Andrew Yang talks plan for Universal Basic Income, beating President Trump and more at Detroit rally

Sunday, May 5, 2019 - 9:14am

Andrew Yang, 2020 presidential candidate speaks at a campaign rally at the Detroit Shipping Company food hall Saturday.

Andrew Yang, 2020 presidential candidate speaks at a campaign rally at the Detroit Shipping Company food hall Saturday. Buy this photo
Courtesy of Rachel Cunningham

Andrew Yang, entrepreneur and 2020 presidential candidate, hosted a campaign rally Saturday evening at the Detroit Shipping Company food hall in the Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit. About 300 people attended the rally to hear Yang’s policy ideas and strategy for winning the Democratic nomination.

Yang is one of more than 20 democrats running for the nomination, which includes Former Vice President Joe Biden; Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt. and many more.

Detroit resident Nicholas Scott told The Daily prior to the event Yang is his first choice in this election cycle.

“He’s the only candidate with a lot of policy positions I absolutely agree with and even some policy positions I don’t even know about, and I hear him talk about (them) and I think ‘Of course,’” Scott said. “The other day, I saw his appearance on something and they asked him about pennies and how he wants to get rid of the penny because it’s bad for the environment and worthless. I never thought about the penny and I thought ‘Jesus, we need to make this man president.’”

Scott said climate change is always his primary concern, but Yang’s policy proposal of Universal Basic Income, which would give Americans over the age of 18 years old $1,000 per month, has become an important policy idea for him.

“Climate change is number one, always,” Scott said. “After that, maybe UBI. UBI fixes so much about welfare, and it’s politically popular on both sides of the aisle which is incredible for a welfare safety net program.”

Paul Bartlett, founder of Yang’s Metro Detroit campaign office, introduced Yang to the crowd. He got involved with Yang’s campaign after listening to a podcast Yang was featured on. He said he was amazed by the number of policy ideas he found on Yang’s website.

“When I first saw him, he had 70 policies on his campaign page,” Bartlett said. “By the time I looked around, he had 75. He now has over 100 policies on that page.”

Yang was then introduced onto the stage. Yang said he has been visiting Detroit each year for the past eight years and is astonished with the revitalization Detroit is experiencing.

“I came here in 2010 or 2011 when the bankruptcy was just on, and the city has just gotten better and better and more and more vibrant thanks to people exactly like you,” Yang said.

Yang began by stating he is not a career politician, but an entrepreneur and a problem solver. He said he wants to solve what he thinks the problem is regarding the election of President Donald Trump.

“The real answer is Donald Trump is our president today because we automated away four million manufacturing jobs in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri and Iowa,” Yang said. “If all of those states sound familiar, those are all the states that Donald Trump needed to win and did win.”

Yang said he believes Trump’s message was particularly resonant with people who lost their jobs due to automation, and that’s why Trump was successful in those states. Trump said automation hit Detroit especially hard because of its heavy manufacturing industry.

“This town is very much the ground zero for the automation of jobs,” Yang said.

Yang credited some of this job loss to the expansion of Amazon and, he believes, for not paying their fair share in income tax.

“Amazon somehow paid less in taxes than each of you,” Yang said.

Yang went on to explain his idea of the Freedom Dividend, which is Universal Basic Income of $1,000 per month to every American adult.

“The first time you heard that, I know what you thought,” Yang said. “I know you thought ‘Haha, that’s a bit of a gimmick. There’s an Asian man running for president who wants to give everyone $1,000 a month.’ But if you dig into our history, you find that this Universal Basic Income has actually been a part of our country’s DNA from the very beginning.”

Yang explained that past Presidents, like Richard Nixon, were in favor of a version of UBI during their presidencies. Alaska currently implements an idea of UBI based on oil revenues.

Yang said his UBI plan would boost the economies of American towns because the money would be reinvested back into the communities that individuals live in.

“This is the trickle-up economy, from families and communities up,” Yang said.

Yang then switched to the topic of healthcare, where he says he is in favor of a Medicare for all system.

“We’re spending twice as much on our healthcare as other countries to worse results,” Yang said. “We’re spending 18 percent of GDP. We can take this money we’re spending and get prices down just by negotiating with some of the providers. … I’m for Medicare for all, a public option and making it so our healthcare is accessible and inexpensive, and we can do it.”

Yang’s final major policy idea he is campaigning on is what he calls Human-Centered Capitalism — a more humanized approach to the American economic system.

“Right now, we’re worshipping this phantom GDP number when we should be measuring our progress around things like mental health and freedom from substance abuse, health and life expectancy, income and affordability, childhood success rates, clean air and clean water … This is how we measured the economy before we measured GDP,” Yang said. “Right now, my wife is at home with our two sons, one of whom is autistic. Where does her work measure out in GDP?”

Yang said he credits these ideas to his momentum in the recent election polls.

“I’m already polling at 3 percent and nobody has even heard of me,” Yang said.

Currently, Biden is leading the Democratic nominees in recent election polls.

During a Q & A session, Yang said if he does not get the nomination, he will help the candidate who gets the nomination beat Trump.

“The goal is to get Donald Trump out of office,” Yang said. “I’m laser-focused on that. If I’m not the nominee, I’m going to help whoever’s running against him get him out of office.”

Livonia resident Walt Kliza happened to visit the restaurant after spending the day in Detroit and saw the rally happening. He said he likes Yang but thinks his ideas will be hard to implement.

“I think it’s going to be tough for him to be viable, all because of the field (of candidates),” Kliza said. “I think it will be tough for him to climb based on his policies. It might be good, but I think it’ll be hard to get his policies above the noise. I was just reading his flyers and $1,000 for people to take you to the new economy, I get what he’s thinking and I know what he’s trying to get at, but I think that’s a tough sell. I don’t think giving people money to compensate for the fact we’re heading to automation is the right way to go.”

Canton resident Karaun Kang shared similar beliefs to Kliza based on the interests of the people.

“It is going to be really hard for him to get some of his plans off the ground just because a lot of people, especially the older people, aren’t interested in the welfare of everybody,” Kang said. “The (needs) of the few outweigh the needs of everyone which is really annoying.”

Jackson College student Sierra Kofflin receives veteran’s benefits through her father and stepfather but has restrictions on how she can use them. She said she appreciated Yang’s ideas on student-debt forgiveness and government spending on the military.

“I have veteran’s benefits but I can’t use them if I’m not full-time in college,” Kofflin said. “I can’t go full-time in college because I’ll be in debt. I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t … He went over that we love our army and government spending and all of that stuff, so that gave me enough closure to know he is going to do something about both of them.”