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United States: Andrew Yang is running for President in 2020 on the platform of Universal Basic Income

Andrew Yang is a young entrepreneur who is running for president on the platform of Basic Income. As an entrepreneur, he started and led several technology and education companies. More recently he founded Venture for America, “a nonprofit that places top graduates in startups in emerging U.S. cities to generate job growth and train the next generation of entrepreneurs.” Because of his varied experience, Yang travelled all over the United States and came face to face with the reality of several dreary and forlorn locations. In his new book, The War on Normal People, he describes visiting Detroit in 2010, when the city “was just beginning its descent into bankruptcy,” he remembers “cold, empty streets feeling abandoned,” and he saw the same in “Providence, New Orleans, and Cincinnati.” These experiences led him to create Venture for America, sending talented entrepreneurs to these cities in an attempt to create jobs and revitalize these areas.


Andrew Yang and President Obama, 2012

Even though Venture for America was highly successful, “people were clapping us on the back, congratulating us on our accomplishments,” but he thought: “What are you congratulating us for? The problems are just getting worse.” He realized that there is too much “human and financial capital flowing to just a handful of places doing things that are speeding the machine up rather than fixing what is going wrong.” Yang realized that technology was hitting the economic fabric of the country and “eliminating livelihoods for hundreds, thousands of the most vulnerable Americans.” This is the beginning of a wave he calls the Great Displacement, a wave that “grinds up people and communities” in ways that are not clear nor straightforward and that can lead to utter disaster – this reality is already partly responsible for the election of Donald Trump, and when it hits it will become even more frightening. Yang feels a sense of urgency, in the sense that we need to do something, “it’s getting late, and the time is running short.”


When asked about how he decided to run for president, he said: “What happened was that I saw Donald Trump get elected and realized that there is a very short window of time between now and when things get so bad that it is going to be difficult to easily reconstitute many of the regions [that are most affected and that elected Trump]. It was in 2017 and I decided that someone should run for President on Universal Basic Income and so I went around and asked who is going to do this? When I saw no one was going to do it, I decided to do it.” Yang’s platform is mainly focused on Universal Basic Income, but also includes Medicare for All and something he calls Human Capitalism. In Human Capitalism we would still have a free market, but would not be focused primarily on corporate profits, but instead should follow three central tenets: “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.”


In his book, War on Normal People, Yang paints a bleak view of automation. He predicts it will arrive soon and in full force, anytime between 2020 and 2030. Service jobs will be mostly automated as well as customer service jobs, construction jobs and jobs that include driving a vehicle. Recently the New York Times had a piece about the automation of retail, Retailers Race to Automate Stores, saying that there will be stores with “hundreds of cameras near the ceiling and sensors in the shelves help automatically tally the cookies, chips and soda that shoppers remove and put in their bags. Shoppers accounts are charged as they walk out the doors.” Customer service in call centers can be easily substituted by artificial intelligence (AI) so effectively that you may not be able to tell if you are speaking to a person or a computer. Many more intellectually based jobs such as accountants, insurance sellers and paralegals can also be more efficiently done by AI. One of the most worrisome areas where job loss will hit hard is driving a vehicle. Self-driving trucks and cars can displace many middle-aged males in the United States, in areas that are already hard hit by automation. The Great Displacement, according to Yang, is scary and happening fast.


One of the policies that can be immediately implemented is Basic Income, which Yang calls a Freedom Dividend. Yang’s proposal calls for $1,000 a month for each American, $12,000 a year. Yang suggests that the most efficient and quick way to finance a Basic Income of this kind is implementing a VAT – Value Added Tax, of around 10%, many European countries have a VAT around 20%. Yang believes a VAT is an adequate way to gather funds for Basic Income because it is charged on volume, not on profit, so that large retailers, such as Amazon, would not be able to escape it. Even though VAT would increase prices for all, when used exclusively for Basic Income it would lead to lower income people still benefiting from the policy. Yang said: “it’s going to help 85 percent of Americans, the only people that it doesn’t help are the top 15 percent who will be putting a lot more money into the VAT. The people that consume the most are the richest and with a VAT they can’t escape it, with income tax rich people are excellent at escaping it in various ways.” Yang also prefers it to a wealth tax as “people will start shifting wealth around in various ways” and would easily be able to avoid it. Yang also defends a Carbon Tax.


Andrew Yang, Melanie Friedrichs and Sean Lane

Yang has a vision of the future where, aided by a Basic Income, or the Freedom Dividend, local economies will thrive: “My vision for the future is of an artisanal economy that many people participate in, that is borne by human interests that are not trying to build the next Chipotle or Google. You create a bakery that everyone loves in your town and then you employ 10 people and everyone is happier because there is a very good bakery. Then you multiply that by a bunch of businesses. That’s the future to me. It’s impossible for more and more people to compete against the mega-corps, but when everyone has a Universal Basic Income, then we can all frequent business we enjoy. That’s the ideal vision and that’s what Universal Basic Income allows for.”


In the book, The War on Normal People, Yang speaks about time banking exchanges in local communities that already exist. According to him, that’s a way to address how people will spend their time in satisfying and productive ways, after automation arrives and Basic Income is implemented. In Brattleboro, Vermont, there is a time bank with 315 members that has already exchanged 64,000 hours of mutual work. With a time bank, each person offers whatever services they have and bank time that can be latter traded for other services that others offer within the community. It’s a way to stay busy, connected, and meet your community neighbors. Yang suggests something called Digital Social Credits, which would work in a similar way, connecting communities and providing a local exchange of services.


Yang’s campaign has started and he is ready for the challenge ahead. In his own words: “I’m going to run for president on Basic Income for the next two and a half years. The better I do, the more real Basic Income becomes for millions of Americans. We can run again in 2024, and 2028, until we win, if we don’t win this time.” Yang sees Basic Income as an urgent policy that needs to happen now as is willing to fight for it as a presidential candidate.


More information at:

Kevin Roose, “His 2020 Campaign Message: The Robots Are Coming”, The New York Times, February 18th 2018

About Sara Bizarro

Sara Bizarro has written 17 articles.

Sara Bizarro is a Research Fellow at CEPS - Centre for Ethics, Politics, and Society at the University of Minho; writer at Medium; a member of BIEN, Basic Income Earth Network, and of USBIG, The U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network. Support Sara's work on Basic Income, follow this link to her Patreon profile.

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The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.


  • Presidential candidate Andrew Yang wants a 10% VAT tax, not a 20% VAT tax. He makes that clear on his website and in his interview. It’s half the 20% VAT tax of Europe.

    P.S. I am happy that he is willing to run in 2024 and after that until he wins. Nice!

    • Andre Coelho

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for the heads-up. We’re on it. Will update when we have confirmed the information.


    • Passive Dream

      You are an idiot to think he’s right…..
      25, 2018 at 1:24 am

      Ok let me start of by saying all these…..
      1. Robats and AI is 100% a Disaster to humanity in many ways not only hands the power to rich who controls the world but we humans will be worthless period starve to death and we can not fight a war with machines.
      2. $1000 per momth sounds good but think deep how many jobs we loose and how much those truck driver making right $10000 per month?
      3. On the $1000 per month you get must be qualifications and restrictions always there is.
      4. $1000 monthly is taxed and changes brackets for other things including prices of everything going up…and that $1000 is not gonna run you for more than half of the week …what will you be doing the rest of the month?
      5. You can get that $1000 from welfare right now if you are that lazy.. the lists go on and on…
      6. He’s an idiot tricking voters to get vote…
      He’s an idiot period …


    • Andre Coelho

      Dear “passive dreamer”,

      Humans build machines to enhance and ease their lives. That’s mostly the case. A brighter look upon humanity may lead you to a point where we don’t really need to be doing some pointless things that actually harm us. Machines can do those, or even eliminate the need for some tasks from the onset. Basic Income is a way to free people, not to enslave them (even further). But to see that, you must look upon humanity as fundamentally good; if you don’t, basic income will only look…well, as you said, like a disaster.

      Try “active dreaming” instead. 😉


  • Eugene Neufeld

    Basic Income Dividend should be universal (no class, gender, age, or category test except citizenship.
    Basic Income Dividend should be no strings attached (no means test, no tax, no conditions.)
    Basic Income Dividend should replace many patronizing social engineering programs.
    Basic Income Dividend thus implemented should free capital to pursue its objectives with fewer strings attached – e.g. no minimum wage, e.g. no overruling of merit.
    Basic Income Dividend needs and get support from both left and right, the whole spectrum if it is pitched right and if is not hijacked by somevparty in the spectrum which wants to combine it with other less universal ideals.

  • Corey Wiley

    I think that there should be a basic income but not universal. Only people making less than $100,000 per year. After $100,000 it should gradually reduce by a certain percent for every 10,000 more a person earns per year over 100,000 per year.There is no reason for rich people to need any income supplementation. I also think that the basic income should be not $1000 per month but about $2000 per month(index it accordingly to match any inflation). We should get the money mainly by progressive taxation (but can try to find other places too). I also do not think we should end all other social safety net programs, some are necessary, so we can lose some and improve others.
    We should have a living wage,universal health care, and free education as well as job programs. If you have any moral compass you will understand that the rights of people to not be poor, economically strained to unhealthy degree surpass the rights of people to be limitlessly rich and irresponsible with their wealth within the society that allows them the opportunity to acquire that wealth. Money that the rich have acquired is through an unhealthy human constructed failable system whose rules are unfair and create toxic levels of disparity. We can change the rules to be more fair and humane and we should.
    If we had a generous basic income and some did not work then So what? We have more people than important jobs that need to be done, maybe we should just accept that some people will not work or work much less and they can have other options for living meaningfully or contributing. Maybe some people will just exist and be decent healthy citizens taking care of their basic needs and chores. Maybe in that case we can give like $2000 per month but only a certain amount (of the basic income money, not money earned from working) could be saved so the money would keep circulating and it would prevent hoarding. So each month $2000 would be digitally transferred into a basic income account and then at the end of the month if the person had not spent it all then it resets back to $2000 rather than accumulating from whatever was left over from the previous month.
    Then I think maybe a certain percent (again, of the amount granted from the basic income) could be allowed saved for justified reason and a seperate account could be made strictly for some justified ends…like maybe 2% per month could be saved to go toward a vacation, or a car or a computer or some extra need or want…just as long as people are not hoarding, although it would be kind of hard get rich off of $2000 per month as most of that would go towards basic needs of some reasonable quality.
    So basically everyone would have a seperate account for basic income and that money would have limitations on how much could be saved, and then another account would be money earned at a job which people could do whatever they want with.
    We need an infrastructure revolution. We could create so many jobs this way. We should build/fix roads bridges,green energy,parks,green spaces,clean pollution,public transportation,fix historical buildings and even fix up dilapidated houses (like in Detroit for 1 example) and also fix up houses of regular middle class working class people … like for free or at extremely low rate. We should have a huge works program and train and hire millions of people to do this work, pay with living wages and have 32 hours weeks.

  • Kurt

    Automation is coming! As soon as McDonalds figures out how to automate…there will be 1 million workers OUT OF WORK! Same thing w/ uber. etc. Chances of yang winning presidency are slim..he and others need to push BIG ASAP by any means!

  • Kurt

    As soon as McDonalds automates..there will be 1 million workers OUT OF WORK! Same thing w/ Uber and others! Yang’s chances of winning the presidency are slim!! He need’s tp push BIG ASAP in america by any means available!

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