Andrew Yang is a 44-year-old entrepreneur, lawyer, author and now democratic presidential candidate. Yet in spite of ranking sixth in polling among the democratic candidates, he is somewhat of an unknown. Yang has non-standard policy positions that allow him to stand out from the pack of Democratic candidates, but few voters know what UBI – the basis for his stump speech – stands for. “The most direct and concrete way for the government to improve your life is to send you a check for $1,000 every month and let you spend it in whatever manner will benefit you the most,” reads Yang’s website. He calls his idea the “Freedom Dividend”: a $1,000 check paid out monthly to every American adult. This controversial policy is better known as Universal Basic Income (UBI), and has avid supporters as well as fervent opposition.
“A universal basic income has many undesirable features, starting with its non-negligible disincentive to work,” said Eduardo Porter in his article, A Universal Basic Income Is a Poor Tool to Fight Poverty. Many critics like Porter cite a disincentification of workers to work because of a UBI, but others simply critique the implementation of such a massive program. It is difficult for politicians and economists alike to identify a viable source for the proposed $2.8 trillion in payouts. While some say that a solution would be to simply cut other welfare programs like Social Security and Medicare, Yang’s second key policy is Medicare for All.
“Healthcare should be a basic right for all Americans. Right now, if you get sick you have two things to worry about – how to get better and how to pay for it,” reads the campaign website. Yang supports a universal healthcare system with the goal of improving holistic healthcare. He believes that with preventative medicine that focuses on mental and physical ailments, overall healthcare costs will come down and allow physicians to focus on their patients. He is also an advocate of a single-payer system, wherein there would be no private insurance. Those in favor of such an arrangement vouch for its merits based on the fact that individuals would no longer have to be concerned with healthcare coverage when faced with a change in employment or job loss.
“We need to make the markets serve us rather than the other way around. Profit-seeking companies are organized to maximize their bottom line at every turn which will naturally lead to extreme policies and outcomes,” Yang is quoted on his website. Yang goes further than just supporting good practices – he speaks of implementing a new form of currency that will measure the amount of good people do.
Other than these three basic policies, Yang also has many smaller, niche stances. For example, he wishes to make Washington DC and Puerto Rico into states, and would impose an 18-year term limit on Supreme Court Justices. Yang would see voting rights restored to ex-felons and the voting age lowered to sixteen.
Despite not being a traditional politician, Yang still has vocal critics. Some of his more progressive policy ideas, specifically those related to education and climate change, have drawn immense criticism. His education policies have been taken apart by journalists from Forbes, and his climate change policies have been ridiculed in The Atlantic. Yang also receives scrutiny based on his background. He attended the elite boarding school Phillips Exeter and went on to graduate from Brown University and Columbia Law School. He eventually became an entrepreneur, then sold his test prep company, Manhattan Prep, earning millions.
Andrew Yang has critics, unique policies and a signature policy – so why haven’t many people heard of him? There are several factors at work. Yang has had the least amount of talking time of all the Democratic candidates at the first and second democratic debates. Furthermore, he has been left off of candidate lists by major news outlets like MSNBC and CNN. A CNN infographic of democratic candidates showed Beto O’Rourke but omitted Yang, despite the fact that Yang was polling three times higher than O’Rourke.
Despite the fact that he is relatively unknown, Andrew Yang has been rising through the ranks of the Democratic presidential field, and is now seen by some pundits as a force to be reckoned with. Political junkies and involved citizens alike should pay close attention to this outsider as the number of viable candidates continues to dwindle in the months leading up to the Democratic primary.