Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang cited historical desire for his universal basic income proposal before calling his campaign in Iowa the “journey of (his) life” at a last pre-caucus stop in Dubuque.
Yang, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, has campaigned in Iowa since 2018 — the first of several private-sector candidates who would eventually enter the crowded Democratic primary field. In recent months, his efforts saw him rise suddenly in national polls to in or just below the top five.
While that still only brings him to around 5% in polls cumulatively, Yang said spreading his vision in the first-in-the-nation caucus state has been a great experience.
“I love Iowa,” he told a crowd of 100 people Thursday night at 7 Hills Event Center in Dubuque, tearing up as he did so. “You have been beautiful to me and my family. Campaigning here the last two years has been the journey of my life. I am glad this decision is up to you on Monday.”
A cornerstone of Yang’s campaign has been what he calls the “Freedom Dividend” — a $1,000 per month payment to every U.S. adult, paid for in part by taxing tech giants and removing tax cuts for the super-rich.
Republican National Committee staff in Iowa told the TH that plan would “bankrupt the country.”
But Yang told the crowd on Thursday that it was not even his idea. He cited a diverse group of historical thinkers — from Thomas Paine to Martin Luther King Jr. and even conservative economist Milton Friedman (in “Capitalism and Freedom,” 1962) — who promoted the idea.
He said forms of universal basic incomes passed Congress twice during the administration of President Richard Nixon. He pointed out that it is the law of the land in Alaska, where it is paid for with oil tax revenue.
“This is how we balance the most extreme winner-take-all economy in the history of the world,” Yang said. “This is how we balance what is happening between rural communities and big cities. This kind of change should have happened decades ago. We have let things become dangerously imbalanced, almost punitively and personally so.”
Drew Lattner — with daughter Genevieve strapped to his chest — said he had supported a universal basic income since a University of Dubuque professor explained the notion in 2013.
“Once (Yang) appeared, I had a face to carry that idea,” he said.
Yang connected with an audience member who — like he — is the parent of a child with autism, leading to another emotional moment. He said his presidency would fully fund programs for children with autism and developmental disabilities.
“We have to stop thinking our schools are these assembly lines and the kids are all the same,” he said. “If you think about the difference of having a kid grow up to be functional or needing aid their entire life, this is an investment.”
Dolly Petersen, 85, was not sure Yang had a chance in Monday’s Iowa Caucus. But she said “he was just great” and that she was undecided but might caucus for him “if the knees are feeling up to it.”