Congressman Ro Khanna stumped for local Democrats in Iowa this weekend while pitching his unique brand of progressive vision mixed with Silicon Valley innovation. It’s his second trip out to the state after visiting for a Pete D’Alessandro congressional event back in May during the primary. Khanna drew a large crowd of over 100 people to the Asian & Latino Coalition’s Saturday afternoon reception for him and congressional candidate Cindy Axne.
Khanna, the first-term congressman who represents the Silicon Valley area around San Francisco, has emerged as a leading voice on the party’s left in recent years. He’s gotten involved in several primaries around the country to back progressive Democrats, leads efforts on anti-trust and job guarantee laws in Congress and has seen his fair share of national profiles written on him lately.
Chatter is building on the left of whether he should run for president in 2020, but regardless of that choice, Khanna should be an influential player in whatever happens in the upcoming Iowa Caucus.
“Do we want America to go into the future or be stuck in the past?” Khanna said was the fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans in 2018.
Khanna tied much of his speech and vision back to the technological and business innovation that thrives in his district, explaining how progressive policy ideas can further new job creation and keep it sustainable. He didn’t have any Iowa relatives to rattle off like Montana Governor Steve Bullock did earlier in the day, but he did note how many tech leaders came from Iowa. That included Bob Noyce of Intel (born in Burlington) and Marc Andreesen of Netscape (born in Cedar Falls).
“The President’s vision is that to make America strong, to make America grow, the people we need to bet on is the stockholders and the investors and the executives,” Khanna said. “I represent Apple Computers. They don’t need a tax cut.”
He suggested a different approach.
“We have a very different vision of economic growth,” Khanna explained. “Thirty years in this country, wages have not gone up for ordinary folks. Costs are going up … The cost of college is going up, the cost of healthcare is going up and wages are flat.”
One of his suggestions was that instead of the $1.2 trillion tax cut, the government could have instead vastly expanded the earned income tax credit. Had they put the same amount of money into that, Khanna predicted that a family making $80,000 a year would have gotten an $8,000 raise.
His other focus was on healthcare, where he supports a Medicare-for-all system.
“Ask Silicon Valley companies why they’re outsourcing jobs, they say healthcare costs,” he said.
Khanna also mentioned that when he was interviewed on Fox News recently, he was pressed on how Medicare-for-all would cost $32 billion.
“You know what line they don’t have after that? The current system costs $49 billion,” Khanna said.
The overarching message that Democrats can succeed with, Khanna believed, was one based on new jobs that can be created where people live already.
“We’ve got to have a job plan that inspires them to believe that their economic future is going to be better, that they’re going to have a shot at the middle class,” he said. “You’ve got to have a message that tells them they can stay in their community.”
And while he acknowledged that many Americans have soured on the promise of the country in recent years due to political chaos and economic stagnation, that he himself was still hopeful.
“I am a son of immigrants, born in Philadelphia, but I remember my parents standing in line, having their green cards stamped,” Khanna, a Hindu whose family is from India, said. “Today their son represents a district with Apple, Google, Yahoo, Intel, arguably the most economically successful district in the world. Only in this country.”
“If you work hard, you can make it,” he continued. “That is the spirit of our nation, that is the possibility of our 21st century … This is the world that we as a multi-cultural, multi-racial nation can usher in.”
After his speech, he took a couple questions from the crowd. One was related to the Universal Basic Income idea and whether he’d support that. Khanna said he doesn’t, explaining that he prefers to focus economic assistance to people through the Earned Income Tax Credit and Social Security benefits for people with disabilities.
“I am excited about maybe having some people join the Congress who will have policies further to my left so it’ll make my EITC proposal seem more reasonable,” Khanna joked. “Right now, we’re debating [in Congress] whether to have a $60 billion EITC expansion and I’m talking about a $1.6 trillion one.”
Khanna also headlined a fundraiser with Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker and state senate candidate Zach Wahls in Des Moines and an event for secretary of state candidate Deidre DeJear in Newton. He gave the Iowa Democratic Party a hand with their Back To Blue event in Creston on Sunday afternoon.
by Pat Rynard