Andrew Yang's 2020 Platform: Fighting Economic Doom, Climate Change And More

Download Audio
2020 U.S. Democratic Presidential hopeful Andrew Yang speaks on-stage during the Democratic National Committee's summer meeting in San Francisco, Calif., on August 23, 2019. (Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)
2020 U.S. Democratic Presidential hopeful Andrew Yang speaks on-stage during the Democratic National Committee's summer meeting in San Francisco, Calif., on August 23, 2019. (Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

2020 Democratic hopeful and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang makes the case for why he should be the next president of the United States.


Andrew Yang, candidate for the 2020 presidential nomination. Tech entrepreneur. Founder of Venture for America, a nonprofit that matches top college grads with startups in economically challenged U.S. cities in order to generate job growth. (@AndrewYang)

Interview Highlights

On why he wants to be the next president of the United States

"It was Donald Trump's victory in 2016, where I'd spent the previous six years running a nonprofit, Venture for America, that I'd founded that helped create thousands of jobs in places like Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland, Birmingham, New Orleans. And I was stunned by what I saw in the rest of the country where automation had decimated communities, had eliminated 4 million manufacturing jobs in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. And then Donald Trump won in 2016, which to me was a giant red flag. It was a, 'Stop what you're doing. We just elected a narcissist, reality TV star as our president.' And tens of millions of Americans were desperate enough to think that that was the right move. And to me, it was clear that this is the manifestation of this economic transformation that we're in the midst of, that, for whatever reason, our politicians are not discussing — the elimination of these 4 million manufacturing jobs will now migrate to retail. And people who are listening to this are seeing Main Street stores close around them every single day. Call centers, fast food and then eventually hit truck driving, and being a trucker is the most common job in 29 states. There are 3 1/2 million truck drivers in the U.S.

"And so I had no intention of running for president at any point. My wife laughs about it because in some ways I make a lousy politician. But Trump wins. I say, 'OK, this is a straight automation story — that we're in the third inning of the fourth industrial revolution. No one's talking about it. We're scapegoating immigrants for problems that immigrants have next to nothing to do with.' When you're in that position, you say, 'Well, how can I, on wake up America to the fact that this is a huge transformation we're in the midst of?' Then we need to start addressing and start solving the problems in the right timeframe, given that we're five to 10 years away from robot trucks hitting the highways."

"I want to point out that I am one of the only candidates that he has not touched on Twitter. And the reason for that is that he's a bully and he knows I'm better at the internet than he is."

Andrew Yang on President Trump

On Yang's nonprofit Venture for America — a kind of "entrepreneurial Teach for America," which would get the brightest minds to go to economically depressed communities and create startups there

Yang said he would create 100,000 jobs by 2025. So far, VFA has created 3,500 jobs

"I'm incredibly proud of all the work that Venture for America does and continues to do. ... If anything, my work with Venture for America verified just how badly the economy is doing in terms of job creation and new business formation, and that we need to face facts. That, right now, we pretend that the internet is this giant catalyst for entrepreneurship. Meanwhile, Amazon is closing 30% of America's stores and malls, and being a retail clerk is one of the most common jobs in the country. The average retail worker is a 39-year-old woman making between $9 and $11 an hour. So my work with Venture for America pushed me in a direction that says we need to think much much bigger about the solutions.

On why Yang believes he can make his visions and ideas a reality in Washington

"I'm one of only two candidates in the field that 10% or more of Donald Trump voters said that they would support. Which means if I'm the Democratic nominee, we will win this election. Hands down. And then after we win and I'm the president, the Democrats will be so pumped that they made the right choice — I mean, it's a bit of a bet, obviously — but they'll be so pumped to have beaten Donald Trump, that getting money into the hands of families and children and making our communities stronger, healthier, mentally healthier through the 'Freedom Dividend' will be the first order of business.

"But here's the kicker. Then the Republicans will look up and say, 'Wait a minute. Am I against the dividend?' The only state with a dividend right now is Alaska, which is a deep red, conservative state. It was passed by a Republican governor. And Republican people in Congress will say this is a huge win for rural areas, for red states on the interior that have gotten blasted by the automation of the manufacturing jobs. And we don't need 80 percent of Congress to pass the dividend we just need a majority.

"The reason why Republicans and Trump voters and independents and libertarians are drawn to my campaign is that they see that I'm just a problem solver. I don't have any particular alignment, which means I'll be able to get things done in Washington that others cannot."

"The reason why Republicans and Trump voters and independents and libertarians are drawn to my campaign is that they see that I'm just a problem solver."

Andrew Yang

On how Yang thinks he matches up with President Trump

"I want to point out that I am one of the only candidates that he has not touched on Twitter. And the reason for that is that he's a bully and he knows I'm better at the internet than he is. A lot of the people online that create memes and whatnot have converted to the 'Yang Gang.' So he hasn't touched me because he knows I'm not the candidate he wants to mess with.

"Humor is the best antidote, because the problem is that he seems like a bully, and then if you stand up and say, 'That's divisive,' and it's not very effective. So the nickname that we've come up with, that we think he will use for me, is 'Comrade Yang,' because it's a little racist — it makes me seem like a communist or something like that. And Americans can see through very, very quickly that the 'Freedom Dividend' is simply capitalism where income doesn't start at zero. It's good for us, it's good for markets, it's good for consumers and businesses. So that's where we think he's going to go.

"But I truly am his kryptonite. He even said in a rally in West Virginia a number of months ago, he said he can't wait to run against the Democrats. The only thing he's worried about is that some new figure comes out of nowhere, and I'm that figure. He runs most effectively against people that are part of the D.C. establishment, and I am not."

On how Yang's universal basic income (UBI) idea — the "Freedom Dividend" — would work

"The form of UBI that he is proposing for the United States is a set of guaranteed payments of $1,000 per month, or $12,000 per year, to all U.S. citizens over the age of 18," per Yang's campaign website.

Yang points out that this idea is not "Andrew Yang, crazy futurist." Everyone from Thomas Paine, to Martin Luther King Jr., to Milton Friedman, to the U.S. House of Representatives in the '70s has sought after this policy.

"This is baked into America's DNA. It's inevitable, and we need to get with the program and pass it so that we can actually start focusing on the real problems of this age, instead of having 78 percent of Americans living paycheck to paycheck and almost half can't afford an unexpected $500 bill, which ends up spreading this mindset of scarcity that makes it very very difficult for us to come together and solve bigger problems like climate change. Studies have shown that if you can't pay your bills, it has the effect of occupying your mental bandwidth to a point that it decreases your functional IQ by 13 points, or one standard deviation.

"So if people listening to this have the sneaking feeling that America is getting less rational, less reasonable, less optimistic, even more xenophobic, we are, because if you introduce pervasive financial insecurity into a society, those are all of the things that happen. And the way to reverse this is by getting the boot off of our throats and passing a freedom dividend, or a negative income tax, or a universal basic income — whatever you want to call it. But this is the flagship proposal behind my campaign, and one reason why we're doing so well is that it becomes very obvious as soon as you start to dig in and reflect on it."

"Americans can see through very, very quickly that the 'Freedom Dividend' is simply capitalism where income doesn't start at zero."

Andrew Yang on his universal basic income plan

On where the revenue to pay for this — estimated in the trillions of dollars — would come from

"A study just came out that said that our data is more valuable than oil. And, if you're listening to this, do you remember getting your data check in the mail? I certainly don't.

"You have Amazon, this trillion-dollar tech company that's closing 30% of our stores, paying literally zero in taxes, less than everyone listening to this. Think about that for a second: A trillion-dollar company, zero in taxes. So then if you look up and say, 'How are you going to pay for it?' Of course you're going to have a hard time paying for it if Amazon's paying zero back into our society.

"What we need to do is we need to give every American our tiny, tiny slice of every Amazon sale, every Google search, every Facebook ad, every robot truck mile. This would generate hundreds of billions in new revenue and pay for this 'Freedom Dividend,' in large part because the money does not disappear in our hands. We end up spending it in our local communities — on car repairs and daycare and Little League sign-ups. And it ends up creating hundreds of thousands of jobs where we live and work. This is the trickle-up economy from our people, our families and our communities up."

Won't consumers end up paying for a value-added tax?

"One reason why it's so important that we have this dividend — so that for any money you're spending into the the Amazons of the world, that you're getting that and then some. My plan would increase the buying power for 94% of Americans, and the 6% it would not are doing very, very well."

Why won't the "Freedom Dividend" be added on top of other government assistance folks are already receiving?

"The last thing we want to do is take anything away from anyone. I mean, you can tell, I'm trying to make the economy work for people, which is the way it should be. So the 'Freedom Dividend' is opt-in. We're not taking anything away from anyone, but if you do decide to opt in, then you would be foregoing certain cash-like benefits. But when I've talked to folks who are on SNAP or on these other programs, most of them would vastly prefer unconditional cash with no case management, no reporting requirements. A lot of them are incredibly frustrated by the bureaucracy that's associated with the benefits, and they live in fear that they're going to be taken away."

From The Reading List

Politico Magazine: "The Surprising Surge of Andrew Yang" — "Andrew Yang was sitting here in a rented silver Suburban outside a black chamber of commerce surrounded by five members of his rapidly growing campaign staff when he saw a new Fox News poll in which he was tied for fifth in the sprawling Democratic presidential primary.

"He stared at the screen of his phone and scrolled.

"'Three percent!' Yang said, in his characteristically dry, droll way. 'This team. Is the team. That’s going to go … all. The. Way. To the White House!'

"Yang breezily walked into the chamber building and got onto a packed elevator. To the county party chair squeezed into a corner, Yang excitedly passed along the results of the poll, listing in order the only people who were ahead of him—a former vice president (Joe Biden) and three high-profile senators (Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris).

"'And then me!' he exclaimed, flashing a goofy, exaggerated smile.

"Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but Andrew Yang is … surging? It sounds crazy, and who knows how long it lasts? But for now he is one of 10 candidates who have qualified through sufficiently robust polling and fundraising for this fall’s third and fourth debates. The exhausting cluster of Oval Office aspirants, at least for these purposes, has been whittled to this: the aforementioned top four, two more senators, a mayor, a former member of Congress and … this guy. Yang is a 44-year-old entrepreneur from New York and a father of two young sons who’s never run for any office of any kind before this, and whose campaign is fueled by a deeply dystopian view of the near future (trucker riots, anybody?), a pillar of a platform that can come off as a gimmick (a thousand bucks a month for every American adult!), and a zeitgeisty swirl of podcasts, GIFs, tweets and memes. Last week, as a successful governor from a major state dropped out and the bottom half of the bloated field continued to flounder, Yang passed the 200,000 mark for unique donors—outpacing an array of name-known pols. He’s gotten contributions, on average $24 a pop, from 88 percent of the ZIP codes in the country, and he’s on track, he says, to raise twice as much money this quarter as he did last quarter."

CBS News: "Andrew Yang on why he'll beat Biden and lure Trump voters" — "Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang says he is confident he can defeat front-runner Joe Biden. Right now, the businessman is polling at about two to four percent nationwide.

"In an interview to air on 'CBS This Morning' on Thursday, the 2020 hopeful told co-host Anthony Mason why he believes he has what it will take to beat President Trump.

"Mason said, 'Polls show that most Democratic voters, and Democratic-leaning independents – two thirds – the main thing they want in a candidate is someone who can beat Donald Trump.'

"'Yep. I'm one of only two candidates in the field that 10% or more of Donald Trump voters say that they would support,' Yang said.

"Why is that? 'It's because I'm focused on solving the problems that they see around them every day. And I'm laser-focused on trying to make their lives better. That's why I'm getting thousands of Trump voters as well as Independents and Libertarians and Democrats and progressives. If I'm the Democratic nominee, we win. That's the math.'

"'But that's Joe Biden's argument, too,' Mason said.

"'Oh, that's one reason why he's leading in the polls, and that's one reason you'll see me leading in the polls before too long.'

"Yang said he believes he will be the Democratic nominee."

Washington Examiner: "Opinion: Of course Andrew Yang is beating Beto; he's a vastly superior candidate" — "CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza might be the last person in America to see it. He's shocked that the failed senatorial candidate with nothing but a dopey grin and a DWI has tanked in the polls.

"Yes, really.

"Interesting. You mean to say that the self-made millionaire entrepreneur running on a concise, relevant economic platform is beating the trust fund son-in-law who sounds uncannily like Butthead from the old MTV cartoon? Could not have seen that one coming, Chris.

"Beto's always been an empty suit, but in 2018, he was an empty suit running solely against a polarizing incumbent Republican in an election characterized by groundbreaking Democratic turnout. Now he's running against a bevy of candidates more experienced, more charismatic, more diligent, more intelligent, and unquestionably better looking, who all have fewer DWIs in their history. (The whole discount RFK schtick pales in comparison to the telegenic visages of Tulsi Gabbard or Kamala Harris.)

"By contrast, Yang has differentiated himself from the field by putting forward an affirmative and cogent agenda focused on the economy and automation. You don't have to agree with his solution to understand its appeal."

Dorey Scheimer produced this hour for broadcast.

This program aired on September 5, 2019.



More from On Point

Listen Live