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Andrew Yang talks Universal Basic Income and corporate taxation at a pre-caucus visit to Saints Rest

Andrew Yang speaks to Grinnelians at a local pre-caucus appearance. Photo by Andrew Tucker.
Andrew Yang speaks to Grinnelians at a local pre-caucus appearance. Photo by Andrew Tucker.

Andrew Yang pitched Universal Basic Income, his proposed solution to many of America’s problems, to 150 people at Prairie Canary on January 20th. Yang’s campaign centers around his plan to give every American adult a “Freedom Dividend”: $1,000 a month, “no questions asked”, as he describes it.

Yang positioned himself as the only candidate to talk about many of the issues he sees, especially the loss of jobs to automation. “We’re in the midst of what experts are calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution. When was the last time you heard a politician say the words ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution?’” he said.

Yang attributed much of the failure to acknowledge many of these problems to insufficient measures of well-being commonly used by politicians. “Instead of measuring GDP and corporate profits as some kind of rough proxy for how we’re doing, I think we should measure our progress by how we’re doing,” he said. He proposed using measures such as “health and life expectancy, mental health and freedom from substance abuse, and clean air and clean water,” because “it’s very hard to solve problems if you don’t realize you have them.”

Yang argued that even when politicians acknowledged the problem of job loss, their proposed solutions don’t adequately address it. He said the commonly referenced plan to “educate and retrain Americans for the jobs of the future” has “a success rate of about zero to fifteen percent” for manufacturing workers who have lost their jobs.

Instead, Yang argues his solution “reimagines the idea of American citizenship” to undo the idea that “economic value and human value are the same thing.” He said that the United States need “to humanize the economy” by putting “some of our 21 trillion dollars in annual economic value to work directly in [individual citizens’] hands.”

Yang told The S&B, “The major way we pay for these things is we actually harness the gains of the 21st century economy. … If you have the biggest tech companies in our countries paying next to nothing in taxes, it’s very hard to pay for a lot of things.” According to Yang, these taxes would generate “about a trillion [dollars] a year,” which he would combine with a “[channeling of] our military industrial spending” to pay for the Freedom Dividend, as well as other programs, such as universal childcare and investments in infrastructure. “We’ve got both a revenue and an expense problem in America. If we remedy both of them, then we can pay for many things that we should have put in place decades ago,” he said.

Yang is critical of the free-market capitalism, saying, “The free market is not going to change things. The free market is actually going to make things worse.” He said, “We have to change the goals of capitalism to be our own health and well-being, our kid’s success rates, our environmental sustainability…instead of capital efficiency for a lot of companies.”

Though Yang is only polling at 5 percent in Iowa, he told The S&B that he was “third among young people” and is optimistic about how he will perform at Grinnell College’s caucus site. Addressing Grinnell students, he said, “Please do help me clean up the mess that we have left you, because you deserve better, and that’s why I’m running.”

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