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Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang spoke to a crowd of hundreds at a rally in Cambridge Common Monday evening, during which he discussed his proposal for universal basic income.
The rally came just four days after Yang’s appearance in the third Democratic presidential debate, during which he announced a raffle to give away $120,000 to 10 families over the course of a year to promote his universal basic income proposal. Yang’s proposal — officially named the “Freedom Dividend” — would give every American adult $1000 per month.
During his 30-minute speech at Monday’s rally, Yang defended the proposal by noting that many Americans have advocated for similar universal basic income policies over the course of the nation’s history.
“You dig into the freedom dividend, and you find that it’s a deeply American idea,” Yang said. “Thomas Paine, one of our founding fathers, was for it at the beginning. And Martin Luther King championed it in 1967.”
Yang also discussed a rise in automation as a catalyst for many of the nation’s recent changes, including a decline in life expectancies and the election of President Donald Trump. He said these changes have taken root in the Midwest.
“We have automated away four million manufacturing jobs in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa,” Yang said. “If those states sound familiar to you, those are all the swing states that Donald Trump had to win and did win.”
He argued that more jobs will likely be threatened or eliminated by automation and artificial intelligence within the next few years as automation grows in other sectors of the economy.
Yang’s supporters at Monday’s rally traveled from near and far to Cambridge Common sporting “MATH” — “Make America Think Harder” — hats and “Yang Gang” signs. New York resident Tim R. Renteria said he traveled to Cambridge to show his enthusiasm for Yang’s candidacy and his universal basic income proposal.
“The freedom dividend, I totally support that. It makes a lot of sense for me and my family,” Renteria said. “And then after that, I would say his climate change proposal, his foreign policies as well — all of them are really thought out and have a lot of solid basis.”
Matthew P. Martin, another attendee of the rally, praised Yang for his ideas to help Americans whose jobs have been affected by the growth of automation.
“Both of my parents were in the manufacturing industry, and they both lost their jobs,” Martin said. “So this was the first politician I ever heard that actually talked about, like the working middle class in a way that he did.”
Monday's rally comes as 19 other Democratic candidates travel the country to gain support ahead of the Iowa caucuses in early Feburary. Yang is currently polling at 3 percent, according to a RealClearPolitics poll. The field also includes Harvard affiliates Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Julian Castro, who are polling at 17 percent, 5 percent, and 1.2 percent, respectively.
Attendee Harry Biedermann said he plans to vote for Yang in the Democratic primary election and that Yang’s universal basic income proposal would “do a lot” for the U.S. economy.
Biedermann added that he believes the raffle Yang announced at the debate last week proves that Yang is “not just talking to talk” but will also “walk the walk.”
“He believes in this idea, and he's willing to privately fund it,” Biedermann said. “I really haven't seen a lot of other presidents candidates sort of step up in this unique giveaway, and really trying to make a change for the people who need it the most.”
Correction: Sept. 17, 2019
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated what the acronym MATH stands for.
–Brie K. Buchanan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
–Peter E. O’Keefe can be reached at peter.o’email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CrimsonOKeefe
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