Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur running for president as a Democrat, has repeatedly talked up his plan to give every American $1,000 a month if he's elected. But does that really mean everyone?
Yes, everyone, Yang said Monday. Asked if that even means Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of Tesla, Yang said it does.
"My friend Elon, who endorsed me, gets $1,000 a month," Yang said. "But Elon ends up paying more into the system, which he's totally cool with."
Yang was speaking at the Brown and Black Democratic Presidential Forum, a gathering in Des Moines, Iowa, primarily focused on issues faced by people of color. The slated speakers -- which included frontrunners former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg -- came together on a frigid day in the run-up to the Feb 3 Iowa caucuses. The event, hosted by Vice News, was aptly held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
"We're in the midst of this economic transformation," Yang said. "And you know who suffers most when there's a tidal wave, it's black and brown people."
During a conference with reporters, he emphasized that the pool for his proposed fund would raise "hundreds of millions of dollars from the Jeff Bezoses of the world," referencing Amazon's CEO. "If we try and send Jeff Bezos $1,000 to remind him he's an American, I don't think that's a bad thing."
The event was one of the last joint gatherings for the candidates before the all-important Iowa caucuses. The contest is the first major milestone of the 2020 primary season, and the winner in Iowa comes away with great momentum as the rest of their states ready their primaries.
Little talk of tech
Technology has been a major theme in the candidates' campaign messaging. But while the impact of Silicon Valley tech giants has become a common talking point for the candidates when addressing national audiences, those issues have rarely come up when they stump in the heartland, Iowa residents say. The one exception has been Yang, who has repeatedly raised the issue of job automation spurred by advancements in technology.
Still, candidates have widely taken aim at big tech. Last week, Biden raised eyebrows in the tech world when he proposed a repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The landmark legal protection doesn't hold tech platforms liable for user-generated content. Biden told The New York Times it "immediately should be revoked," for every service and called out Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg by name. "It should be revoked because [Facebook] is not merely an internet company," Biden told the paper. "It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false."
On Monday, Biden didn't bring up Section 230. On a more lighthearted note, though, he was asked during a lightning round series of questions who pays for his Netflix account. "I don't have a Netflix account," he replied. "If I do, I'm unaware of it."
Warren has made the most noise about tech companies. She's made it a key campaign promise to break up the tech giants and bring antitrust reform to the historically seldom-regulated industry. Warren has proposed undoing key mergers that allowed the tech giants to sprawl and dominate their markets, such as Facebook's 2012 buyout of Instagram and Google's 2006 acquisition of YouTube.
She addressed potential monopolies in Silicon Valley again on Monday, after an audience member asked her about the changing landscape for workers and consumers. Warren mentioned Facebook's enormous power and said the company needs more rivals. "You don't just have Facebook, you have 10 competitors," she said. One of those other companies might have better privacy policies, she said, and another could have a community someone might like better.
Sanders has also been ringing the alarm on Big Tech antitrust. He's denounced Facebook's "incredible power" over the country's economy and political life, calling the social network's grasp "very dangerous." Sanders has also said Amazon is "moving very rapidly to be a monopoly." He didn't bring up those issues, though, on Monday.