IamA Andrew Yang, Candidate for President of the U.S. in 2020 on Universal Basic Income AMA!
Hi Reddit. I am Andrew Yang, Democratic candidate for President of the United States in 2020. I am running on a platform of the Freedom Dividend, a Universal Basic Income of $1,000 a month to every American adult age 18-64. I believe this is necessary because technology will soon automate away millions of American jobs - indeed this has already begun.
My new book, The War on Normal People, comes out on April 3rd and details both my findings and solutions.
Thank you for joining! I will start taking questions at 12:00 pm EST
More about my beliefs here: www.yang2020.com
EDIT: Thank you for this! For more information please do check out my campaign website www.yang2020.com or book. Let's go build the future we want to see. If we don't, we're in deep trouble.
My plan to fund UBI is a Value-Added Tax of half the European level. Because our economy is so vast this would generate between $700 and $800 billion in revenue, and this is necessary to capture the ongoing gains from automation (income taxes don't work very well for that). We spend $500 billion in income support, welfare and disability right now that would be redundant. Our revenue to GDP ratio is 25% which means we would get back 25% of the economic growth that would be generated by putting $1,000 into every American's hands, which would increase the size of the economy by $2.5 trillion according to the Roosevelt Institute. Finally, we currently spend almost $1 trillion on healthcare, incarceration and homelessness services which would go down. This is an evergreen stimulus of the American people, economy and society. It is pro-growth. Paying for it is really not that difficult - it just requires us to start making honest choices.
Our economy is $19 trillion and grew by $4 trillion in the last 10 years alone. We printed $4 trillion for the banks. As the man said in Inception, "We need to think . . . bigger."
Honestly when people don't respond to really important highly voted questions in these AMAs, I lose quite a bit of respect or interest in them.
This is a very very very important questions. $1k/month for every adult? $247 billion/month, so $2.9tril/year?
Honestly this just smells like a way to promote his book rather than an actual run for anything.
Edit: Well got a response. Don't really agree but I at least respect the responses and attempting to answer the hard questions.
I was busy answering other questions. Apologies. See below or above for answers.
Hello Mr.Yang. I have an important question for you.
You seem to have some very interesting ideas, but they're also quite different from the mainstream democratic position. Unfortunately, most of them also seem to be ideas that the president can't implement on their own. What are you doing to get congress behind your platform?
When I talk to Congresspeople on the Democratic side, they are immensely eager to talk about new ideas and solutions. They just don't think they can pass right now with the current makeup of Congress, so they want to focus on what's possible. If I were to become President, it would mean that there was quite a blue wave that swept me and many others to victory. I would be thrilled to work with a newly Democratic Congress to pass Universal Basic Income, and I believe it would pass because it would be impossible for a Republican Congressperson to stand in front of his or her constituents and say, "I don't believe you should be getting $1k a month." That would be a very rough stance to maintain. Most of my ideas are not politically mainstream right now, but I believe that they will become so very quickly. 70% of Americans believe that technology will eliminate many more jobs than it creates in the next decade. People are waking up to the fact that big changes are necessary.
Mr. Yang, if elected president what will you do to reform the higher education system? Specifically what will you do to help a middle class family like mine, a family that has contributed towards college funds since before their children were born but still cannot afford to send their children to school without taking on enormous amounts of debt? Our family and many of our friends seem to be in the bracket of too wealthy to receive assistance from fafsa or individual universities but too poor to afford higher education seeing as even the public schools in our state cost $25-30k per year.
The crazy rise in the cost of college is one of the tragedies of our time and a ridiculous immoral burden on millions of families. Why has college doubled and tripled in price while the quality has stayed the same if we're lucky? I have a whole chapter on this in my new book 'The War on Normal People' - it's because universities have hired thousands of new administrators. Administrative positions grew by 10 times the rate of faculty position growth between 1993 and 2009. Frustration with educational costs is one big reason why millions of Americans have lost faith in the opportunities available for their children.
First of all, if we passed the Freedom Dividend, every child in your family would receive $1k/month as soon as he or she turned 18, which would help with college costs. You'd get $1k a month too. So all in, you'd have more money to spend on school if that's what you decide to do.
But the big thing is that the government needs to not just curb but reverse the cost increases among colleges. Right now there's no need for cost discipline because they just pass the costs on to families who are forced to borrow more money. My plan would be to impose an administrator-to-student ratio that is more in line with historical norms than the current 1 administrator for every 21 students (versus 1 for every 50 in 1975). This would force colleges to streamline and rationalize their administrative structures to be more in line with their mission.
We also need to dramatically invest in vocational schools and alternatives to college. Only 32% of Americans graduate from college and the underemployment rate for recent grads is 34 - 44%. College is not the only answer and we should stop pretending that it is.
A follow up question, if you don't mind:
I've seen rapidly expanding administrative costs as the reason for insane college tuitions before, but what do those administrators do?
That's not a rhetorical or trick question. Businesses, even ones with access to lots of extra funding, don't hire new positions for no reason. Since you want to drastically cut those positions, you should no what they were doing and how colleges justified their creation. So, what was their reason?
When you're a non-profit, administrators are needed for every new initiative or department, or in response to solve any problem that comes up. It's very natural.
The issue is that in education, we're all paying for it. Universities need to focus on their mission-critical functions and let the secondary and tertiary priorities go.
I was really interested by your proposal to create the Department of Technology as a new executive department. Given how influential and life-changing technologies like AI will be in the coming decades, the U.S. Federal Government seems woefully unprepared to address these concerns, so thank you for running on a platform that addresses critical technology-driven issues.
The blog Wait But Why has a really fascinating post about the “AI Revolution” that really got me interested and concerned about the topic of AI and specifically, AI safety (https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/01/artificial-intelligence-revolution-2.html). As AI becomes more advanced and intelligent—even more so than humans—I believe that the U.S. government must work to prevent worst-case scenarios in AI from occuring. I noticed on your website that one of your goals with this Department of Technology is to “prevent technological threats to humanity from developing without oversight,”especially with regards to AI. The main purpose of the Department seems to be monitoring the development of AI in collaboration with tech companies. I am wondering whether this Department also be used to fund private research teams that are working on AI Safety?
EDIT: IF ANYONE IS INTERESTED IN THESE ISSUES CHECK OUT r/controlproblem
YES. One of the issues is that the government isn't in the best position to lead on AI because it doesn't employ most of the smartest people in the field, and I wouldn't expect that to change. But the Federal Government should be deploying much much more in terms of resources and attention to what is one of the few real species/civilization-wide threats we face, which is AI development that runs amok. One of the experts in the field told me privately that AI is going to be 'like nuclear weapons, but worse' because poor countries and organizations can weaponize off-the-shelf AI for nefarious purposes. This is our reality and we need to run like heck to try to advance to a point where our government is able to realistically address and monitor these issues. One of the big answers to me would be funding private research teams, which tend to get different talent than the government itself would employ. So if this is your issue, I'm 100% with you. We need to accelerate our government's approach to this FAST.
One of the reasons the government doesn't have the smartest people has to do with its draconian drug policies and testing.
Would you push to remove marijuana from it's current schedule 1 status?
Yes I would. I say on my website we should legalize marijuana. I don't love pot but it's a far superior alternative than opioids for pain relief. And we are obviously terrible at enforcing the current controlled substance rules in a non-racist way. Let's legalize it nationwide.
My understanding is that part of the process of implementing UBI is to scale back or eliminate targeted welfare programs (food stamps, WIC, disability insurance, etc.). How would you build coalitions among interest groups that support the current state of policy to get them to support UBI?
$1,000 a month unconditionally in the Freedom Dividend would be an upgrade for many people currently on food stamps and the like. Those on current benefits can opt to keep them. If people sense that our mission and values are genuinely to help people and eradicate poverty then they will embrace the possibility for their children. It will be difficult - the poor are used to getting shafted - but I believe it will be doable if we build the right relationships. It's a big priority for me and the campaign, and when people in this community reach out we are eager to demonstrate that we are driven and motivated to improve people's lives.
Thanks for the response. I found your argument to be a bit passive. You cannot rely on advocacy groups sensing that your mission is to eradicate poverty. They will never join you. Instead, you are going to need to get an audience with the NAACP, Catholic Charities, etc. and make the case that the UBI provides a better mechanism to alleviate the food, housing, child care, and educational insecurities that low income Americans face every day, while granting them the respect and dignity they deserve by letting them decide how to spend those funds in the best interest of their families rather than letting politicians decide for them. Politics is emotional, not rational. You may have the most reasonable policy in the mix, but unless you build relationships and coalitions based on emotional linkages, that policy is a non-starter.
I agree with this entirely and will happily make the emotional case because I feel just that. Thank you for pushing and look forward to making this happen in the real world.
Where is this $1,000 a month coming from? The US had a reported population of 323,127,515 in 2016. 62% of the population is ages 18-64. source $1,000 a month is $12,000 a year, multiplied by 62% of the population is $2,404,070,199,600 per year. The country is already 21 trillion in debt and rising what can we change to combat this and still implement a UBI?
Edit: I read this on your site, but my question still stands.
A Value-Added Tax (VAT) is a tax on the production of goods or services a business produces. It is a fair tax and it makes it much harder for large corporations, who are expert at hiding profits and income, to avoid paying their fair share. A VAT is nothing new. 160 out of 193 countries in the world already have a Value-Added Tax or something similar, including all of Europe which has an average VAT of 20 percent.
Yes, a VAT is the main change to pay for the Freedom Dividend. A VAT at half the European level would pay between $700 and $800 billion per year. We currently spend $500+ billion in income support, disability and the like.
The revenue to GDP ratio in the U.S. is 25%. The Roosevelt Institute projected that a UBI would increase the size of the economy by $2.5 trillion per year (13%) and create 4.6 million jobs. This is common sense - if people had more money to spend businesses would benefit and new companies would form. We will receive hundreds of billions in new revenue from a UBI, perhaps as much as $500 or $600 billion.
Last, we currently spend almost $1 trillion on providing health care to tens of millions of Americans, some of which would be reduced by the fact that people with a Universal Basic Income would be more likely to stay out of the emergency room and use the hospital less. The same is true for incarceration and homelessness services.
Our government has been mismanaging our finances for decades and we need to rationalize costs in other areas. But a Universal Basic Income is the best possible use of resources because it comes to us, the American people. Keeping people functional is much less expensive than the alternative - dysfunction and disintegration is the most expensive outcome.
What is your opinion on the private prison industry? One of the biggest deciding factors on my future vote is how a candidate decides to deal with thia obvious problem. I am tired of our justice system prioritizing convictions for a profit.
Bonus points if you decide to tackle regulations allowing car dealerships to continue existing. They simply do not have a place anymore and ate horrendously predatory.
Private prisons should be a thing of the past - there are some things that should not be subject to the profit motive, and incarceration is one of them.
In your platform, you have expressed support for increased monitoring and regulation of AI to ensure safe outcomes. I think this is an incredibly cool proposal and I think many Americans would be very receptive to it. Have you considered making it a more central theme in your campaign, perhaps along with your focus on automation and the Universal Basic Income?
I just met with someone who is monitoring AI, which both reassured me that there were very smart people working on it but also made me anxious that the need is so real. When I wrote my book, The War on Normal People, I purposely tried not to focus on the more extreme AI-related negative scenarios because they tend to distract people. The concerns are real but I feel that they are too distant from most people's day-to-day experiences. But I'm with you that this is an important concern, and I'd be happy to make it more central to my campaign.
Mr. Yang, thank you for your reply. I really appreciate your answer. How might I get involved in your campaign? Knowing where you stand on this issue really inspires me to get out and do something to help you out.
Reach out to us at www.yang2020.com! Let's go fight for the future - it needs us really badly.
What is your opinion on why the Democratic Party failed in 2016 and what lessons from that election will you be incorporating into your campaign?
I believe that both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders demonstrated the degree to which people are dissatisfied with how our government has been meeting the needs of its citizens. I'm running because I believe that I have better solutions to the problems that the American people are facing than other candidates.
People who think the antidote to Donald Trump is a boring generic Democrat missed the point. He is a sign of massive institutional failure. On both sides.
Mr. Yang, your platform seeks to alleviate means by which AI systems can have a negative impact on humanity. First, thank you for running this campaign. I am quite concerned about the impact of future AI systems on humanity.
In your platform, you have expressed support for reducing existential threats from AI. Specifically, you have proposed the creation of a Department of Technology to monitor and regulate AI as well as public-private partnership on AI. First of all, I absolutely agree and think this is a crucial step. It is amazing to see that you are so spot on when it comes to issues in AI.
I was wondering if, in addition to this proposal, you might also support increased federal funding of AI alignment research to mitigate existential risk? Research on AI alignment is funded by extremely small private investment. The Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI) is perhaps the leading institute devoted to AI alignment research; in 2016, MIRI received a measly $2.4 million in revenue. This seems horrendously inadequate given the magnitude of the issue humanity is dealing with.
Given this, I strongly believe an injection of funding from the U.S. Federal Government could truly make the difference in the survival of our species. Is this something you might be willing to support in your platform?
Thanks Matthew - I would 100% support dramatically increasing the funding of AI alignment research. $2.4 million is a small fraction of what it should be. What's interesting is that it's tough for government to lead on these issues because many of the smartest people in this field do not work for the government. But the government can definitely supply more financial resources to address what is, to me, one of the chief society-wide existential issues of our era.
What made you decide on the number of $1,000 per month?
U.S. poverty level is $11,770 per year. Based on plan proposed by Andy Stern and studied by the Roosevelt Institute. Not such a large number that it would distort labor markets too much. People will still need to work to prosper.
How do you think UBI will affect the way I'm which people live their lives? Better yet, what do you want to result from UBI in terms of people's standards of living?
It's incredible what a difference $1k a month would have on the lives of tens of millions of Americans. The data is clear and compelling - children stay in school longer and graduate from high school at higher rates. Their personalities even change to become more conscientious and agreeable, two positive indicators of both academic and professional success. Mental health goes up. Domestic violence goes down. Hospital visits go down. Work hours stay the same or go down for young mothers and teenagers who stay in school.
It is impossible to overstate the positive impact of $1k a month on households around the country. It would take people from a constant mindset of scarcity to a mindset of assured survival and possibility. It would transform our society in myriad positive ways by taking the boot off of people's throats.
I've worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs and most have an incredible mindset of abundance and possibility. A UBI would be the greatest catalyst for arts, entrepreneurship and creativity that we have ever seen. The Roosevelt Institute projected that it would create 4.6 million new jobs because of all of the new businesses since people would have more money to spend.
But the most dramatic impacts would be on the human, the day-to-day, the children growing up with a sense of health and vitality and the parents who would no longer be nearly as stressed out about their own survival or the future of their children. As a parent myself that means the world to me.
Thank you a lot for doing this ama. :)
What do you think needs to be done to fix our democracy and our campaign system? Do you support publicly financed elections or other campaign finance reforms? Also, how do you think lawmaking can be made more collaborative and open to the public with the technology we have today?
Yes we need to publicly finance elections and get money out of politics to the extent possible. Citizens United was a terrible decision that has made things much worse. Technology is just scratching the surface of what it can do - imagine voting securely on your smartphone with no wait. Totally doable. I actually think Universal Basic Income would help our policymaking a great deal by taking the worst scarcity out of the electorate. People are more rational if their basic needs are met.
Hi Mr, Yang! I had read that you want to use Blockchain tech for future voting (which I think is absolutely brilliant!). Do you think we could use Blockchain for other parts of government or maybe even how we distribute the UBI? Thanks!
I have yet to see how block chain is supposed to help voting. I feel it keeps getting brought up because it's a buzzword.
I have a friend who's working on a blockchain-based voting platform called Votem. Having a public ledger for voting would be ideal. It is technically very feasible. Imagine not having to wait on line for the anachronistic punchcard machines! It's possible - the main obstacles are regulatory, as usual. Ah, America. That's what I'm here to fix - we can show people what's possible.
Hello Mr. Yang. I’ve read through your platform and believe that you are the candidate that best grasps the importance of the coming transition. Unfortunately, given the natural tendency of wealth to concentrate(as demonstrated by Thomas Pikkety), the acceleration of that force by full/expanded automation, and the corrupt — thanks to citizens united and misguided laws — nature of our campaign finance system, I don’t think that we will have many fair election left if we don’t take action.
How can we help?
I’ve signed up on your website, followed you on Facebook, and the like, but I haven’t seen any method of helping that doesn’t qualify as “slactivism”. I can understand that you might not want to really gear up the campaign till after the midterms, but i don’t feel like there are enough ways to help your campaign at this point.
It is critical that we address these problems immediately. i would like to be able to help, but I don’t know how.
There will be a March for the Future in D.C. in May! Ha, just kidding.
Thanks for the zeal and commitment. Don't sell your online activities short. Campaigns run on money and awareness. You can definitely help with one and perhaps the other. I've run a national non-profit and we run on passion and money. One fuels the other. You can reach out to [email protected] to reach my campaign manager and see if there are concrete ways for you to get involved. We see even small monetary donations and appreciate them a great deal, so starting even a small campaign to spread the word is incredible. Love messages like this one!
Thanks, my girlfriend and I love seeing candidates that share our concerns for our nation’s future. I try to talk to people about this kind of stuff, but they look at me like I’m some sort of Luddite! It’s good to see someone taking this seriously.
You're thinking about the big problems, and that's a beautiful thing! There are definitely very serious problems that need to be addressed. So you're not imagining them at all.
Hello, Mr. Yang.
What will you do to help fight one of the most important issues of our time, Climate Change? I feel as if our politicians are not doing enough.
Ohmigosh, I couldn't agree more. I'm passionate about Climate Change in a huge way.
We ourselves do not account for more than 25% of global emissions. So this is a collective action problem. I'm for investing in green energy and renewables to make them more competitive. But the reality is that even if we adopted significant measures to cut carbon emissions, we'd likely just be slowing the warming rate.
The key variable is the rate at which the glaciers melt which raises the sea level. There was a recent scientific proposal that we could slow the glacial melting rate if we pushed up a pile of dirt on the base of glaciers underneath the water so that the warm water didn't hit the ice base. It's this kind of geoengineering that we need to invest in and research as fast as possible.
I would start and fund a Global Geoengineering Institute to research and implement measures like this. The Chinese are going to be all over this because this affects them - their environmental air quality is an enormous issue. If we don't lead on this, someone else will start doing it, likely the Chinese.
My big civilizational threats go Automation of Jobs/AI, Climate Change, Cybersecurity/Infrastructure, and loose nuclear material in some order. We are behind in all areas. Our government needs to get the big things right.
A. Do you secretly delight in the potential irony of Trump literally losing his job "to China"?
B. My friend is a die-hard libertarian. How would you sell him on UBI?
A. Hadn't thought of the first, but that's funny! :)
B. Libertarians have a long history of supporting Universal Basic Income. Hayek and Milton Friedman are among its biggest supporters. The great thing about UBI is that it puts money into people's hands to address their own needs. No new programs or case managers - it's actually very consistent with the vision that libertarians have for society and would alleviate much bureaucracy. The only state that has something like UBI is Alaska with its Petroleum Dividend, and that is a deeply conservative/libertarian state. UBI is immensely popular there and has been in place for several decades despite several changes in leadership.
Found you a few weeks ago and I’ve never been more excited about the future of our country. What would be the most helpful thing we can do to help the spread and adoption of your campaign and ideas? Especially as a resident of a red state (Tennessee).
Great to hear! People respond to truth and passion. You'll find that even folks who resist certain ideas at first will warm up to them if you stick with it. Persist my friend, and you will help us win many converts and fans. Thank you for believing in this campaign - let's go fight for our future! if we don't, nobody will.
I'm hoping that my book will open people's hearts and minds, so if you know someone open-minded enough to read it, it may help you make the case. https://www.amazon.com/War-Normal-People-Disappearing-Universal/dp/0316414247/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1506708384&sr=8-1&keywords=andrew+yang+the+war+on+normal+people. I love this book and am very proud of it and can't wait to get it out there. Let's do it!
Do you think it's possible to "phase in" UBI as technology grows more advanced?
I feel that today we don't need 100% UBI to take care of all costs for us since automation can't replace everything yet. But eventually we will need UBI to compensate for the increasing numbers of displaced workers.
Yes, I think a phase-in would be helpful and necessary to give both people and markets time to adjust. I'd recommend a 4 or 5-year phase-in of the Freedom Dividend of $1k/month per adult starting in 2021.
Mr. Yang, what is your favorite kind of doughnut?
Ice cream flavor?
I like cinnamon donuts, pepperoni on my pizza, cookies and cream, and honey mustard. Those are the best choices, by presidential decree.
How would you fund UBI? Why do you believe/how can you convince people this is necessary?
EDIT: Because tons of people are saying they can’t find it, here is his response to this question
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