Don’t know him? Neither do most people in America. Yet, Yang is a 200:1 long shot to win the presidency in 2020. Those odds are better than Lebron James and Taylor Swift, but worse than Oprah, Angelina Jolie and Neil DeGrasse Tyson (and none of them are running). He’s hit the podcast circuit in the last year, talking Universal Basic Income, human-centered capitalism, the next Industrial Revolution and the coming American Century.
I have to think he’s a podcast host’s dream guest. His energy rivals any comic; he talks faster than Ben Shapiro; he loves data like Stephen Pinker and makes more predictions than Ray Kurzweil. In the digital realm of ideation and philosophical discussions, Yang questions the status quo, rants about current trends and ponders how the future could be magnificent.
Imagine a world with improved nutrition and mental health where arts, creativity, and entrepreneurship boom. Picture a world where you can spend less time squeezing your budget and more time with your children. Pretend we could improve high school graduation rates while decreasing domestic violence, hospital visits and gun violence. Do you see it? Andrew Yang wants you to visualize.
The founder of Venture for America wants the American economy to adapt to the 21st century by addressing technical automation of jobs and spreading the benefits of the American economy to everyone. Whether or not his proposed solutions are the right ones, he is at least talking about the biggest economic issues of our time—and, more importantly, solutions.
Yang, a forty-something serial entrepreneur cites many statistics. In podcast interviews and in his book, The War on Normal People, he moves fast and spouts data—a fountain of relevant economic data surely destined to fall on the deaf ears of political zombies.
- 50 percent of American workers fall into 5 job categories: (1) administrative and clerical, including call centers, (2) retail & sales, (3) food service, (4) transportation (truck drivers), and (5) manufacturing
- Truck driving is the number one job in 29 states
- From 2000-2015, more than 4 million jobs were automated out of existence in places like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania
- 59 percent of Americans cannot afford an unexpected bill of $500 or more
- Two-thirds of Americans live paycheck to paycheck—if any doubt exists, look at the recent flood of GoFundMe type campaigns for unpaid Federal workers during the government shutdown
I, for one, advocate for leadership willing to acknowledge the current state of the economic union: financial insecurity, job displacement, expansive wealth gaps, industrial transformation and climate change.
Amazon is killing shopping malls and everything retail. Uber is replacing car services. Musk is replacing drivers and challenging paved roads. Robots are replacing labor. AI is replacing thought. Every Silicon Valley invention innovates extraction of wealth from one industry after another.
Yang claims that the next industrial revolution is bigger and coming faster than historical examples. To dismiss the coming fallout from technological revolution is to ignore the state of current affairs. Capital markets maximize for efficiency, leading to automation, consolidation and monopoly. He’s not alone in this view.
Recently on 60 Minutes, Scott Pelley interviewed Kai-Fu Lee, an artificial intelligence (AI) venture capitalist in China. He’s funded 140 AI startups and has 10 separate billion dollar companies. Lee predicts AI related advancements will replace 40% of all jobs—blue and white collar—in the next 15-20 years. Is he wrong? Is it fear mongering? Even if it’s only 10% in 25 years, it’s a catastrophic level concern.
Yang acknowledges we have big problems now and more coming. As an optimistic American, he believes we can address them and minimize the impact—if we can only stop quarreling about 19th century economic history. Few are calling for trustbusting Google and Amazon. We love their service. What we don’t understand is reading stories about Amazon workers living under the poverty line while fearing bathroom breaks will lead to termination. Our current financial programming is due for a code review.
The top 26 wealthiest individuals in the world equal the wealth of the bottom 3.8 billion. WTF.
This cannot be the best economy heading into the next technology revolution.
Siri—What does human suffering look like?
Hey Google – Thanks for Search. Can I have my job back?
Alexa—there’s a delivery drone stuck on my front porch.
What would it mean to share every Amazon transaction, every Google search and every Facebook ad. That’s a negative income tax, also known as a value-added tax (VAT), or consumption tax. It’s already on the books in 160 other countries.
Is Yang’s Freedom Dividend the panacea? Maybe. A Universal Basic Income (UBI) is something on which Bernie Sanders, Richard Nixon, Milton Friedman, Elon Musk and Thomas Paine agree. If you’re an adult between 18 and 64, it’s hard to think a $1,000 per month stipend wouldn’t help stabilize your budget, make that student loan payment or make more Amazon purchases. It’s worked well in Alaska since 1982.
Is Medicare for all the answer? Not sure. Fending for yourself sure isn’t working for most Americans. Medical emergencies should not send a family into bankruptcy. No parent should have to decide between taking your child to the doctor and paying the rent.
Is Human-Centered Capitalism really socialism? I’m okay with believing that humans are more important than money.
These ideas are worth consideration and debate. Economic predictions rarely result in perfect accuracy, but I hope the next wave of political leadership live in the realm of reality, advocating for all Americans.
Podcasts are the place for big ideas, long discussions and thoughtful consideration. America needs political innovation equal to the technological. Even if the votes don’t come, the downloads sure will. Preach on Mr. Yang.
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