MUSCATINE, Iowa—With the Iowa Caucuses only weeks away, Andrew Yang made his first stop in Muscatine on Jan. 6. At the Red Berry Café, Yang introduced himself to voters and laid out policies he felt would resonate with area residents.
Yang presented automation and its effects as his central campaign issue. Over the past several years, Yang observed that automation reduced the number of manufacturing jobs across the country and sees job reductions in call centers and retail happening right now. As automation becomes more sophisticated, he predicts that self-driving trucks will have the potential to replace many human drivers, disrupting the labor market even further. In his experience, Yang found that manufacturing towns that experienced layoffs due to automation had increases in chronic unemployment, suicides, drug abuse, mental health problems, and welfare claims. He found these trends unconscionable in the face of growing corporate profits.
To compound these problems, Yang stated that he researched federal worker retraining programs for manufacturing workers and found that they succeed, at most, only 15% of the time. In order to combat the effects of automation, Yang emphasized that the nation would need to take more radical steps.
Yang then outlined what he thinks these steps should look like. First and foremost, Yang advocated for universal income where all adults would receive a dividend of $1,000 per month. The money would come from raising the corporate tax rate on companies that use consumer data. Through this dividend, Yang feels average Americans would receive relief from changing economic conditions and reinvest the money into local businesses and programs, growing the economy in a way that would benefit communities.
Following Yang’s talk, he shared with the media that he thought his key economic policy would resonate with Muscatine County voters. He said: “we’ve seen incredible support right here in Muscatine because the people have experienced the problems of this economy front and center, and they’ve seen wages stagnate. They’ve seen main street businesses struggle and even close, and we know here in Muscatine that we need to do better for our children and put them in a better position to succeed. We’re really excited to be here in Muscatine and think it’s going to be a crucial region come caucus night.”
During his speech and the question and answer session that followed, Yang discussed several of his other policies if he became president. These included diverting military spending to projects to prevent climate change, improve infrastructure, and increase cyber security. Yang also pledged to restore refugee quotas to those used during the Obama administration, provide more paths to citizenship, and end childhood separations for those crossing borders into the United States.
Throughout his visit, Yang emphasized his policies would put people first. “As your president, I will measure our national progress through things that would actually matter,” he stressed, citing life expectancy, percentage of Americans who can retire comfortably, success in school, and clean air and water statistics as the best indicators of success.