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Meet the math-loving 2020 candidate who wants to give every American adult a monthly ‘tech check’

Speaking in Baltimore, Venture for America founder Andrew Yang said Universal Basic Income — aka $1,000 per month for all — can stave off a coming crisis caused by automation.

Then-presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaks in Baltimore, February 2019. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Along with barrels and brewing equipment, Charm City Meadworks was dotted with signs on Monday night that said “Math.” Meanwhile, a placard posted behind the stage read, “Humanity First.”

Standing between them, onstage, was Andrew Yang.

“We actually have to rewrite the rules of our economy so they can start working for us, as human beings,” the 44-year-old told the crowd. “We have to create races that we can actually win. Because in the race against the machines, if you keep using capital efficiency as your measuring stick, we do not win.”

The founder of Venture for America (which counts Baltimore among its most active cities) and ambassador of global entrepreneurship during the Obama administration, Yang is now running for president of the United States.

In his remarks at Monday’s rally that his campaign said drew 250 people, the Democrat said he decided to run after finding that leaders in D.C. did not want to address what he called the root causes of President Donald Trump’s election victory in 2016. Among the correlations that he referenced during the evening, Yang pointed out that areas where many manufacturing jobs were lost due to automation were swing states that Trump won. Yang said he wants to be the “opposite” of Trump, but acknowledged that the president understood these issues.

In the near future, he said, the same affects will be felt more acutely in industries likes retail, call centers and truck drivers.

To address this future, Yang has a policy prescription that makes his platform stand out from other Democrats who will vie for the nomination. It’s known as Universal Basic Income (UBI), and Yang calls it the Freedom Dividend and the “tech check.” But the idea is this: Everyone gets $1,000 per month once they turn 18 years old.

The idea is gaining steam in Silicon Valley right now, but Yang said there’s also precedent for at least its exploration, including under President Richard Nixon. He also brought up Alaska, where oil funds are redirected to a permanent fund that pays a dividend each year.

“We can do for Americans around the country what we’re already doing for Alaska with technology gains instead of oil money,” he said.

When it comes to the ROI for society, Yang listed off a number of benefits he sees from the “tech check”: better mental and physical health, increased graduation rates, decreasing domestic violence.

Along with Medicare for All, he’s also in favor of replacing GDP, which he said is at a record high despite a decline in life expectancy over the last three years. Called the “New American Scorecard,” the measure would include areas like health, education and environmental well-being.

While the change would come by executive order, “it ends up being very, very profound because you can drive incredible shifts in behavior based on how you measure progress,” Yang said.

Along with policy ideas, Yang is also doing the math when it comes to his campaign prospects. Last year, the New York Times wrote that the campaign was a “longer-than-long-shot-bid,” so the campaign now counts it as a win that he’s polling at 1 percent.

But the spot where Yang is looking is the debates in June. Democratic Party rules state that a candidate can get a spot on the stage with contributions from 65,000 people. They’re at 20,000 so far. Next up among rallies: stops in rural Ohio, Iowa and New Hampshire.

Companies: Venture for America
People: Andrew Yang

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