He’s the guy with the blue “MATH” hat (Make America Think Harder). The guy who wants to give Americans $1,000 a month of “grownup allowance,” no strings attached. The guy who told The New York Times that “it’s quite embarrassing, running for president.”
He’s Andrew Yang, the self-described “skinny Asian kid in upstate New York who was often ignored or picked on.”
Yang was born in upstate New York to Taiwanese immigrants who moved to the United States for grad school. He says his parents — an IBM researcher and a university administrator — are why he believes in the American dream.
After graduating from Brown and then Columbia’s law school, he realized corporate law — which he began practicing after graduation — wasn’t for him. He ran and sold a national education company and then founded Venture for America.
An entrepreneur best known for founding Venture for America, Yang said his deep understanding of the world and work culture comes from the organization, which works to help entrepreneurs create jobs in cities like Baltimore, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Cleveland through a fellowship program. The way he describes it feels presidential.
“I’ve seen neighborhoods on the edge of desolation become filled with people and new businesses,” he writes in his book, “The War on Normal People.” “I’ve worked with some of the most idealistic and noble people in the country making great things happen in unlikely places.”
Yang, whose name was largely unknown outside of the tech sphere before his decision to run, has a surprisingly radical platform centered on a universal basic income or what he calls a “Freedom Dividend,” which he writes about at length. The idea mimics a form of social security that guarantees a certain amount of money for every citizen but without work requirements or other tests. He says it aims to shield Americans from the pain brought about by the technical revolution that is replacing human jobs via automation.
He told Rolling Stone that he is running for president because “None of our political leaders are willing to acknowledge the elephant in the room that is tearing our communities apart, in the form of technological change.”
Yang proposes a set of guaranteed payments of $1,000 per month to all citizens between the ages of 18 and 64.
In his book, he says the program will spur the economy and save money that would otherwise go toward people seeking government subsidies. Yang writes that the program would “pay for itself” by helping people avoid the emergency room, jail and the street. He believes a shift toward automation is already creating a tsunami of unemployment.
“Universal Basic Income is real and will transform our society for the better; we just need the courage and will to both care about and invest in our people,” he says on his campaign website, which addresses criticism that the plan is just communism or socialism, or that employers would just start paying workers less.”
About Andrew Yang
▪ Current or most recent position: Entrepreneur, lawyer, technologist.
▪ Occupation: Yang began his career as a corporate attorney, and then went on to start a series of companies. In 2011 he founded Venture for America, an organization that helps entrepreneurs create jobs in cities like Baltimore, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Cleveland through a fellowship program.
▪ Education: Yang studied economics and political science at Brown and went to law school at Columbia University.
▪ Age: 44
▪ Residence: New York City
▪ Family: Wife Evelyn and two sons.
▪ Campaign website: www.yang2020.com
▪ Small donors: $1,556,306, or 63.9%.
▪ Big donors: As of June 21, big donors included Google ($9,536), data management company Medavante-Prophase In ($8,100), Microsoft ($6,634) and the University of California ($6,299). A slightly smaller but notable donation comes from Fox News Channel ($4,000).
▪ Fun fact: Yang’s website lists dozens of niche presidential promises, including funding four-year American journalism fellowships for each congressional district, providing free marriage counseling for all, empowering MMA fighters and getting rid of the penny.
A long list of policy ideas and explanations are listed on his website.
▪ On the issues: Aside from his main policy idea, surrounding the “Freedom Dividend,” Yang also supports a version of “Medicare For All” and what he calls “human-centered capitalism,” which means shifting the focus of the economy to see units as people, not dollars. He says the economy at large needs to support undervalued things and people like journalism, women, people of color and the arts.