Yang focuses on economic future

  • Presidential primary candidate Andrew Yang speaks about his ideas to improve economic opportunity during a campaign event at Kendal at Hanover (N.H.), Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. Yang is the founder of Venture for America, a non-profit that works toward job creation. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Andrew Yang records a video for Karen Menge, of Lyme, left, to send to her daughter after his primary campaign stop at the Kendal at Hanover (N.H.) retirement community, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. Menge described her daughter as an avid supporter of Yang. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • Tiger Stanley, of Lebanon, left, and Scott Vogel, of Craftsbury, Vt., right, members of the Vermont and New Hampshire Local 919 Stagehands union, load their truck after providing the backdrop for a campaign stop by primary candidate Andrew Yang at the Kendal at Hanover (N.H.) retirement community, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/3/2019 10:17:21 PM
Modified: 12/3/2019 10:17:14 PM

HANOVER — As technology advances and replaces jobs in manufacturing, retail and the service sector, small towns suffer — and few know that better than New Hampshire residents, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang said Tuesday.

“The northern part of (New Hampshire) that used to house mills never recovered,” Yang told a group of about 100 residents and visitors at the Kendal at Hanover retirement community as he discussed the changes to the state’s small towns over the past two decades. “You go up there now and they’re depleted, they’ve lost population, the Main Street stores are closed.”

Issues surrounding technology and how it’s changing the country’s economy and workforce took center stage at Yang’s talk. The founder of Venture for America, who’s currently polling at 2.8% nationally, and 3.7% in New Hampshire, according to the latest Real Clear Politics averages, presented himself as a less divisive candidate than other Democratic hopefuls.

“I’m not ideological, I’m just trying to improve our way of life,” said Yang, a 40-year-old entrepreneur who grew up in upstate New York.

Part of that improvement starts with learning how to adapt as a country to artificial intelligence and technological advancements, according to Yang. He referenced call centers across the country, which he predicted will soon replace an estimated 2.5 million employees with “fast, seamless” automated machines. In the fast-food industry, workers have already seen some of their work get taken over by electronic kiosks, while brick-and-mortar retail stores are facing big competition with online companies like Amazon, Yang said.

One example that he identified as a primary concern is the advent of self-driving trucks, which could replace the jobs of 3.5 million truck drivers over the next few years, he said. It’s a change that could save companies an estimated $168 billion, but which comes at a cost for workers, Yang said.

“What does this mean for the 3.5 million truckers… or the 7 million-plus people who work in truck stops, motels, diners?” he asked.

Still, many people aren’t aware of just how much of an impact technological advancements have on the economy, according to Yang. He said people tend to view the economy like they did 50 years ago, with businesses hiring full-time employees, paying benefits, and “investing in their own back yard.” But that’s no longer the case. Thanks to technological advancements plenty of workers, like Uber drivers, are not salaried employees, have no benefits, and don’t get paid as well as they used to, he said.

“The gains of wealth are going to a smaller and smaller sliver of Americans.”

Yang’s plan to start reversing that change is a unique one (at least among other Democrats who are running). If elected, he wants to give a $1,000 check to every citizen over the age of 18 every month. He discussed the plan Tuesday, saying that it’s a way to take some of the wealth from tech companies like Amazon, and give it back to citizens.

“This is a virtuous cycle where everyone wins, because most of this money is going to float back up anyway,” Yang said, explaining that recipients will likely spend that money locally, calling it a “trickle-up” effect.

Yang’s speech Tuesday was met with both support and concern from some skeptical residents.

“You were talking about $1,000 for everyone and I don’t understand that at all….What’s the point?” Kendal resident Peter Flack asked. He told the presidential candidate that he should choose a message to stand by and gave Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal as an example. “I don’t hear that from you.”

Yang, who also spoke at a crowded “town hall” forum Monday evening at the Richard W. Black Community Center in Hanover, said that the idea for the $1,000 check is a way to combat the loss of the middle class and put “more economic power into people’s hands.” He agreed with Flack on the need for a clear vision statement, and suggested terms like “humanity first” or “a new way forward.” But Yang also said his team actually has 160 policy proposals to see that vision forward.

For Kendal resident Debbie Metzger, Yang’s talk was a kind of wake up call to pay a little more attention to the candidate.

“He has proposals that would change the way we govern,” Metzger said, adding that Yang’s discussion about economic issues facing the country stood out to her in particular. “He motivates us to think.”

Yang’s message seemed to resonate with the younger generation, too. Jack Quinn, a freshman at Philips Exeter Academy — which Yang also attended — traveled with his dad to visit his grandmother and hear the presidential candidate speak. He said Yang’s message about wealth inequality spoke to him, specifically a proposal that would give 100 “Democracy Dollars” to every citizen to put toward their favorite political candidate. The proposal would cut down on the influence of “mega-donors” according to Yang’s website.

“It would be hard to do, but it would help take the money out of politics,” Quinn said. He also liked the idea of giving citizens $1,000 a month, noting that it would be especially beneficial to people suffering a medical emergency.

But both Quinn and his father, Christopher Quinn, noted that Yang could have gone into more detail about ways to implement some of the proposals he discussed Tuesday. They also suggested he work harder on energizing and exciting the crowd.

“He can do a better job of talking about how he will achieve his vision,” Christopher Quinn said.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.

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