2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang held a rally at R. House on Nov. 15. Yang introduced himself as a serial entrepreneur and a problem solver. In 2011, he founded Venture for America (VFA), a nonprofit organization that trains fellows to build start-up companies in cities across the country.
Yang opened with the assertion that the automation of jobs in manufacturing is currently one of the biggest problem the U.S. faces. According to Yang, automation will eventually extend to clerical, retail, food service and truck-driving sectors.
“This is the third inning of the greatest economic and technological transformation in the history of the world. And the third inning has given us Donald Trump. What are the fourth, fifth and sixth innings going to look like?” Yang said.
Yang believes the shift of swing states toward the Republican Party was because people were losing their jobs as a result of automation.
“Trump is the symptom of a disease. The disease is economic insecurity,” he said.
According to Yang, Universal Basic Income (UBI) would ease that insecurity. The implementation of UBI, which he calls “the Freedom Dividend,” is Yang’s main platform. He plans to grant every American from the ages 18-64 $1000 each month.
Yang clarified that UBI will be given to every citizen, without any consideration of the recipient’s income level.
“Making it truly universal will destigmatize the whole process. Then it won’t be seen as a transfer from the rich to the poor,” Yang said.
He noted the Alaska Permanent Fund as a successful example of UBI, which pays each Alaska resident an annual dividend. The Fund was established using revenue from oil drilling in the state. However, instead of oil, Yang plans to fund his proposed UBI with a value-added tax on companies benefiting from automation.
Sophomore Kelly Pang heard about the campaign over the summer through an Asian-American YouTuber. She was initially skeptical about UBI but gradually came to appreciate it.
“I was open-minded about the concept of Universal Basic Income and wanted to hear his perspective. The way he explained his plan was intriguing and made it seem like a possibility for the future of America,” she said.
Pang believes that the universal nature of Yang’s proposed UBI was the most interesting facet of the policy. She drew connections to her Introduction to Social Policy class, in which she discussed the stigma associated with people in poverty receiving social welfare.
“I appreciated that sociological perspective that he incorporated into his proposal. It is almost a revolutionary way of thinking,” Pang said.
Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) freshman Jasper Jimenez attended Yang’s event because he supported Yang’s policies.
“His policies – like Universal Basic Income and universal healthcare – make sense. When I found out that he was in Baltimore, I knew I had to go,” Jimenez said.
Junior Jake Kim found Yang’s policies less convincing.
“My stance on his policies can be characterized as ‘hopeful skepticism.’ Even though he is an entrepreneur and, therefore, has the characteristic of dreaming big, some of his policies fall prey to oversimplification,” Kim said.
Kim expressed frustration that as an international student he is unable to vote. Regardless, he believes in being an active participant in democracy, engaging in dialogue with others and staying informed.
At the rally, Yang also discussed his ideas for single-payer healthcare for all.
“If we get sick or injured, we are more worried about paying for healthcare and navigating the bureaucracy of the system than we are of caring for a loved one or ourselves,” Yang said.
In addition to healthcare, he introduced an idea for a new measurement of the country’s state, which is centered on human capitalism. Because the country currently uses GDP as the primary measurement of success, Yang argued that this fails to account for tasks like caregiving and overall wellbeing of individuals.
Pang believed that the concept of human capitalism will make measuring the country’s success more sensitive to the actual experiences of the American people.
“It was an interesting departure from current discourse about addressing America’s future challenges. You don’t see this in the news,” Pang said.
Yang ended his speech by stressing the differences between himself and Trump.
“These are really dark, rough times. But in rough times there is opportunity because the pendulum will swing in the other direction. And the opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who loves math,” Yang said.
Both Pang and Kim noted that supporting the representation of Asian-Americans in the political realm was a major factor in their attendance at the rally. Kim stated that Asians are stereotyped as being politically silent. According to Kim, Yang’s campaign will work in part to change that narrative.
Freshman Elly Ren said that seeing an Asian-American candidate had an impact on her and inspired her to learn more about politics.
“He inspired me to be less afraid in pursuing my own aspirations,” Ren said.
While Kim thinks that Yang has a slim chance of securing the nomination, he believes that the Yang campaign is an important one.
“In the end, it is about representation and bringing light to more vigorous solutions to the social ills that the U.S. has right now and for those ills to be more visible to the American public,” Kim said. “Hopefully the ideas behind his policies will absorbed by whatever candidate does end up winning the nomination.”
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