Andrew Yang is the entrepreneur running for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.
His core campaign promise is to implement a Universal Basic Income for every American adult, which he calls the Freedom Dividend. The idea is to give each American adult $1,000 per month, no strings attached.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Andrew Yang Says a Universal Basic Income Will Help Blunt the Economic Impact Automation Has Had on American Workers
The campaign promise that Andrew Yang has received the most attention for his vow to give every adult between the ages of 18 and 64 free money: $1,000 per month, no strings attached. Yang explains on his campaign website that the Universal Basic Income would be paid for mainly with a new tax “on the companies benefiting most from automation,” called a Value-Added Tax. The video embedded above is an interview Yang gave to Fox Business in April of 2018, in which he explained how his plan could work and why he does not see it as a handout.
Yang’s argument for why we need a basic income has to do with the increased use of robots and other technology in the workplace. According to a 2017 study by the McKinsey Global Institute, a business and economics research firm, as many as 800 million jobs around the world could be taken over by automation by the year 2030. The study predicts that between 39 and 73 million jobs in the United States alone could be at risk. You can read the full report here.
In a September 2018 op-ed for the New York Daily News, Yang argued that more money in everyone’s pockets would end up boosting the economy because more people would launch companies, fewer students would drop out of school, and consumers would be able to invest more in their local economies. He wrote in part:
“Universal basic income is a policy whereby every citizen gets a certain amount of money, no questions asked, from the government. I call it the Freedom Dividend.
This may seem far-fetched. However, this is very much the norm in other countries around the world. And here in the states, a version of basic income has been in effect in Alaska for 36 years. Nationally, a version passed the House of Representatives in 1971 under President Nixon and almost became law before stalling in the Senate because Democrats wanted a higher income level…
Imagine how many more businesses New Yorkers would start if they each had $1,000 more per month in their bank accounts. So many New Yorkers have drive and passion but lack funds to start a business. Nationally, the Roosevelt Institute projected that the Freedom Dividend would grow the economy by $2.5 trillion and create 4.5 million new jobs because people would have more money to spend.
How to pay for it? Of course that’s a huge question. A universal basic income funded by a value-added tax, which is a tax placed on a product whenever value is added at each stage of the supply chain, from production to the point of sale, would spread the benefits of automation to a much wider group of people.”
2. Yang’s Ideas For Education Reform Include Expanding Vocational Training & Implement a College Loan Payment Plan In Which the Debt Would Be Forgiven After 10 Years
Andrew Yang does not agree with Bernie Sanders’ proposal to make public college tuition-free. But his platform includes a strategy to help students pay for it without incurring massive amounts of debt. (The Federal Reserve says that total student loan debt in the United States is $1.569 trillion, as of March 2019).
Yang’s idea is to implement what he calls a “10×10 Student Loan Emancipation Plan.” Participants would promise to put 10 percent of their salary toward paying back student loans. After a decade, the remainder of the debt would be forgiven. As part of his plan, the federal government would buy the student loan debt from private lenders. Yang also proposes allowing student debt to be forgiven through bankruptcy.
Yang’s educational platform includes expanding early education opportunities, public school investment and promoting a “science-driven curricula.” In a September 2018 op-ed for Business Insider, Yang argued that standardized testing is an unfair way to evaluate students — even though he benefited from the system.
“I had very little going for me as a kid except for the fact that I had demanding parents and was very good at filling out bubbles on standardized tests. I went to the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University because I did well on the SAT. I went to Exeter because I did well on the SAT. I got into Stanford and Brown because I did well on the SAT. I went to law school at Columbia because I did well on the LSAT, which led directly to a six-figure job. I even became the CEO of an education company in part because I did well on the GMAT.
Being good at these tests, however, has very little to do with character, virtue, or work ethic. They just mean you are good at the tests. There were many people who studied much harder than I did who didn’t do well. I remember one classmate crying when we got our test results back because she’d studied so hard for it.
We say success in America is about hard work and character. It’s not really. Most of the success today is about how good you are at certain tests and what kind of family background you have, with some exceptions sprinkled in to try and make it all seem fair. Intellect as narrowly defined by academics and test scores is now the proxy for human worth. Efficiency is close behind. Our system rewards specific talents more than anything. I got pushed forward for having certain capacities. Others had their horizons systematically lowered for having capacities that our academic system had no use for. I’ve seen countless people lose heart and feel like they should settle for less, that they don’t deserve abundance.”
Yang says he also wants to expand vocational training in the United States. Part of his platform includes better education about the availability of vocational programs, as opposed to public schools simply promoting colleges. Yang wrote on his campaign website, “College is being over-prescribed in this country. Not everyone has an interest in obtaining a college degree, and there are many jobs out there that don’t require it. Georgetown has estimated that there are 30 million good-paying jobs out there that don’t require a college degree. Most require some type of specialized training.”
3. Yang Supports Medicare For All, Paid Family Leave & Creating a Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants
Andrew Yang is among the Democratic candidates who have gotten on board with the idea of Medicare for All. He explains on his campaign website that he supports a single-payer system.
Yang cites the Cleveland Clinic as an example of how it could work. “The best approach is highlighted by the top-ranked Cleveland Clinic. There, doctors are paid a flat salary instead of by a price-for-service model. This shift has led to a hospital where costs are visible and under control. Redundant tests are at a minimum, and physician turnover is much lower than at comparable hospitals. Doctors also report being more involved with their patients. Since they’re salaried, there’s no need to churn through patient after patient. Instead, they can spend the proper amount of time to ensure that each patient receives their undivided attention and empathy.”
Yang’s policy platform includes other ideas such as: Every police officer should wear a body camera; paid family leave for both mothers and fathers; legalizing marijuana nationwide; focus on treatment for non-violent drug offenders as opposed to sending them to prison; and investing in “geo-engineering measures like shoring up glaciers and reducing solar exposure to counteract the effects of climate change even as we reduce our emissions.”
As for immigration, Yang states that he is committed to securing the southern border. He argues that having 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States poses potential security threats, but disagrees that mass deportation is the answer.
Instead, his solution is to establish a pathway to citizenship that involves immigrants signing up for a long-term residency program. People who work, pay their taxes and do not commit crimes would be able to become full citizens after 18 years. Yang explained he decided on 18 years because that is the “same amount of time it takes those born in the US to get full citizenship rights.” He also wants to discourage people from entering the U.S. illegally in the first place. Technically speaking, it takes less time to become a citizen through the legal channels. (Currently, people who enter legally, and have been living as a permanent resident for at least five years, can apply for citizenship and be accepted in about one year).
4. Andrew Yang Founded ‘Venture For America,’ a Fellowship Program That Trains Entrepreneurs
Andrew Yang founded his company “Venture For America” in 2011. It’s a non-profit organization that recruits and educates people who are interested in launching their own businesses. Yang says he was motivated to start this training program by his own failed attempt at starting his own business in the early 2000s.
Yang tried to start a company at age 25. But the venture failed. His next stop was working for a health care start-up called MMF Systems, according to his Linkedin profile. Yang explained that the experience allowed him to learn what makes a start-up succeed. From 2006 to 2011, Yang served as the president and CEO of an education company called Manhattan GMAT.
Yang wrote on his Venture for America bio that his personal experiences showed him the value of learning from other entrepreneurs. “Entrepreneurship is like many other things – you tend to get better at it over time. You can learn by working with people who have more experience than you. And if you see someone else do it, you start saying to yourself, ‘Okay, if he/she can do it, maybe I can do it, too.'”
5. Andrew Yang is the Son of Immigrants, Grew Up in Upstate New York & Is Married With Two Sons
Andrew Yang was born on January 13, 1975, in upstate New York. His parents were immigrants from Taiwan. Yang explained on his campaign bio that his father worked as a researcher at IBM and his mother was a systems administrator at a university.
Yang studied economics at Brown University and graduated in 1996. His next stop was Columbia University School of Law, where he wrote for the Columbia Law Review, according to his Linkedin profile.
Yang is married to wife Evelyn. They have two sons and live in New York City.