With the quiet conversation and hearty spread, it was shaped a lot like a family’s Christmas potluck dinner except there was one major difference — everyone there was on the same political wavelength.
Andrew Yang, an author, entrepreneur and aspiring Democratic Presidential Candidate in 2020, visited a home filled with approximately two-dozen in rural Delhi to pitch and familiarize potential primary voters with his vision.
In what is already promising to be a crowded field for the Democrats, Yang said Iowa voters have a unique, singular power to help determine the direction of the country.
Yang, who said he was not a career politician, said now is the time for unprecedented change to fight what he views as a looming movement that will shape up to be one of the greatest challenges the country has faced — automation.
Stating he was stunned by Trump’s victory, he said after the election he began digging into what happened.
Yang attributes Trump’s win to the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs. He theorizes that if something is not done, the Republican voting trend in these areas will continue. Based on voting district data, he said, there is a distinct relationship between the adoption of industrial robots and the movement to the right side of the political spectrum.
“The reason Donald Trump is our president today is that we automated away four-million manufacturing jobs in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri and 40,000 right here in Iowa,” he said.
He said this trend of automation is already hitting the retail sector and will continue to quickly spread to other fields, many of which are common jobs in the Midwest.
With automation set to take over call centers and online retailers decimating brick-and-mortar stores, things will get much worse unless steps are taken.
But, he said, the biggest change yet, and the one that scares him the most, will occur in the truck driving sector.
Yang said the technology to replace human truck drivers is 98 percent of the way there, and once rolled out, it will save big businesses $168 billion per year.
“If you’re a smart capitalist, or tech investor or company, your saying ‘$168 billion per year?’ Why don’t I hire hundreds of engineers and scientists to make that happen,” he said. “You can spend billions of dollars trying to solve that business problem, and if you win, you become one of the most profitable companies in the world.”
He also added that artificial intelligence, or AI, has left the “hype stage” and will start to take over more and more of the work done by Americans.
This coming set of new problems is what compelled him to run for president, he said.
This is also where his “freedom dividend” comes into play — $1,000 to every adult age 18 to 64, each month, no-questions-asked.
He acknowledged that the concept “sounds literally too good to be true,” but it’s actually a deeply American idea that stretches back to the era of Thomas Paine.
He added the concept passed the House of Representatives twice in 1971 and came close to guaranteeing an income of $30,000 a year for a family of four. Eleven years later, one state passed legislation giving residents between $1,000 and $2,000 a year no-questions-asked.
In Alaska, residents get a cut of money produced by oil. Now, he said, it’s time to do the same thing nation-wide except with the “oil of the 21st Century” — technology.
He said a lot of tech companies aren’t paying much in taxes at the moment, that’s why he’s proposing a Value Added Tax something he said is already used in other developed countries. The new tax would ensure everyone benefits from coming automation, not just big companies.
“The biggest winners from all of these advances are going to be Google, Amazon and Facebook — tech companies. The trap we’re in is those tech companies do not pay a whole lot of taxes,” he said. “Amazon’s move is to say ‘we didn’t make any money this quarter — no taxes.’ Even though Jeff Bezos is worth $160 billion somehow, they never make money. Google’s move is to say ‘it all went through Ireland — no taxes here in the U.S.’ What we have to do is get everyone a slice of every Google search, a slice of every Amazon sale and the way to do that is to join every other industrialize economy in the world and have a Value Added Tax.”
He said a Value Added Tax at even half the European rate would be enough to fund his Freedom Dividend plan.
He theorized with the $1,000 figure, it would not be enough to sway people to forgo work but it would be enough to help revitalize local main-street economies.
Yang’s camp is already anticipating his ideas being branded as “socialist,” but he said it’s hard to pin that ideology on someone who has worked as an entrepreneur. His office also is excited for Trump to dub him a nickname, which they are guessing will be “Comrade Yang.”
But, he said, his plan is just capitalism where everyone doesn’t start at zero.
“I’m a serial entrepreneur, I’ve been a CEO — I’m a hard-boiled capitalist,” he said. “I just think it’s just much better for the economy if people have money to spend.”