NEVADA — 2020 Democratic candidate Andrew Yang is not shy about his affinity for mathematics, from the “math” lapel pin he wore on the October debate stage to his unique campaign merchandise that has the four-letter word emblazoned in all caps.
In his Sunday campaign stop at Gatherings in Nevada, the former tech executive provided a room of 125 people his mathematical explanation behind Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency in 2016 — the ripple effect of automation-driven job displacement in America.
“It’s called a fourth industrial revolution, and it led directly to Donald Trump being elected in that we automated away four million manufacturing jobs in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri and Iowa,” Yang said. “Unfortunately, what’s happening to the manufacturing jobs is shifting to other parts of the country.”
Yang’s solution is his signature policy to date, the Freedom Dividend, a proposal for a universal basic income involving a $1,000-a-month, $12,000-a-year financial assistance package, for every American adult over the age of 18.
Multiple financial outlets estimate that Yang’s plan with roughly $2.8 trillion a year, which is $1 trillion more than is raised by the current federal income tax.
Yang’s proposal isn’t an unheard of idea. He cited Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend, in which Alaska pays each of its residents up to $2,000 every year to reside in the state, and was funded by a share of the state’s oil wealth.
However, Yang plans to finance his proposal through a value-added tax that would be targeted to Silicon Valley tech heavyweights such as Google, Amazon and Facebook.
“There is a documentary on Netflix that states that our data is worth more than foreign oil, which it is. So if our data is worth more than oil, where is all that money going?” Yang said. “(That money) went to Facebook, Amazon, Google, the trillion-dollar tech companies that are paying near zero in taxes.”
He added, “This is the reality of the 21st century economy, and what they are doing for people in Alaska with oil, we can do for everyone in the county with tech money.”
Yang used Amazon as an example of the amount of financial power within Silicon Valley’s technology community.
Amazon, founded by Jeff Bezos, currently has just over a $900 billion market cap, paid $0 in U.S. federal income tax on more than $11 billion in profits before taxes in 2018 and received a $129 million tax rebate from the federal government.
Yang championed the proposal as a “humanity first” solution to mitigating job displacement and automation threats to the American workforce.
A 2017 report released by McKinsey & Company estimated that by 2030, as many as 800 million workers worldwide could be replaced at work by robots.
Yang said traditional retail service and truck drivers are among the most vulnerable due to the influence of online retailer Amazon, self-service kiosks and the advancement of self-driving vehicles.
“The reason why they are so excited about these robot trucks is $168 billion a year in cost savings if they can successfully automate trucking,” Yang said. “Robots are good for corporations, but they are not good human beings.”
The math is simple for Yang and his fellow Democratic candidates vying for the nomination in 2020. Sunday marked 92 days until the Feb. 3 Iowa Caucuses, and 365 days until the 2020 November election.
Currently, Yang is polling around 3 percent in national and Iowa polls. Yang believes his path can be paved through the Freedom Dividend which he believes has a broad appeal to Democrats, Republican and Independents.
“My ability to get things done on Capitol Hill, I think is going to be quite high … and people have sensed that I’m not particularly partisan or ideological and that can be illustrated through the Freedom Dividend,” Yang said.
Based on Sunday’s attendance, his steady climb in the polls as he approaches top-five polling status — Yang is trending upward for a few county voters like Iowa State University student Mitchell Meinert.
A “proud” member of the Ames #YangGang, the candidate’s active support base, Meinert believes that Yang offers a different perspective from the traditional candidate that is favored by the Democratic National Convention.
“In a few words, Andrew Yang is real,” said Meinert, who said he was impressed by Yang’s appearance at the much-attended Liberty Justice forum in Des Moines on Friday. “He has solutions to address more than the Freedom Dividend. He wants to erase racism and institutional corruption from our prison systems as well.
Following in the footsteps of Hiram Fong and Patsy Mink, Yang is the third citizen of East Asian descent to embark on a presidential campaign, something that is not lost on fellow Asian-American Cody Chen, of Des Moines.
“Representation matters, and Yang is showing that Asian-Americans can be taken seriously in the political climate,” Chen said. “Yang is the best candidate, regardless of race and ethnicity, because he build genuine connection with his audience.”
Tiffany Ott, a Nevada schoolteacher said that while she’s just “getting started” with the Caucus cycle and isn’t firmly supporting a particular candidate, she’s impressed any time a candidate makes a point to visit her hometown.
“It’s that small-town feel, to have a candidate come in your backyard and be willing to engage with the residents here is special,” Ott said.