Monday, March 11, 2019

2020 Challenger Lineup: Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang is a growing name in the crowded field of people vying for the Democratic 2020 nomination. He first officially declared his candidacy in November of 2017. Nobody noticed, but by pressing his message of Universal Basic Income, he's made it onto the national radar.

For those who don't know, Universal Basic Income or UBI is the idea that all adult citizens should be given a set amount of money each month by the government. Andrew Yang is putting that income at $1,000 per month. UBI has been tested in various parts of the world and the findings are pretty consistent - the vast majority of people keep working while students and new parents are able to quit to focus on more important things.

The entire idea is that in nations as wealthy as the U.S., people shouldn't ever have to experience homelessness or be unable to afford basics like food and medicine. A basic income frees people from so much stress and allows them to focus on improving their education, taking care of their families, and everything else we would all do if we weren't essentially forced into work we often hate and work that is bad for us in order to survive.

Andrew Yang focuses on the specter of automation to promote UBI, which I personally think is ill-advised. Automation will happen and jobs will change, and some will disappear, but changes like this have happened before and the jobs simply change with it. I would rather fight for UBI on the basis that it's morally wrong to spend billions and billions on the military and refuse to tax big corporations like Amazon while people go hungry in the streets, and the best way to fight poverty is just to give people money. Fuck the guaranteed job. Definitely launch infrastructure repair projects and offer good paying jobs to the community but many people are not able to work these kinds of physical labor jobs.

Still, Yang's support of UBI likely makes him the furthest left candidate. The question is whether the U.S. is anywhere near ready for UBI. But let's look at his other positions.

On his campaign website, his top three policy issues are UBI, Medicare for All, and something called "human-centered capitalism."

Ohhhhh so close.

Obviously, I believe that capitalism is inherently oppressive and destructive. But I also know that a U.S. president who is explicitly anti-capitalist is too much to ask. Yang's ideas on this form of capitalism are interesting, even if I believe that capitalism can't be reined in no matter how hard we try.

We need to move to a new form of capitalism – Human Capitalism – that’s geared towards maximizing human well-being and fulfillment. The central tenets of Human Capitalism are:
  1. Humans are more important than money
  1. The unit of a Human Capitalism economy is each person, not each dollar
  1. Markets exist to serve our common goals and values

It's a start. This "human capitalism" contains a lot of the morals of socialism, including the ideas that unpaid labor often done by women matters, creative pursuits are good and not a waste of time, substance abuse is related to despair, mental health matters, etc. It's a big step in the right direction.

Below these three main platforms, Yang has a very long list of topics to click on, which is great but I don't have time to look at everything. So I'm just gonna talk about the things that send up flags for me.

"Reduce mass incarceration"? Try ending it. The "mass" part of "mass incarceration" is supposed to be bad.

"Pathway to Citizenship (Make Them Earn It)" Ugh. I hate the "make them earn it" language as though people should have to jump through hoops to prove they deserve to live. He also includes language about "securing the southern border" which implies that all those asylum seekers are a hostile, invading force. Booooo.

Make Puerto Rico a State - Very good. This is a rare position, I think.

Something called a Value Added Tax that allegedly makes it impossible for corporations like Amazon to avoid paying taxes by hiding their assets off seas and other bullshit. Cool!

American Journalism Fellows? $100,000 per year? I would never get one of those.

News and Information Ombudsman?? Apparently it means a division of government dedicated to combatting fake news. So much government involved in journalism makes me nervous.

"Reduce Harm to Children Caused by Smartphones." Kind of some conspiracy theory shit, Yang.

American Exchange Program - Like a foreign exchange program, but sending city kids to rural areas within the U.S. How... unusual.

Free Marriage Counseling For All - Can we all get free counseling though? Why only married people about their marriage?

Prosperity Grant - The government gives every adult an extra $100 per year that they have to donate to a non-profit. Again, kinda weird? But I guess cool?

Free Financial Counseling for All - YES PLEASE OMG.

Make Community College Affordable for All - Okay other Democrats are on board for free community college AT LEAST so uh get on board the free college train, Yang. Are you progressive or not?

Modernize Military Spending - This is where the word "reduce" should come into play.

American Mall Act - He wants to revitalize malls. Really?

Making Taxes Fun - Huh??? Oh, he wants to make Tax Day a federal holiday. Okay, sure. Also, we get to choose what 1% of our taxes go to. Kinda cool.

Andrew Yang has no direct political experience. He was the CEO of a test prep company and then founded a non-profit fellowship program.

I'd say that this guy has zero chance to win in 2020, but I guess stranger things have happened. Although getting elected with no experience seems to be an exclusively Republican thing. Democrats can't seem to get away with that shit. Still, it's very unlikely. If he can get enough attention, he may bring some legitimacy to the idea of UBI, which would make me very happy. Otherwise, his positions paint a picture of someone not necessarily more leftist than other Democratic candidates. Many of his positions are just kind of weird or even kind of right-wing.

I don't even feel like it's worth giving him a grade. He's not a viable candidate, but I would encourage everyone to boost his messages about UBI and help bring him national attention. Maybe we can even get one of the viable candidates to support the idea of UBI.

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