GOFFSTOWN — Economic policies took center stage at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics on Wednesday morning as presidential candidate Andrew Yang took to the podium in the New England Council’s latest “Politics & Eggs” event.
The self-described “Asian man who likes math” told the event’s audience that the election of Donald Trump in 2016 was just a symptom of much larger socio-economic problems, citing a correlation between manufacturing job loss and increased Republican support.
That moment served as a red flag for Yang, who was honored by the Obama administration for his work creating jobs across the country through his nonprofit organization Venture for America.
“We’re at a point where tens of millions of Americans decided that taking a bet on a narcissist reality TV star was the way to go,” he said. “And here I was, a celebrated entrepreneur who had created thousands of jobs with a sinking feeling that every job my organization was creating was water getting put into a bathtub with a giant hole ripped into the bottom.”
Although Yang believed that Trump’s ascension to the White House came in response to a yearning by millions of Americans to find someone that would address the country’s changing economic realities, he believes that Trump’s policy responses to those realities were the exact opposite of what was needed, only exasperating America’s problems.
However, he also criticized stereotypical Democratic reasons regarding Trump’s rise such as Russia or Hillary Clinton as tone-deaf toward those voters who may have once supported Democrats before supporting Trump in 2016.
Yang also had scorn for Washington’s political establishment, finding them either indifferent toward solving these socio-economic problems faced by most Americans, or supportive of ineffective policies like job training programs for workers displaced by disruptive economic changes.
He told the crowd that this lack of action by America’s political class helped create a spate of suicides in blighted areas of the country, leading to the first time the country has seen life expectancy drop three years in a row since just after World War I.
“One person in D.C. said something to me that brought me to you all today,” said Yang. “He said, ‘Andrew, you’re in the wrong town. No one here is going to do anything about this problem here because this isn’t a town of leaders, it’s a town of followers. The only way people (here) do anything about it is if you create a wave in another part of the country and it comes crashing down on our heads here in D.C.’”
Yang’s primary solution to these issues came in the form of his support for a universal basic income, which he refers to as a “liberty dividend.”
A core plank in his campaign platform, the proposal would give each American over the age of 18 a total of $1,000 per month. He told the crowd that money would be paid for by technology companies such as Amazon and Facebook that profit off personal data at the expense of American taxpayers.
Yang referred to data’s status as an asset in comparison to petroleum, referencing the funds obtained by petroleum in Alaska to give that state’s residents a dividend comparable to his liberty dividend. He also stated that the concept itself has roots throughout American political history, with supporters ranging from Thomas Paine and Martin Luther King to Milton Friedman and Richard Nixon.
He added that the dividend would put back money into communities as citizens would likely spend most of their dividends locally, creating what he referred to as “trickle-up economics.”
Yang indicated that his approach to support of a universal basic income and other policies was centered around data, using data he has seen to voice skepticism toward other popular Democratic ideas such as higher minimum wages and a wealth tax as well as support for a form of Medicare for All.
He also tied economics to climate change, stating that average Americans cannot focus on the issue to the extent that they should due to making ends meet.
One of the few areas that Yang did not link to data was foreign policy, referring to recent events in Syria as “heartbreaking” and supporting a greater emphasis on diplomacy abroad.
Yang cited recent polling numbers as proof of support for his ideas, including a recent unspecified poll stating that he was one of two Democratic candidates that more than 10 percent of 2016 Trump voters would support in a general election. However, he noted that his campaign needed the support of New Hampshire voters like the people at the event, who he said had a thousand times more influence than the average California voter in influencing Presidential politics.
“(New Hampshire) is one of the only places where democracy functions as it’s intended,” Yang said.
“Most Americans look up and they see the pipes and they are just clogged with money. There’s nothing that we can do about it. You all can do something about it. That’s your power. That’s why all these presidential candidates like me are coming to New Hampshire and presenting our visions of the future, because you can flush the pipes out.”