Thanks, Iowa, for choosing our president (But what do you get out of it?)

Hello people of Iowa. It’s good to be here. In 2011, I founded a non-profit called Venture for America that helped create thousands of jobs in Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Louisiana and other states around the country.

But I’d never been to Iowa until now.

Now I’m running for president, which means you’ll see a lot of me over the next year and a half.

And not just me — there will likely be 20-25 candidates on the Democratic side alone.

We will crisscross the Hawkeye State in the months to come. We will show up to cafes, community centers, house parties and anywhere a lot of people are getting together. For the next few months, some of us will play coy — “I’m just here from California because, uh, I really want to find out more about what people in Iowa are thinking.”

But come November and December, we will drop all pretense and start jockeying for your votes.

You take your responsibility to vet candidates very seriously. You know that the rest of the country will take its cues from you. That no one has won the presidency without finishing either first or second in your caucus, and that since 1992, you have chosen seven of the eight Democratic nominees.

It’s not enough for politicians to spend millions of dollars on ads and outreach. In Iowa, you actually want to meet the person and size them up.

Yet this time, the field will be so crowded that it will be a bit of a mess. 

You will be invited to multiple events on any given night. Having a senator or congressperson or mayor or entrepreneur in your town who wants to share his or her vision for the country will become commonplace. Anyone you know who works in politics will be hired by a campaign and in your ear.

You will be inundated with ads and messages on your Facebook feed and on the TV and on your radio in your car. The ads will blend together into a cacophony of messages funded by some of the richest people in our country (some of whom may themselves be running).

And then, in February 2020, it will all end.

The whole caravan — smaller, since you will have winnowed it down to six or so — will move on to New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada and California. You will look on with some relief and hope that your candidate continues to do well in other places. But the campaign will soon become something of a faded memory. 

And part of you will wonder — “What was that all for?”

That is truly the challenge — to make it all mean something.

I’m like many of you. I have lost faith in our political process. It’s a distasteful mess where the machinery outweighs the humanity. 

Regardless of who we send to Washington D.C., the day-to-day problems in our communities only get worse.

Yet I’m a parent and look out at the future that my children will inherit and think, we need to do much better. And like it or not, the government remains one of the most impactful tools to change our future — aside from the more important work we do every day in our families, enterprises and communities.

My campaign is built around the Freedom Dividend — a dividend to all adult citizens of $1,000 per month ...

There are approximately 1,887,426 adults in Iowa between 18 and 64. Under my plan, every adult would receive $1,000 a month, free and clear, to pay your bills, care for your children, start a new business, go back to school or do whatever you want. It is called the Freedom Dividend because it is your dividend as a citizen and owner of the richest and most advanced society in human history.

This would put over $16 billion every year into the hands of Iowans, grow your regional economy by 14 percent and create 40,000 new jobs here in Iowa, right away. 

It would be paid for by a combination of current spending, a tax primarily on companies that benefit from automation, and new revenue from economic growth. Our economy has grown to a record $19 trillion, with a lot of that value piling up on the coasts.

One Iowan told me that if he got $1,000 more a month, he would spend more time bowhunting and his wife would quilt more. That sounds great to me.

The single best thing that your government can do for you is to give you $1,000 a month and get out of your way. 

It’s one reason why economists from Milton Friedman to Friedrich Hayek supported a Universal Basic Income as well as figures like Richard Nixon and Martin Luther King Jr.

If this seems far-fetched to you, consider that a nearly identical measure passed the House of Representatives in 1971 and 1,000 economists signed a letter saying it would be great for our economy and society, and that a similar policy has been in effect in Alaska for 36 years.

I have come to believe in the necessity of the Freedom Dividend as an entrepreneur who has worked in business, education and technology for nearly 20 years. 

The truth is that we are automating away millions of American jobs due to software, artificial intelligence, robotics and new technologies.

Iowa has already experienced this in manufacturing, losing 40,000 jobs since 2001. Technology is about to spread to retail, customer service, truck driving, food service and on and on throughout the economy.

Already, three of your 17 malls are closing and Main Street stores are shuttering right and left. It is a rot that is spreading fast. 

We need to build a new kind of economy. There is not that much time.

Traveling the country with Venture for America opened my eyes. It brought me here to Iowa on a mission. If I become president and pass the Freedom Dividend, it will reverberate throughout the homes and towns of Iowa every day. 

It will improve hundreds of thousands of lives throughout the state and millions around the country. 

Isn’t that what these elections are supposed to be about — making your lives better?

Andrew Yang is a Democratic candidate for president in 2020.

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