Despite only 51 RSVPs, the only standing room left in the room Friday, Jan. 3 to see Andrew Yang speak was on people's shoulders at Perry Perk. Warford Street was lined for blocks of overflow to get a glimpse of the Democratic candidate who as of Friday was fifth in the polls.
He is the latest in the recent line of Democrats to pass through Dallas County ahead of the Feb. 3 caucus. Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker and Pete Buttigieg have also stumped in the area over the past couple weeks as well.
Yang touched on topics ranging from the recent airstrike on Iran and his proposal of a minimum income and GDP.
The first thing you'll see in Yang's Twitter feed is his response to President Donald Trump's Jan. 2 attack on Iran. That same day, Yang pinned a tweet that states that America “should be acting to de-escalate tensions and protect our people in the region.”
Yang took that a step further during a Q&A session with the crowd to provide a glimpse at how he would act as the next commander in chief.
“Yesterday was a disastrous mistake. It was disproportionate to what we were trying to respond to with Iran. And it's escalating conflict in a region with Iran in a way that a vast majority of American want nothing to do with. The last poll I saw said 78 percent of Americans do not want war with Iran.”
A war with Iran would continue the United States' military efforts in the Middle East where the country has been perpetually involved since the 1980s. Back in May, Yang was the fourth democratic candidate to sign a pledge to end the “Forever War.”
“As your president, I will pull us back from war with Iran. I will invest in diplomacy and rebuilding partnerships and alliances. It was James Madison that said that if you invest more in diplomacy, you have to spend less on ammunition. That should be our goal. We spent over a trillion dollars in Iraq. Over $6 trillion in the Middle East.”
Yang also pledged to transition declaration of war power to Congress to stay true to the constitution. In 2001, Congress ceded that action to the executive branch following the 9/11 attacks.
Fact Check: Iran War poll - Partly Misleading
The latest data appears to be a University of Maryland Sept. 2019 poll. That sampled 3,106 respondents which 76 percent were opposed to war with Iran.
Yang has become known as the candidate that wants to give you $1,000. True to form, Yang spent a portion of the evening providing further context to the idea of the “Freedom Dividend,” a concept Yang said isn't all that revolutionary.
The plan proposes U.S. citizens over the age of 18 receive $1,000 per month as a form of Universal Basic Income. It's an idea the majority of the crowd was well-versed in, yelling back “Alaska!” to Yang's question of what state already provides such a service.
Through the Alaska Permanent Fund — paid for by oil profits — permanent residents receive $1,100 per month for just living in Alaska.
Yang also explained he is far from the only person to suggest such an idea. Other higher ranking and historical figures have proposed such a plan.
He explained how Founding father Thomas Paine proposed a “Citizens Dividend” for Americans. Martin Luther King later fought for a guaranteed minimum income in throughout the 1960s. The House of Representatives also twice passed a “Family Assistance Plan” under Richard Nixon. It's an old idea Yang now champions through modern means.
As opposed to Alaska's payments through the oil industry, Yang's proposal for the Freedom Dividend comes via the data industry.
“A study just came out that said that our data is now worth more than oil,” Yang claimed. “We laugh but if it's getting sold and resold for tens of millions of dollars, where's the money going? Facebook, Amazon, Google, the mega tech companies that are paying zero or near-zero back into the system. That is the game that you all must stop, Iowa.”
Fact Check: Data is worth more than oil - More Context
It's not all that recent of a claim that data is worth more than oil. The Economist headlined the claim in 2017. As for the oil industry, U.S. oil futures reached a seven month peak to start 2020, spiking three percent after the Iran airstrike according to MarketWatch.
American quality of life
He was also insistent of using new means of data and analysis to grade the American economy opposed to the GDP and stock prices standard that show the nation running at new highs.
“You have record high levels of corporate profits in the United States right now,” Yang said. “Record high suicides, drug overdoses, stress, anxiety, student loan indebtedness, mental health problems. It has gotten so bad that our life expectancy has declined for the last three years in a row.”
Yang said he believes it's time to stop relying on the measure of GDP and stocks to evaluate the nation's success, something he said even the Belarusian inventor of GDP a century ago questioned.
“How about wellness and life expectancy?” Yang proposed as a new measurement. “Childhood success rates, clean air and water, proportion of us that can retire with dignity and quality circumstances. These are the measurements that actually tell us how we're doing.”
He said as president, he would modernize the “American scorecard” to include better measurements that would better include the nation as a whole including stay at home moms, the working class, and others alike opposed to corporate value.
Fact Check: Record high rates - True
CDC tracking shows increased overdose rates every year since 1999. The JAMA reported the highest suicide rate since before 1960. Student loan debt has climbed to over $1.5 trillion.