobs in brick-and-mortar businesses have been lost to online retailers. He warned that it’s not just retail clerks who are being replaced, but truck drivers and others in jobs that will be made obsolete by technology and artificial intelligence.

“I’m here to sign up for my $1,000 a month,” Tom Yeoman of Monticello said with a laugh. He doesn’t believe Yang’s plan is realistic, but he hasn’t ruled out caucusing for Yang.

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He agrees with Yang that corruption is “endemic in government, and the higher you go the worse it gets.”

“I’m considering everybody, and I haven’t ruled anybody out,” Yeoman said.

Tony Amsler of Monticello finds the freedom dividend “interesting.”

“I want to see where that goes,” said Amsler, who will chair his precinct caucus Feb. 3. He hasn’t decided whom to support, “so like a lot of Iowans, I’m just taking the opportunity to see the candidates face-to-face.”

Like Amsler, Chris Huber of Delhi said she’s going to campaign events “to support any Democrat who comes to Jones or Delaware County.”

She hosted Yang at her home in December 2018 before she knew who he was. Although Huber is leaning toward Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, she is interested in the freedom dividend.

Kyle Christensen of Iowa Falls, who introduced Yang, doesn’t need to be convinced. Christensen is one of 14 people nationwide receiving $1,000 a month from Yang. He uses the extra funds to help cover medical bills for his mother, who is recovering from cancer.

“With the freedom dividend we’re doing pretty well,” he said. “Our story could be anyone’s story. Because of the freedom dividend we have hope.”

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

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