Yang 2020 and The War on Normal People

Maybe you’ve seen them on your Facebook news feed or heard about them from a friend. Local Yang Gang chapters are already cropping up all over the country, which include the Cleveland, OH Yang GangParma, OH Yang Gang, and other nearby chapters.

Recently, I had an opportunity to meet up at Tremont’s Civilization café with fellow members of the Cleveland, OH Yang Gang, who support 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. At the meeting, the Cleveland, OH Yang Gang, whose members span the political spectrum, engaged in an energetic discussion about Yang’s policies, the looming threat of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, the best ways to best promote his many ideas, and upcoming events to raise awareness about his candidacy to potential voters such as Yang Gang Goes to the Beach! 

Andrew Yang - Official Campaign Headshot (photo by Clara Lu)

Andrew Yang | Photo by Clara Lu

In a crowded field of two dozen Democratic presidential candidates, Yang, founder and CEO of Venture for America and author of The War on Normal People, seems to have distinguished himself in a way few other candidates have. Yang describes himself as the opposite of Donald Trump – an Asian man who likes math – and proposes as his flagship policy a Universal Basic Income (UBI) of $1,000 per month, $12,000 a year for every American adult over the age of 18. As it turns out, UBI is very much an American idea and, in one form or another, has found advocates over the years in the likes of Thomas PaineRichard NixonMilton FriedmanMartin Luther King, Jr., as well as Elon MuskMark ZuckerbergHillary Clinton, and Barack Obama.

In a recent interview with MIT Technology Review, Yang explained his focus on UBI, also known as The Freedom Dividend, as such: “The reason why I’m focused on this issue is I’m convinced it’s driving the social, economic, and political dysfunction we are seeing. The reason why Donald Trump is our president today is we automated away 4 million manufacturing jobs in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Iowa, all the swing states he needed to win and did win. And everyone who works in technology knows full well we are about to do the same to millions of retail workers, call center workers, fast food workers, truck drivers, and on and on throughout the economy.” In addition to appearing on PBS NewsHourCNNNBC NewsMSNBCFox NewsCBS NewsABC NewsThe Daily ShowThe Making Sense Podcast, and The Ben Shapiro ShowYang’s recent interview on the Joe Rogan YouTube show, drawing over 3 million views, appears to have propelled his candidacy into even greater relevance and has further boosted his name recognition.

On the Joe Rogan YouTube show, Yang explained how he came to be an advocate for UBI stating, “I’ve been driven to Universal Basic Income in part because I’ve been looking at the numbers. The five most common jobs in the United States right now are administrative and clerical work, retail and sales, food service and food prep, truck driving and transportation, and manufacturing. Those five jobs comprise about half of all American jobs. Only 32 percent of Americans graduate from college, so the average American is a high school grad doing one of these five jobs. And if you look at it, technology is already doing a number on each of these jobs. Like, the first, administrative and clerical, includes call center workers and AI is in the process of taking over that job. Retail and sales – 30 percent of malls are closing in the next four years. So, the danger here is to think of it as artificial intelligence is coming. It’s actually already eating up the most common jobs in our economy and it’s driving Americans into distress in various ways in the numbers.”

While some critics have attempted to equate UBI with socialism, Yang does not see it that way. He recently tweeted, “Some confuse Universal Basic Income with socialism. Socialism is when you nationalize the means of production. UBI is capitalism where income does not start at zero. Rather than spend tax income on bureaucracy it is given directly to people.”

Unlike our existing welfare programs, UBI would be simpler and more straightforward. Under Yang’s proposal, while there may be some trade-offs when electing UBI, studies have shown that a UBI policy would likely have a positive effect on economic growth. One such study, conducted by the Roosevelt Institute, examined the macroeconomic effect of three UBI plans offering different cash amounts. All three plans produced increased spending power for lower-income Americans. The most generous of the three UBI plans studied ($1,000 per month), revealed that UBI could potentially grow the economy by $2.5 trillion.


Cleveland, OH Yang Gang sporting Yang gear.

Local Yang Gang members have found Yang’s embrace of UBI to be very appealing. Madeleine Zimmermann of the Cleveland, OH Yang Gang says, “Yang’s policies, particularly UBI, couldn’t be any more relevant for a community like Cleveland. The city has an economically resilient history, and a policy like UBI would provide the fuel to magnify the impact of the persistence, creativity, and pride already present in our community.” Those supporters looking for an easy way to briefly explain the logic behind UBI to family and friends need look no further than Yang’s statement at a recent SXSW event in Austin, TX: “Why to do it? Because our economy is being transformed in ways that are going to displace millions of American workers and it’s already happening. Can we afford it? Yes. Will it cause inflation? No. Is it awesome? Yes. Is anyone trying to make it happen? Yeah, that guy and now hopefully all of you, too…because this economy is going to go from punitive to savage pretty quickly…in the next downturn it is going to be savage.”

But Yang’s candidacy goes well beyond UBI. Whereas many other Democratic candidates have vaguely indicated what policies they may support, Yang already has over 100 policies identified on his campaign website, Yang2020.com. According to the Democratic Leadership in Iowa, “Mr. Yang has the most detailed and comprehensive set of policy proposals we have ever seen at this stage in the campaign.” Yang’s three big policies are UBIMedicare For All, and Human-Centered Capitalism. Other policies include making Election Day a holidayrecognizing data as a property rightexpanding access to medical expertsimplementing modern time bankinginitiating a robo-calling text line to address unwanted calls, and regulating AI and other emerging technologies.

With so many other politicians seemingly stuck in the past offering 20th century solutions for today’s problems, Yang’s candidacy appears to offer a forward-thinking 21st century approach to bridging the current political divide and the toxic climate of distrust such divisiveness has fostered. In fact, when discussing his candidacy and solutions he proposes, Yang regularly emphasizes that “It’s not Left or Right, it’s Forward.” which has become one of Yang’s main campaign themes, along with “Humanity First.” His willingness to engage in meaningful discussions with both sides of the political spectrum, talk through his proposals, and offer bipartisan solutions goes beyond the empty platitudes typically encountered at this stage of the presidential race. But the question remains: Will Yang be able to persuade enough voters that he is the best candidate to take on President Trump in 2020?

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has scheduled a total of 12 debates, requiring candidates to meet one of two criteria in order to secure a place on the debate stage. Yang, having met both of the criteria, was one of the first Democratic candidates to qualify for the debates successfully raising $1.7 million from 80,000 individual donors in the first quarter. The first nationally televised debate is slated for June 26 and June 27 in Miami Beach, FL, which will be aired on NBC, MSNBC, and Telemundo. The second debate is set for July 30 and July 31 in Detroit, MI, which will be aired on CNN.

To learn more about Andrew Yang, go to Yang2020.com. To follow Andrew Yang on social media, go to Facebook.com/AndrewYang2020 and/or Twitter.com/AndrewYang. If interested in joining one of the local Yang Gang chapters, be sure to check out Facebook.com/Groups/CLEYangGang and/or Facebook.com/Groups/ParmaYangGang.