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Yang promises new approach to economy at Charles City stop

  • Andrew Yang, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, spoke with more than 50 potential voters Wednesday at the Charles City Public Library. The stop is part of a 17-day Iowa bus tour leading up to the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Andrew Yang, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, spoke with more than 50 potential voters Wednesday at the Charles City Public Library. The stop is part of a 17-day Iowa bus tour leading up to the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Andrew Yang, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, spoke with more than 50 potential voters Wednesday at the Charles City Public Library. The stop is part of a 17-day Iowa bus tour leading up to the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Andrew Yang, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, spoke with more than 50 potential voters Wednesday at the Charles City Public Library. The stop is part of a 17-day Iowa bus tour leading up to the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Charles City residents had the opportunity to question Andrew Yang, who spoke with more than 50 potential voters Wednesday at the Charles City Public Library. The stop is part of a 17-day Iowa bus tour leading up to the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses. (Press photo James Grob.)

By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

Andrew Yang said he wants to “rewrite the rules” of the economy.

“You have seen what happened on your farms and factories,” Yang said in Charles City Wednesday. “Now it’s on your main streets, soon it will be on your highways. We have to turn it around and make the economy work for us rather than having everyone here in Iowa working for the economy.”

Yang, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, spoke with more than 50 potential voters Wednesday at the Charles City Public Library. The stop is part of a 17-day Iowa bus tour leading up to the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses. Yang will meet with potential caucus-goers in Dubuque, Clinton, Davenport, Muscatine, and Wapello on Thursday.

Yang said the messages people are getting about the nation’s economy being in good shape are misleading.

“We’re being told things are great by these measurements that have nothing to do with how our families and communities are actually doing.”

Although corporate profits and GDP are at record highs, and unemployment numbers “look great,” life expectancy has gone down, he said.

“Also at record highs in America are things like stress, financial insecurity, mental illness, depression, student loan debt, substance abuse, overdoses and even suicides,” he said. “All the things you associate with a thriving society — like business formation among young people, marriage, having kids — are at record lows,”

Yang talked about the the struggles of small communities in Iowa and across the country. He mentioned that big companies like Amazon earn billions of dollars and give nothing back in taxes, and stressed how automation and other technological advances are causing job losses everywhere.

“Truck driver is the most common job in 29 states, and my friends in California are working on building a truck that can drive itself,” Yang said. “A robot truck just transported 20 tons of butter from California to Pennsylvania with no human intervention three weeks ago.”

Yang stressed that this will eventually mean job losses for for not only the trucking industry, but all the other auxiliary industries that serve truck drivers.

“We’re in the midst of the greatest economic transformation in the history of our country — what experts are calling the fourth industrial revolution,” he said.

Yang, the 12th candidate seeking the Democratic nomination to visit Charles City this campaign season, is an attorney and former tech executive who founded the economic development nonprofit organization Venture for America to focus on creating jobs in cities struggling after the recession of 2007-08.

The Obama administration selected him in 2011 as a “Champion of Change” and in 2015 as a “Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship.” He is a graduate of Brown University and Columbia University Law School.

He said that the Democratic Party has lost its focus on the most important issues.

“The Democratic Party’s attention should be on how to make our families and communities stronger, to give us a new way forward in the face of technological and economic change,” he said.

Bob Frascht of Charles City is a Yang supporter and introduced him at the start of the event Wednesday.

“I think he handles himself very well, and did an excellent job,” Frascht said, although he thinks “anybody could do better than what we have now,” referring to President Trump.

Yang pointed out that he was not a career politician, but an “entrepreneur and problem-solver,” and said that although he is an outsider like Donald Trump, his approach would be much different than Trump’s approach.

“I would liken being president to what I did when I ran a national non-profit, when you have hundreds of thousands of stakeholders and you have to generate a consensus around a vision that people find exciting,” he said. “My team would have many people with Washington ties and experience, because we have to get things done on behalf of the American people, and you can’t have everyone on the team coming in without a level of experience in Washington.”

He mentioned Trump’s victory, Barack Obama’s victory, and Bernie Sanders’s success as examples of how Americans have been looking for a different approach in Washington for years.

“We’ve been looking for a change agent for a long time, because we realize that government is way behind the curve, and not addressing the real problems we see in our communities,” he said. “Americans realize that we need a different form of leadership in government.”

He said that it won’t do Democrats any good to simply blame Trump for all that’s wrong in the country.

“We have to call out the real problems that got Donald Trump elected, and stop acting like he’s the source of everything that ails the country,” Yang said. “The fact is, we’ve had problems that have gotten deeper and harder to solve since long before Donald Trump became involved.”

One of the most talked about items of Yang’s campaign has been his idea of giving every citizen $1,000 each month. He said that this idea has been called “impossible, a gimmick and too good to be true.”

“This is not a new idea,” he said. “Thomas Paine was for this at the founding of our country, he called it a ‘citizens dividend for all Americans.’”

Yang mentioned that Martin Luther King Jr. also advocated for a citizens dividend, as have several top economists over the years. He noted that the state of Alaska has been paying its citizens to live there for many years, funded by oil profits.

“The technological advances achieved by human data are the ‘oil of the 21st Century,’” said Yang, who added that the payments would be funded by “trillion-dollar tech companies” who currently are paying very little in taxes.

“Our data is being sold and resold by companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Twitter, and we’re not seeing a dime of that,” he said. He said some of that money can go back into communities via his proposed plan, and said the majority of the money would be spent locally.

“Most of it would go to car repairs, day care expenses, Little League sign-ups, local nonprofits and religious organizations,” Yang said. “This is the ‘trickle-up’ economy. This would give our kids a real path forward, this would give our rural areas around the country a real path toward prosperity.”

Yang said he believes it’s necessary for voters to “humanize the economy.”

“Economic value and human value are not the same things,” he said. “We have intrinsic value as Americans, as citizens and as human beings. If we try and maintain the current status, we’re going to lose on an epic scale.”

Although Yang is in single digits in most of the polls, he said he believes his campaign will do better than expected at the Iowa caucuses.

“We believe that the polls underestimate how we’re going to perform Feb. 3,” Yang said. “I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people. We’re growing faster than any other campaign, that’s been the case for weeks. We’re going to peak at the right time.”

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