BOONE, Iowa – Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang spoke to over 100 voters in a packed back room at La Caretta Mexican Restaurant. The stop was part of a final swing through Iowa over the weekend before Monday’s caucus that included stops in Fort Dodge, Carroll, Des Moines, Ames, Mason City, Cresco, Decorah, and Waterloo. Yang has held events in Iowa every day since January 18.
He is considered a long-shot candidate whose poll average is 3.8 percent in Iowa and 4.7 percent nationally.
“Now I am not running as a professional politician. I am running for president as an entrepreneur and problem solver who has been trying to get us to understand a challenge or problem that we have been wrestling for the last several years as a country,” Yang said.
He had the crowd shout out reasons they have heard as to why President Donald Trump won in 2016. The audience shouted things like racism, Russia, sexism, the FBI, Facebook, DNC, and Hillary Clinton.
“Boone, I am a numbers guy and the numbers tell us why Donald Trump is president today. We eliminated four million manufacturing jobs over the last number of years in this country,” Yang stated.
He pointed out that these jobs were in states like Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and then noted there were 40,000 manufacturing jobs lost in Iowa prior to 2016.
“I have been to those towns that lost those jobs. And when the plant closed then the shopping district closed, then people left, then the school shrank, and that town has never recovered,” Yang added.
He said he saw the same thing play out in other states and noted he spent the last seven years running a non-profit that helped created jobs in states that lost manufacturing jobs.
Yang said what happened to manufacturing jobs is shifting to other sectors of the economy. He pointed out how online retailers like Amazon has hurt brick and mortar stores and that one of the most common jobs in the United States is a retail clerk.
He pointed out how AI technology will lead to the loss of call center jobs, and automation will eliminate the need for truck drivers.
“The robot trucks are coming. What will they mean for the three-and-a-half truck drivers in our communities or the seven million plus Americans who work at truck stops?” Yang asked.
“We are going through the greatest economic and technological transformation in our country. What experts are calling the fourth industrial revolution,” he added.
Yang noted that it’s likely voters have never heard a politician talk about this. (Note: Outside of U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Yang is the only other politician this writer has heard talk about this economic shift.)
He noted in 2016 he saw a trend between voting for Trump in areas where jobs were lost due to industrial automation and said the trends are only going to “pick up steam.”
“The technology is getting smarter, more capable, and faster in ways that we are not,” Yang noted.
“We have to start addressing the real challenges before us that are ripping holes in our economy. That have caused people to be pushed to the side,” he said.
Yang said immigrants are being scapegoated for problem they had nothing to do with.
“When you go to a factory in Michigan you don’t find wall to wall immigrants doing work, what do you find? Wall to wall, robot arms and machines doing the work that people used to do,” he said.
Yang pointed out that the federal government retraining programs have been ineffective with success rates between 0-15 percent and over half of the workers who lost their job didn’t return to the workforce with many unemployed going on disability. He then pointed out how the United States’ life expectancy declined three years in a row as a result of suicide and the opioid epidemic.
Yang said he is running because when he went to Washington, DC to address these problems one person talked to said nothing would be done because the town is full of followers, not leaders. He said that if Yang were to create a wave in other parts of the country and “bring that wave crashing down on our heads” something might be done.
“And I said, ‘challenge accepted,'” he added. He then told the audience that the wave is them and the wave is on Monday.
“The wave is our chance to rewrite the rules of our economy to start working for us and our people and not just these big companies that have been running our government for far too long,” Yang said.
Throughout his speech, Yang addressed additional ideas such as term limits for members of Congress, but said it shouldn’t impact current legislators so they would actually pass it. He also advocated “democracy dollars” giving every voter $100 to make a political donation to offset corporate political spending. He also called for the repeal of the Citizens United decision that allowed corporate spending in elections.
Yang also pitched his his famous “freedom dividend” that would provide Americans 18-years-older and up $1000 a month, pointing out the state of Alaska offers a similar dividend for their residents that is tied to oil profits from land leased from the state. He said a national program could possibly be funded from the corporate profit off of personal data that Americans currently see no return from.
He also discussed climate change, as well as, technical education pointing out that many college graduates are currently employed in a job they didn’t need a college degree to do.
Watch his full remarks:
Watch his Q&A with voters: