Democratic presidential contender and entrepreneur Andrew Yang had quite the Monday in our nation’s capital. At noon, the upstart candidate stopped by the National Press Club to deliver a speech and joined Robert Costa at Washington Post Live later in the day. By the evening, Yang reached the Howard University School of Law for a scheduled ‘roundtable discussion’, which Cockburn had the pleasure of attending.
Yang, who has experienced recent success as an outsider candidate by advocating for Universal Basic Income, entered the auditorium to a standing ovation. The candidate, energized by the applause, skipped through the aisles and high-fived attendees.
When Yang returned to the stage, he discussed the benefits of UBI to a predominantly African American audience: ‘Our economy is changing in fundamental ways that will victimize people of color first and more dramatically.’ According to Yang, automation — the bugbear of his campaign — will disproportionately hurt minority groups in the United States. Quoting CNN host Van Jones, Yang said, ‘I worry about racists, but I think we need to worry more about robots.’
Though Yang claims UBI will solve a host of issues, he expressed support for other progressive policy proposals. On student loan debt, Yang said we should ‘forgive the vast majority of it.’ Referencing the 2008 bank bailout, Yang noted that ‘we have an analogous student loan debt build up’ but ‘this time we’re going to choose our people.’ Yang, speaking to law students who pay $59,000 a year in academic expenses, received significant applause for this line.
While a President Yang would eliminate student debt, he also supports investments in apprenticeships and vocational schools. Citing the dropout rate at American colleges, Yang said ‘we’re overprescribing college and underprescribing vocational training.’
Yang also briefly discussed criminal justice reform, but ultimately he returned to his signature issue. Planning to tax the value of data collected by Big Tech corporations to fund UBI, Yang promised to ‘redraw the rules of the economy so that it works for us, and then let the market actually start helping us for a change.’
After hitting 4 percent in a recent Emerson poll, Yang can rest assured that his message of economic change is reaching some voters. One may still wonder: can taxing data fund UBI and eliminate all student debt? Cockburn thinks it’s best to save that problem for later. For now, let’s dance: