Who Is Andrew Yang?
Andrew Yang is a businessman, lawyer and philanthropist whose entrepreneurial endeavors led him to found the nonprofit Ventures for America (VFA), which connects young professionals to innovative companies in economically challenged cities. In late 2017, Yang announced his run for the presidency under the slogan "Make America Think Harder" (MATH) along with his defining policy proposal of Universal Basic Income (UBI), which is a supplemental income offered to American adults to prepare them for the economic challenges incurred by artificial intelligence and automation. Prior to suspending his presidential campaign in February 2020, Yang built a strong digital coalition and attracted a base of loyal supporters called the Yang Gang.
Early Life and Education
Born on January 13, 1975, in Schenectady, New York, Yang was raised in nearby Westchester County. His parents immigrated from Taiwan as graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1960s, where his father received his Ph.D. in physics and his mother received her master's in statistics. Yang has an older brother who works as a professor of psychology.
After graduating from the elite Phillips Exeter Academy in 1992, Yang went to Brown University (1992-1996), studying political science and economics, and later attended law school at Columbia University (1996-1999).
On the campaign trail, Yang often described his brief lawyering days in jest (he was a corporate lawyer for only five months.) Rather than be stuck in a career he had little interest in, Yang dove into his real passion: entrepreneurship. After launching a variety of startups in the early 2000s, Yang eventually became CEO of Manhattan Prep, a test prep company, and later founded the successful nonprofit Ventures for America (VFA) in 2011, which prompted the Obama Administration to name him a "Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship" in 2015. Two years later, Yang stepped down as the CEO of VFA.
Presidential Run and Policies
Freedom Dividend (UBI)
Out of all the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, Yang had arguably one of the most distinctive campaign proposals in the form of UBI (Universal Basic Income). Calling it the "Freedom Dividend," Yang wanted to offer $1,000 dollars every month to every American adult over the age of 18. According to Yang, this supplemental income would help curb the devastating economic effects caused by automation, which will significantly displace workers in the manufacturing, retail and trucking industries. According to Yang, the loss of jobs caused by automation was the reason voters voted Donald Trump into office in 2016.
Yang said the Freedom Dividend will help create innovation and a "trickle up" economy, predicting that Americans would reinvest the money back into their local communities.
In order to finance the Freedom Dividend, Yang said he would place a value-added tax on corporations like Amazon and Google, which would require them to give a percentage of their profits back to the American people. In this way, Americans would function as "investors" of these corporations, citing Alaska's popular oil dividend, which distributes a percentage of its oil revenue to its state's citizens annually, as proof that UBI would work.
"You can’t fight job automation the same way you fight climate change, by asking people to sacrifice or be more vigilant about the resources they consume," Yang told Business Insider in an interview. "We have to go the other direction and spread the bounty of automation and new technology as broadly and quickly as possible."
Yang also suggested the idea of giving every voting American $100 "democracy dollars" every year to spend on their candidates of choice. The democracy dollars would be a "use it or lose it" offering and would help mitigate the negative effects of corporate donations and political lobbying in political campaigns.
Medicare for All
Like presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Yang supported a Medicare for All system, which is also called single-payer or universal health care. Under this system, private insurance is abolished and an increase in taxes helps cover the costs, while at the same time premiums, copays and deductibles are eliminated.
Yang said that maximizing human welfare and de-emphasizing corporate profits will help steer the country in the right way. His definition of human capitalism comes in the form of three concepts: "1) Humans are more important than money; 2) The unit of a Human Capitalism economy is each person, not each dollar; 3) Markets exist to serve our common goals and values."
Yang explained his human-centered capitalism further in this way: "Right now, our economic measurements are all wrong. GDP, the stock market and unemployment look at the economy as a whole. ... Self-driving trucks will be great for GDP, but they'll be terrible for truck drivers and everyone who works in an industry that relies on truck drivers, such as truck-stop workers," he told Newsweek.
"We need to put in place a new vision for our society, one that values people intrinsically rather than tying value to their economic output. In this way, we place greater emphasis on work like caregiving, volunteering, teaching, making art and other activities that are not valued at their true worth by the market."
Yang has penned two books: Smart People Should Build Things (2014) and The War on Normal People (2018).
Wife and Children
Yang met his wife Evelyn at Columbia University while he was in his 30s. Although not much is known about Evelyn, reports say she was born in 1981 and was studying abroad in Shanghai as part of her post-graduate work at Columbia.
Evelyn worked in the corporate sector, most notably as a marketing exec at L’Oréal before deciding to leave the workforce to be a full-time mom.
Andrew and Evelyn married in January 2011. The couple has two sons. Their eldest son, Christopher, is autistic. The Yangs live in New York City.
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