Andrew Yang On UBI And Human-Centered Capitalism
You look like you’re having fun in this race Yeah. I had been having a blast. It’S been tremendous meeting, thousands of Americans around the country And if the upstart candidate, who’s, overachieving and shocking the world can’t have fun. Who can One of the things that’s appealing about? You as a candidate is that you seem pretty normal
Oh, thank you You’re doing something that’s very abnormal Running for president. That’S true! So of all the ways you can serve and were serving through the venture for America that you started. Why did you pick this one running for president running for a job that, by most conventional measures, you’re not really ready for? Well, I spent seven years helping train hundreds of entrepreneurs and helping to create thousands of jobs around the country with this nonprofit that I founded Venture for America, And I started that organization because I felt like our country was heading in the wrong direction. In terms of its energies and the way our economy looked And when Donald Trump got elected in 2016, I took that as a red flag that it was getting even worse faster than I thought.
And when I dug into the numbers, I was shocked to see that we’d, automated away millions of manufacturing jobs in the swing states that Trump won And then now we’re closing 30 percent of stores in malls and being a retail worker’s the most common job in the Economy, My friends in California, are working on cars and trucks can drive themselves And driving a truck is the most common job in 29 states. So when you see this playing out – and you see our country is confused about it – our country is blaming immigrants for something that immigrants have next to nothing to do with, And then you game out how you can get meaningful solutions across the finish line in a Reasonable time frame, Let’s call it five to 10 years And I’d run a successful national nonprofit and I saw what we can and can’t do with that skill. Do you think it’s that bleak? I do The market is going to zero out more and more of us over time.
And we can pretend that it’s still like. Oh it’s only work hard and, like you know, play by the rules. Everything is gon na, be fine. Well, one of the examples I use is look. The robot truck doesn’t care if you are a good, conscientious truck driver or a sloppy terrible one. It’S all the same. You know the technology doesn’t care if you are a really diligent radiologist or a not so diligent one. We can still just read the film better with software, So we have to try and evolve as quickly as possible. There’S a lot to be done Now when you think about what you see happening and the elimination of opportunity on a pretty gigantic scale. Is that capitalism’s fault or is it the particular intersection of capitalism and 21st-century technology? I like to quote my friend Eric Weinstein, who said we never knew that capitalism was going to get eaten by its son technology.
And the fact is, capitalism is not designed to optimize our well-being, It’s designed to optimize for capital efficiency, And so technology comes along that can do work cheaper and better than we can. Then capitalism loves it And in the old days we made all of these assumptions that what was good for capital ended up being good for us, because if you had a big successful company, it would hire lots of workers, it would treat them well, It would care About what’s happening in its home city And now in the 21st century, those things aren’t true anymore. I can start a big successful company, not hire a lot of people. If I do hire them, I can make them all temp gig, contract workers and Uber drivers and not give them benefits, And I don’t care about what happens in my backyard, because I’m selling to everyone, And so the fundamentals that we assumed to be true about capitalism – Are now breaking down and technology is the accelerant? As you see modern capitalism, is it immoral in the way it functions right now It is doing what it’s designed to do.
And so you would consider it moral if you cared more about capital than human beings, which I would suggest you’d have to be fairly demented to go to this money, pile and say: yes, we’re serving you money, pile And then you know the people we can ignore Them Now, where does it fit in the moral equation that the modern version of capitalism has dramatically reduced global poverty, As you suggested, I’m a capitalist, I’m a fan, You know, there’s nothing more powerful than markets at optimizing where we put resources – and that includes people as Well as capital, At the same time, you’re going to see these global capital flows also change as advanced technology comes online And you’re, seeing not just the mechanization of American work but you’re now starting to see it applied in other parts of the world.
So this is an American problem, but it’s also a global problem. It’S a human problem Right. Some of your opponents in the race have cast this as a a human problem, particularly humans Wall Street humans CEOs and their decisions to embrace maximisation of their own wealth and influence and power. Greed as Bernie Sanders talks about is a big part of the problem.
Do you agree with that? Well, I think that we’ve gone overboard in financializing our economy. It’S become the tail wagging the dog, And I think that Wall Street has been very effective at accelerating that financialization. At the same time, we have the incentives that we have And so to the extent that we need to to turn it around. We need to change everyone’s incentives. The company is … Your not faulting major figures on Wall Street for behaving badly. Well, there were excesses to be sure in the financial crisis. It’S something that I think the country is still recovering from. The financial crisis actually had me start Venture for America. In response, because I saw that literally my friends were creating financial instruments that had tanked the economy,
To me, the vision that, if we just scrape profits back from Wall Street, all will be well To me, does not take into account the magnitude of the economic transformation that we’re in the midst of You, have a particular appeal to young people. I think What would you tell them about why capitalism and not socialism, Well what I would say to them? Is I get it That if you come of age in this era – and you just see this distorted version of capitalism, this inhuman version of capitalism – you would think give me anything. That’S the opposite of this, And so they’re being very rational and sensible. What we can do, ideally, is channel the energies of capitalism towards our own well-being towards our own health and life expectancy. Our mental health and freedom from substance abuse. How clean our air and water are, how our kids are doing.
And then, if we had different measurements aside from stock market prices and GDP, then we could take the best of capitalism and turn it towards things that we can all get excited about. So that’s the vision of what I call human capitalism that I would pitch to young people. You get it, But you would say clearly and affirmatively that democratic socialism, as enunciated by somebody like Bernie Sanders or AOC, is just flat wrong. That’S the wrong model! Well, I think we need a positive economic vision that people can get excited about. I do not think pure socialism is that vision, But at this point I also think that you need to take the best of any camp to solve the problems of this era. We don’t have pure anything right now Exactly And that’s part of it too. That’S one reason why I find the dichotomy so unproductive that there’s no such thing as pure capitalism or pure socialism, And then people are just trying to throw others into an ideological bucket to dismiss them.
And if you look at any system throughout the world, there’s some combination. So, let’s start at universal basic income. I talk to Democratic economists. They say strong incentives that what we want to do is have a tax system that encourages work and assist people who need help. I talked to Greg Mankiw who who was a George W. Bush’s chief economist, and he said if you want to have substantial redistribution of income, which I don’t necessarily favor, but I understand that many people do. The UBI is a very efficient and effective way to do that, I would suggest that the Freedom Dividend is bipartisan And if you look at Alaska’s experience where now, everyone in Alaska is getting between one and two thousand dollars a year in oil money
They love it And that’s a deep red conservative state On the Democratic side, it’s going to make our children and families healthier stronger, mentally, healthier and more productive, And so to me the citizens of this country should be in the same place as shareholders of a company And that’s something that I do think I need to explain more fully to Democrats for them to understand more more deeply and naturally, What about the incentive issue, though. The idea that that government as a policy statement, ought to be reinforcing and encouraging work so that, for example, instead of a universal basic income, a much larger earned income tax credit that sort of thing
I’M a huge fan of work. I think it’s integral to the human experience. I do think, though, that my wife is working harder than I am, and my wife is at home with our two boys, one of whom is autistic, And a work incentive program would not recognize that. So I would suggest that having a narrow conception of work is not necessarily going to help us in the 21st-century economy. I love the EITC, but I think a dividend is a better way to go.
When you talk about sums that enormous isn’t targeting relevant Well, the people that benefit the most from our society would end up paying into the system at a higher level than $ 1000 a month, And so the joke. I tell is that if we get hundreds of millions from Jeff Bezos and then try and send him a thousand dollars a month to remind him he’s an American, that’s not something! We should be concerned about It’s possible to make people understand that tradeoff. I think the benefits of universality are not easily understood where it seems fair. All Americans can get behind it. Some advocates of universal basic income, especially more conservative ones, want to get rid of the whole suite of poverty, programs and and other incentive programs that we have
Would you do that too? I would not My vision of the Feedom Dividend. Is that it’s universal and an opt in, But if you opt in then you’re foregoing benefits that are accruing from certain other programs. So if you’re receiving housing benefits and heating benefits and SNAP and some other things, then you would look at it and say like do. I prefer a thousand dollars cash to these benefits, So you are having people choose between existing benefits they have or the thousand dollars. Yes, And that would enable you to wind down some of those other programs, It would reduce enrollment and subscriptions in some of these other programs, And one of the reasons why I’m convinced that Americans would be excited about this is when I talk to people who are On these programs, They live in fear of losing their benefits because they don’t fill out the right form. They have case managers They’re very anxious about the bureaucracy, And so, if you’re anywhere near a thousand hours of benefits – and I say, hey – guess what Thousand dollars unconditional cash, they would jump on that relative to their current benefits.
You’Ve talked about the shortage of entrepreneurship in our current economy, the rate of business startups. That sort of thing Do you …? How do you actually envision the Freedom Dividend? Changing that Or would it It would change it fundamentally, John, because you know what doesn’t happen in entrepreneurship, very often Someone being on their last legs. They can’t pay their bills and then they say I’m going to start a business, That’s actually not the normal way. It happens, It’s more common that you have a little bit of security like a little bit of risk taking capacity, and then you say you know what I want to take a chance on this business, And the other thing is that we’re gon na have more money In our hands to actually fuel local businesses, So you think, rather than discouraging work, encouraging leisure, it would actually do the opposite and spur scrappy young scrappy and hungry business owners. Yes,
I mean the Roosevelt Institute forecast that it would create up to 2 million new jobs in our communities, And it’s not just the new businesses. The money would go to daycare and car repairs, we’ve been putting off and little league sign ups and local nonprofits and all those organizations would end up hiring more people. So this is the trickle up economy from our people and our communities up, And this would create many many new jobs. One of the fundamental misconceptions about the Freedom Dividend is that it somehow mitigates work. It’S going to create work, and it’s also going to recognize the work we’re doing. Somebody who knows you told me that your goal in entering this race was to focus the nation and get the nation to pay more attention to this problem. How do you judge your success in doing that so far? Well, certainly, I think we’ve already opened a lot of eyes, but I’m a solutions-oriented person
And so saying, hey, there’s a problem and then going home being like oh, I did. It is not that productive. So I’m going to judge my own success by whether I can improve that person’s life directly, not whether you know I spread some ideas around. I think anybody objectively would look at the situation and say it’s unlikely that this campaign is going to end with Andrew Yang as president, If that, in fact is what happens what’s next for you, The problems are not going away. I’M an American, a patriot, a parent. I’M just gon na do all I can to solve the problems, If that’s as president fantastic, If that’s in some other capacity, I’m sure there will be a lot of work to do.
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