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In Presidential Bid, Andrew Yang Touts Universal Basic Income

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Yang campaign
Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

From Texas Standard:

More than a dozen Democrats are running for president, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang is one of them. He's the first Asian-American Democrat to run for president, and highlights of his platform include giving every American $1,000 a month, and solving the "fake news" problem.

Yang calls his proposed $1,000 monthly payment a "freedom dividend." He says the concept of a universal basic income isn't new; he says Thomas Paine supported it during revolutionary times, and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and even conservative economist Milton Friedman, have promoted the idea. It's already happening in Alaska, Yang says. All Alaskan citizens receive a government stipend, which comes from the state's oil revenue.

"What I'm suggesting is that what they do with oil money in Alaska, we can do for the rest of the country with technology," Yang says. "And if we don't do anything, unfortunately the dynamics of automation are going to end up displacing many American workers in the years to come."

Yang says he expects a debate over universal basic income during the 2020 election cycle. But he says the U.S. should adopt the policy as soon as possible.

"If we continue to view ourselves as economic inputs into a greater machine of capital efficiency, we're going to lose – to artificial intelligence and robots and software on a catastrophic scale," Yang says.

Paying for a universal basic income would involve a new value-added tax, or VAT, on large technology companies like Amazon. But he says the difference between the VAT he's proposing and what exists in Europe is that the American version would be much smaller – about half.

Yang says that people in the Silicon Valley tech world understand the importance of doing something to mitigate the harm automation is doing to workers.

"If you go to them and say, 'Hey, would you like to give at least a little bit up so that we can avoid trucker riots in five to 10 years?' Many of them will say, 'Heck yes!'" Yang says.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.