If you followed my blog at all in 2015 and 2016, you’d see that I wrote a lot about politics. I supported and volunteered for Bernie Sanders. I ultimately supported Hillary in the General Election. While Bernie Sanders is running again, I’ve decided to throw my support behind Andrew Yang after reviewing the candidates.
Who is Andrew Yang?
Most Americans probably have never heard of Andrew Yang, but I am guessing they will in the coming months. Yang got his law degree, but only was a lawyer for a few months when he decided to become an entrepreneur. Yang’s most successful company was Venture for America, which helped provide resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses all around the country. While Yang got many awards (including one from Obama) from his company helping America, Yang realized that there were larger systemic issues that were hurting America’s economy. A major one was how technology and automation were shifting the country and ultimately taking away many jobs, despite huge companies like Amazon making record profits.
When Yang saw Donald Trump win in 2016, he realized just how bad things were getting in our country and wanted to make a change. So Yang decided to run for president with some pretty innovative ideas. Yang doesn’t have any experience in politics, but his policy ideas are great and he has experience of actually building up companies that help Americans, which is unlike our current president. Yang has been open about the fact that he doesn’t care if another candidate steals his ideas as long as they help move America forward. So what are his policies?
Andrew Yang’s Major Policy: The Freedom Dividend
Universal Basic Income is the main policy Yang is advocating for. Yang calls it the “Freedom Dividend” and he plans on giving every American adult $1,000 each month until they turn 65. Here is a blurb explaining the Freedom Dividend from Yang’s website:
Andrew would implement a Universal Basic Income, ‘The Freedom Dividend,’ of $1,000/month, $12,000 a year for every American adult over the age of 18. This is independent of one’s work status or any other factor. This would enable all Americans to pay their bills, educate themselves, start businesses, be more creative, stay healthy, relocate for work, spend time with their children, take care of loved ones, and have a real stake in the future.
- Any change to The Freedom Dividend would require a constitutional amendment.
- It will be illegal to lend or borrow against one’s Dividend.
A Universal Basic Income at this level would permanently grow the economy by 12.56 to 13.10 percent—or about $2.5 trillion by 2025—and it would increase the labor force by 4.5 to 4.7 million people. Putting money into people’s hands and keeping it there would be a perpetual boost and support to job growth and the economy.
Americans are struggling financially and surveys have shown that a surprise $500 bill would put most Americans in debt. Once we add in the huge problem of automation taking away millions of jobs, we are certainly heading for disaster. While Bernie Sanders and others are advocating an increase of minimum wage, Yang is ahead of the pack by realizing that increasing minimum wage won’t help the millions of Americans who will lose their jobs in the next decade.
This Freedom Dividend isn’t a crazy idea. It already is in place in one US state: Alaska. Studies have shown that Alaskans are no less likely to work and enjoy the financial security of their universal basic income. Additionally, universal basic income would NOT increase inflation.
The big question is how to pay for the Freedom Dividend. And since that’s an important question, I am sharing the 4 sources to pay for this right from Yang’s site:
1. Current spending. We currently spend between $500 and $600 billion a year on welfare programs, food stamps, disability and the like. This reduces the cost of Universal Basic Income because people already receiving benefits would have a choice but would be ineligible to receive the full $1,000 in addition to current benefits.
2. A VAT. Our economy is now incredibly vast at $19 trillion, up $4 trillion in the last 10 years alone. A VAT at half the European level would generate $800 billion in new revenue. A VAT will become more and more important as technology improves because you cannot collect income tax from robots or software.
3. New revenue. Putting money into the hands of American consumers would grow the economy. The Roosevelt Institute projected that the economy would grow by approximately $2.5 trillion and create 4.6 million new jobs. This would generate approximately $500 – 600 billion in new revenue from economic growth and activity.
4. We currently spend over one trillion dollars on health care, incarceration, homelessness services and the like. We would save $100 – 200 billion as people would take better care of themselves and avoid the emergency room, jail, and the street and would generally be more functional. Universal Basic Income would pay for itself by helping people avoid our institutions, which is when our costs shoot up. Some studies have shown that $1 to a poor parent will result in as much as $7 in cost-savings and economic growth.
All this sounds good to me. And it’s consistent with Yang’s overarching support for a “human-centered capitalism.” Human-centered capitalism keeps the benefits of the market, but makes sure we are valuing the well-being of people instead of only caring about profits and gross domestic product (GDP). GDP is something that could “run off of a cliff” according to Yang:
Blindly following GDP as a measure of progress is going to run our society off a cliff. We need to evolve our measurements of economic value to include things that matter to us – mental health, engagement with work, education, the environment, childhood success. pic.twitter.com/GpMSrotKCF
— Andrew Yang (@AndrewYang) December 5, 2018
Many of Yang’s other policies are pretty conventional for Democratic platforms. Gun safety, LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, reduce mass incarnation, combat climate change, medicare for all, and develop a single-payer healthcare. While there are close to 80 policies on Yang’s site as I write this, there are a couple in particular I want to share.
One thing that I love about Yang’s campaign is his focus on mental health and well-being. Yang will often discuss the importance of mental health in his interviews and wants to make sure America’s well-being is increasing rather than decreasing. Beyond that, Yang discusses how important it is for Americans to have a sense of purpose and meaning. How many candidates do you hear talk about that?
As mentioned above, combating climate change is a major issue for Yang too. But he seems to talk about it in a way that is more evidence-based than other candidates. Climate change is already here. Renewable energy is awesome, but we also need to support nuclear power too (something Yang supports). We need to start thinking about geoengineering instead of hoping everyone will immediately stop hurting the environment. From Yang’s website:
the U.S. only emits 15% of the world’s greenhouse gases – this is a global problem. We should invest resources in large-scale geo-engineering measures like shoring up glaciers and reducing solar exposure to counteract the effects of climate change even as we reduce our emissions. Waiting around for the oceans to rise is not the American way. If we don’t adopt and lead in geoengineering, China will wind up making decisions for us when it decides to modify the climate in about 20 years.
A couple last points from Yang that sound silly, but I think are actually pretty neat. For one, he wants to legalize weed and also pardon all of those in prison for low level marijuana offenses. He also wants to make taxes more fun by making tax day a national holiday and do what he can to make it easier for Americans to pay their taxes. There are so many more awesome policies on Yang’s site, but this blog post is already long enough. Check them out here if you are interested! And check our Yang on The Breakfast Club for a recent interview!
I like the other Democratic candidates. I’ll happily vote for whoever wins the Democratic nomination as they will be orders of magnitude better than the alternative. But as I review the policies of all the candidates, Andrew Yang seems to just have better ideas. To me, Yang makes the other candidates seem outdated. He also seems to be gaining support not just from liberals, but moderates and even conservatives as well! Prediction markets already have Yang’s chances of wining the presidency at about 4%. That’s about the same chance that major candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker have!
Yang has a shot to win and I was happy to donate to his campaign and buy a signed copy of his book! Yang almost has 65,000 individual donations, which is the required amount to appear on the Democratic debates. It looks like he will be at the debates this summer and I am excited for more Americans to hear his ideas then. Andrew Yang once said that his Freedom Dividend idea was not right or left leaning, but that it was “forward.” I think “forward” is the best way to sum up his campaign as well.