Come June, Andrew Yang will be talking about the threat of automation on the American workforce in the first Democratic primary debate.
He intends to raise the issue of the United States’ unpreparedness for the effects of robots taking over millions of American jobs in the near future, potentially having severe consequences for the economy.
“I’m running to win,” Yang was quoted as saying. “But I’m also on the record as saying that if the winning candidate ends up adopting my policies and ideas then I would be thrilled with that. That I’m not someone who is lying awake in bed plotting my path to the White House, and that my goal is to try and help society manage the greatest economic and technological transformation in our history.”
Yang has been pointing out how while automation may be revolutionizing the American economy, it is also eliminating jobs.
Yang explained that America is in the middle of a transition that will cause the displacement of millions of workers in various industries, including retail, call centers, fast food and truck driving.
He also pointed out that along with working-class jobs, high-skill professions such as doctors and accountants will also be replaced by smarter robots of the future.
“When Donald Trump won in 2016, it really was, to me, a giant red flag, where to me the reason why he won was that we’d automated away 4 million manufacturing jobs in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, most of which I had spent years working in at that point,” Yang noted.
Yang said that when he first visited Washington to check on the government’s plan to address the threat of automation, he did not find any.
That is why he left his position as CEO of Venture for America in 2017 to officially file his candidacy.
“It was not like, ‘Oh I’m thinking about running for president’…it was more like, ‘Oh my gosh, this country is reaching crisis-level problems.’ And for whatever reason our political establishment seems out to lunch on the nature of the problems and meaningful solutions,” Yang revealed.
Yang has since been campaigning for his proposed solutions, which include the controversial universal basic income.
His proposed UBI, which amounts to $1,000 per adult per month, is set to be funded by new value-added taxes (VAT) levied on technology companies which drive automation advances. A VAT tax at half the level of Europe, Yang claims, is enough to cover the $12,000 annual payment for every adult American.
According to Yang, his proposal aims to help supplement income during the transition period in which jobs are being lost to automation.
Yang argues that the idea of universal basic income is not new and has been pushed in the past by politicians, including “many conservatives.”
“If you look at the history of this, Thomas Paine was for it at the founding of the country,” Yang noted. “Martin Luther King was born in the 60s and then Milton Friedman and a thousand economists including many conservatives were for it in the 70s.” Yang further noted a similar proposal being implemented in Alaska by “a Republican governor and is a deeply conservative state.”
“There’ve been dozens, maybe hundreds, of Trump voters who have come up to me and said they voted for Donald Trump and they’re going to vote for me because I’m an outsider and a business guy. And I’m talking about solving the same problems that he was talking about.”
Yang then noted how the Democratic Party can win back working-class Americans who he said will be greatly impacted by automation.
“l think the Democratic Party has lost sight of the solutions,” said the 44-year-old candidate. “And when I was with a trucker in Iowa a couple of weeks ago he said that he did not feel like the Democratic Party cared about someone like him. And I thought that was a disaster because he’s a working-class American. Being a trucker is the most common job in 29 states, and the Democratic Party used to stand for the working class.”