The #YangGang is strong in Portland, apparently.
Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang stormed into the Rose City on Saturday, July 13, drawing a sizable crowd that listened eagerly as the businessman expounded on his signature proposal: a $1,000 a month universal basic income dubbed the Freedom Dividend.
"There is nothing stopping a majority of citizens in a democracy from voting ourselves a dividend — nothing at all," Yang said. "This is a trickle-up economy… and we can make it real."
Though he has never held public office and was relatively unknown before campaign season began, Yang has become one of several dark horse candidates in the packed primary for the eventual Democratic nominee, who will then challenge President Donald Trump in 2020.
Yang met the Democratic National Committee's criteria to participate in the first round of televised debates, and says he has already met the donor threshold needed for the next round. Politico reported that he raised $2.8 million in the second quarter — a far cry from the combined $100 million collected by the top five liberal contenders.
His speech to several hundred people gathered at Pioneer Courthouse Square foretold a future where autonomous vehicles, online shopping giants and artificial intelligence will render obsolete millions of truckers, store clerks, factory workers and even white-collar employees.
"I was an unhappy lawyer for five full months, and I guarantee you could automate that job," Yang said.
He said that President Trump accurately identified the concerns of dispossessed rust-belt states, however Yang argues the true cause behind these economic woes is the rushing pace of technological change, not immigration or border security.
The 44-year-old Manhattanite repeated his pledge to become the first president to use a "PowerPoint deck" during the State of the Union. He said he will tell government economists to deemphasize measurement of Gross Domestic Product, which doesn't account for the troubling decline in U.S. life expectancy or the epidemic of drug overdoses.
"Self-driving cars and trucks will be tremendous for GDP. They will be terrible for many, many Americans," Yang said. "If you don't have the right measurements, you're going to follow GDP off a cliff."
Standing unshaded on the red bricks of the city square, many in the crowd of supporters responded when Yang asked if anyone worked in the tech industry. Jess Fortier, a 28-year-old chief technology officer in Portland, said her career in software had focused on "automating people out of work," but she believes Yang will create an economy where everyone benefits.
Nate De Jong, who was traveling for business from Chicago, where he works in the "supply chain AI space," noted Yang's authenticity, saying: "There's not a bone of artifice in his body."
But for Jade Green, a Portland hotel worker making $15 an hour, it was the dream of not living paycheck to paycheck that inspired her.
"We're focusing on the solutions," she said, "not the problems."
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)