Entrepreneur and Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang visited Greenfield and Creston this weekend to hold a town hall with local voters before the Feb. 3 caucus.
Yang started Saturday night at the Warren Cultural Center, proceeding to visit the Creston Restored Depot early Sunday morning.
Yang said Iowa holds a particular importance at this stage in the primary.
"Do you know how many Californians each Iowa caucus goer is worth?" asked Yang. "One Iowan vote is equal to 1,000 Californian votes, and I'm going to make a Trumpian estimate that there are 800 people here tonight."
Retaking the Midwest
Iowa has more counties that voted for Barack Obama both terms as well as the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. This statistic has garnered substantial attention from most candidates and political analysts, with much of the focus being on the reasoning for the shift.
"How did Donald Trump win Iowa by 10 points?" said Yang. "I'm a numbers guy. I've been looking for the reason Trump won and I found it in the numbers. We blasted away 400 million manufacturing jobs in the last few years, and 40,000 of them were right here in Iowa."
Yang credited the loss of these plants for the loss of entire small-town economies as a whole.
"I have been to towns that have lost their manufacturing plants in Iowa," said Yang. "After the plant closed, the shopping district close, people left, the school shrank and the community has never recovered."
Brave new world
On a grander scale, Yang said the issue of automation poses a large threat on the Iowan work force, giving examples such as call center employees and truck drivers.
"Truck driving is the most common job in 29 states," said Yang. "There are three-and-a-half million truckers with 94% averaging age 49. My friends in California are working on trucks that can drive themselves and say they are 98% of the way there. A robot truck just transported 20 tons of butter from California to Pennsylvania four weeks ago with no human driver."
Yang stressed the trickle-down affect of these decisions, explaining how the loss of truck driving jobs would affect the economy on a grander scale.
"They say 5,000 people stop at Iowa-80 Truck Stop everyday," said Yang. "How many people will stop there if trucks don't have drivers in the front?"
Yang spent much of his time discussing the importance of the Freedom Dividend — the policy at the forefront of his presidential campaign. The law would provide a universal basic income to all American adults. While the proposed legislation has critics raising concerns of socialism and the potential for abuse of the public service, Yang said the idea has historical precedent.
"The idea can be traced all the way back to Thomas Paine with his idea for the Citizen's Dividend," said Yang.
Yang said the Freedom Dividend is a way to allow citizens to put money back into the economy without the fear of lacking essentials such as rent and groceries.
"We need to get our government back under the control for us," said Yang. "But even more important is getting our economy working again. That's what this Freedom Dividend can do. If we take the value they've drained out of Iowa for these tech companies and return it to you all in the form of $1,000 a month, we can build a trickle-up economy."
Pastor Steven Broers of Fontanelle, who had opened for Yang in Greenfield, said he was originally skeptical of the Freedom Dividend but now believes in the bill's potential.
"I started to think 'What if my church could give $1,000 a month to just one family out of Fontanelle for a year?' It could change their life," said Broers. "This would eradicate poverty. This could help teachers, farmers, stay at home moms, it could help everything."
Yang said if elected he intends to focus on ending corruption in Washington, D.C., agreeing with a campaign promise of the current president.
"Donald Trump was not wrong about a lot of the problems," said Yang. "He said he wanted to drain the swamp, but I want to do something a bit different: I want to distribute the swamp."
As a bonus, Yang said breaking up the offices in Washington, D.C. and spreading them across the nation would double as a way to provide employment opportunities to different areas.
Yang brought up the issue with former and current members of legislature receiving speaking fees and lobbying, offering a solution in the form of term limits.
"Their goal should be go to D.C., work on your behalf and go home," said Yang. "They shouldn't go to D.C. and be like 'Oh I like it here."
Noting the difficulty of passing such amendment, Yang said he believes his idea will work.
"You want to know how you get these current senators to agree to term limits?" said Yang. "Current lawmakers are exempt. You think they'll pass that? They would pass that the next day and say 'We do this for the American people' because they are grandfathered in. They will be like some kind of super-exempt legislator until they retire or get voted out."
This weekend saw Yang qualify for the February debate after reaching the required polling percentage in four polls.
"Now I stand before you fourth in the most recent national poll to be the Democratic nominee," said Yang.
Yang went on to share the status of the campaign fundraising measures, using the opportunity to give a light-hearted jab to a fellow Democratic candidate.
"Our campaign raised over $16 million last quarter in increments of only $35 each," said Yang. "So my fans are almost as cheap as Bernie's."
Yang said he doesn't take corporate PAC money, instead crediting his supporters with the campaign's success. While reasons for supporting Yang will differ between caucus goers, Broers explains what it is about the Yang campaign that has his vote.
"The reason I can support him is because he taught me 'Not left, not right, but forward,'" said Broers. "I'm a pastor. The people I serve are Democrats, Republicans and everything in between. So I can't have a candidate that I publicly support putting the other side down all the time and calling them names."