WASHINGTON – Most people haven’t heard of Andrew Yang yet. But they will soon enough.
Meet a dark-horse candidate for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination in 2020, already officially declared, whose campaign is focusing on the concept of providing every man and woman between the ages of 18 and 64 in America with what is called a “Universal Basic Income” – free money, extracted from other taxpayers, with no strings attached.
While other groups and individuals are promoting the concept with pilot projects, like the one in Stockton, California, Yang, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, sees more urgency behind the scheme as automation, he says, will soon strip millions of Americans of jobs.
Yang has even come up with a new name for UBI – a $1,000 a month “Freedom Dividend.”
Yang officially declared his intention to run in a filing with the Federal Elections Commission Nov. 6. and has a new book coming out next month, “The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future,” in which he lays out his plans.
The UBI plan alone would add $2.9 trillion to a budget that is currently set for next year at $4.4 trillion, with $1 trillion in deficit spending and an accumulating, existing debt of $20 trillion.
He also proposes a new federal department focused on regulating the addictive nature of media, a new post of White House psychologist, making tax day a national holiday and increasing the salaries of federal regulators but restricting the work they can do after leaving government.
But, if you have any doubts about UBI being the cornerstone of his 2020 bid, check out the campaign’s official website.
Why the urgency for UBI?
His book explains: “Rapidly advancing technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics and automation software are making millions of Americans’ livelihoods irrelevant. The consequences of these trends are already being felt across our communities in the form of political unrest, drug use, and other social ills.”
Yang cites a 2017 McKinsey study that calculates as many as 70 million American jobs will disappear by 2020 – taken over by robots and automation.
“All you need is self-driving cars to destabilize society,” the former tech executive says. “That one innovation will be enough to create riots in the street. And we’re about to do the same thing to retail workers, call center workers, fast-food workers, insurance companies, accounting firms.”
Yang, 43, A New Yorker, is the founder of Venture for America, a non-profit, with the mission “to create economic opportunity in American cities by mobilizing the next generation of entrepreneurs and equipping them with the skills and resources they need to create jobs.”
Born in Schenectady to immigrant parents from Taiwan, his parents met while they were both in graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley. His father graduated with a Ph.D. in physics and worked in the research labs of IBM and General Electric, generating over 69 patents in his career. His mother graduated with a master’s degree in Statistics and later became an artist.
In 1999, after graduating from Columbia Law School, Yang began his career as a corporate attorney at Davis Polk & Wardwell. He left the firm in 2000 to launch Stargiving.com, a startup that worked to support celebrity-affiliated philanthropy. Stargiving.com raised capital from investors, but folded in 2001. Yang then joined a healthcare software startup, MMF Systems, Inc., as its vice president. After four years there, he joined Manhattan Prep, a small test-preparation company. He later took over as chief executive officer. It was later acquired by Kaplan, Inc. in December 2009, at which point Andrew served as the company’s president through the year 2011 when he launched Venture for America.
Started with $200,000, the operation now has a $6 million annual budget. He was recognized by President Obama in 2012 as a “White House Champion for Change.”
Not surprisingly for a Democratic presidential candidate, he passionately supports new restrictions on private firearms, tweeting last week: “There is no practical reason for citizens to have assault weapons. We need to treat gun ownership as an awesome privilege and responsibility and regulate accordingly. Guns are more deadly (sic) than cars and we take tests to get drivers licenses.”