CONWAY — Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang told the Sun editorial board Thursday and 40 members of the public that his “Freedom Dividend” of $1,000 per month to every adult American could pass Congress because it’s a win-win for both progressives and conservatives.
He also promised he’ll figure out a way for artificial intelligence to do your taxes for you.
Yang, 44, is a New York City-based entrepreneur, author and father of two, who took part in a public editorial board meeting in the pressroom of the Sun, an event dubbed, “Meet At The Press with Andrew Yang.”
Both Sun staffers and local residents took part in a wide-ranging Q and A with the candidate.
One man in the audience asked how Yang thought he could get his policies through a “divided, dysfunctional” Congress.
Yang said that if he wins and becomes president in 2021, “the Democrats and Progressives will be, like ‘we all want to work with a new Democratic president,’” said Yang, quipping he’s the “anonymous Asian man” who wants to give people money.
“The Republicans and conservatives will look up and say, ‘Wait a minute, he’s talking about a massive transfer to rural areas — to red states in the interior — our people win big with this plan.’”
Yang said only 51 percent of Congress needs to sign on to the Freedom Dividend.
Yang said he’s not trying to be divisive. “The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math,” he joked.
Asked if people will just sponge off the $1,000 or use it to buy drugs, Yang said people want to work, and $1,000 per month won’t be enough of a windfall to not work.
At the beginning of the meeting, he asked everyone in the room whether any stores had closed in town. Many nodded. When he asked why, one man shouted out, “Because of Amazon.”
Yang said that is exactly right. “And how much federal tax did Amazon pay?” he asked.
“Nothing,” the man said.
“I’m going to suggest there is something messed up when a trillion-dollar company that’s soaking up $20 billion in additional business every year pays zero dollars in taxes,” said Yang.
“So, my plan is to get the money back from the Amazons, Googles and Facebooks of the world that’s getting spirited up into the Cloud, away from your communities here in New Hampshire, and we are going to return it to you in the form of a dividend.”
He told the audience that they probably already heard there was an “Asian guy” who wants to give everyone a thousand dollars.
Everyone laughed when someone called out, “I thought you were giving it to us today.”
He said that while $12,000 per year would not be taxable, it might push one’s income into higher tax bracket.
Yang said Alaska gives a dividend to its residents that’s paid for by oil and he said everyone in the country should get a dividend based on “the oil of the 21st century,” which he said would be data and technology like artificial intelligence. (His other name for the Freedom Dividend is the “tech check.”)
In terms of campaign finance reform, Yang would seek to pass “Democracy Dollars Act,” which would give citizens $100 apiece to support any candidate they choose on a “use it or lose it” basis.
“It is much, much easier for us to give you all 100 Democracy Dollars than it is for me to somehow enforce regulations trying to keep corporate money out,” said Yang.
As far as job security goes, AI is already displacing jobs and will take even more in the future. Yang said that within three years, call-center AI will be so good you won’t be able to tell that you’re chatting with a robot.
“AI is also going to upend things like accounting, bookkeeping, corporate law,” said Yang who worked as an “unhappy lawyer” for a few months. “My old job, I guarantee you, a lot of it can be automated.”
Health care is consistently brought up on the campaign trail, said Yang. He wouldn’t eliminate private insurers, but he would offer a “robust public option.”
“If you do a good enough job with a public option, then a lot of the private insurers stop existing,” Yang who said his ideas for health care would reduce costs.
Yang said one Washington insider said the federal government would be reluctant to consider anything like the Freedom Dividend unless forced to. But he said if nothing is done to help displaced workers, there will be “widespread pain.”
But AI won’t be all bad. For instance, President Yang would turn tax day, April 15, on its head. He would make it a national holiday called “Revenue Day” and have AI pre-fill out people’s tax forms. (He said 80 percent of Americans have simple taxes.)
“Then there will be a thank you video with Tom Hanks and Oprah,” said Yang, adding that taxpayers will also be told where their money went and be able to direct where some of the money would go, be given a thank you video from government employees and a family from every state would be invited to the White House to celebrate.
“That would be a basic business principal, which is don’t treat customers like crap,” Yang commented.
If he could have dinner with three people in history, he said he would dine with Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“I’m actually Teddy Roosevelt’s great-granddaughter’s godfather,” said Yang. “That’s what happens when you go to Phillips Exeter (Academy).”
Signing the Sun’s refrigerator has been a tradition among invited presidential candidates for years. So is asking about UFOs.
As he was about to sign the Sun’s new fridge, The Sun asked him if he’d look into UFOs.
“I’m very curious about UFOs,” said Yang. “I have a feeling they probably do exist.”