Thursday, April 18, 2019

Democratic Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang Visits Piedmont Park

Andrew Yang, businessman, philanthropist, and Democratic presidential candidate, stood on a podium at the Promenade at Piedmont Park in Atlanta and said something that one doesn't expect in these days of political polarization.

"Donald Trump got a lot of the essential problems right," he said. He said that Trump pointed out many problems facing modern America, to which the Democrats simply claimed everything was fine. This, much more than Russia, Facebook, or the FBI, was the reason that Trump won the election and Hillary Clinton didn't. However, although Trump diagnosed the problems, his solutions were all wrong. "It's not immigrants," he said about the losses of jobs. "It is technology."

Millions of manufacturing jobs in the Midwest had been automated in recent decades. Once prosperous blue-collar communities had been hollowed out as workers were replaced by machines and it's not going to stop with industrial work. He cited the case of malls and other retail outlets closing due to competition with Amazon, something that's a real problem given how retail workers represent the majority of American jobs. He also pointed out that advances in artificial intelligence would put call-center workers and truckers out of work as well. Although convoys of self-driving automated trucks would be more efficient and save lives (no drivers to fall asleep at the wheel after long drives, for example), millions of truckers would be out of work and towns that provided lodgings, food, maintenance, etc. for truckers would wither. This is what he called "The Fourth Industrial Revolution."

The solution, Yang advocated, is a universal basic income (UBI) like Alaska's. However, instead of oil funding what Thomas Paine called a citizen's dividend and what Martin Luther King Jr. advocated in Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community, it would be funded by technology. This "trickle up economy" as he called it would set the economic wheels spinning as people spent their money and would encourage entrepreneurship. This dividend, which Yang said would be $1,000 per month, would solve many of the problems Democrats talk about. Many women, for example, remain in abusive or exploitative jobs or relationships because they lack the financial means to get out. Democrats talk about empowering poor people of color and this dividend would accomplish that.

In addition to UBI, Yang advocated "Medicare for All" and thanked Bernie Sanders for making the idea mainstream. He rhetorically asked how "Medicare for All" would be paid for and said that the existing private insurance system is a network of middlemen who don't add value. He also advocated legalizing marijuana and what (to me) sounded a lot like forgiving $1.5 trillion in student-loan debt. This way young people can get out of their parents' basements and buy houses, start families, etc. He also criticized the idea of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the best measure of American progress. Although robotic trucks would increase the GDP they'd be bad for humans. He also cited how his wife's care for their two sons, one of whom is autistic, isn't measured in GDP either. He advocated for what he called "human-centered capitalism" and suggested an "American Scorecard" would be better to measure the well-being of the country.

Yang joked that as an Asian who liked math he was the opposite of Trump and ended his speech by citing his support from different factions in American politics. He said he had Trump supporters (a few made their voices heard) as well as Libertarians (these were louder). Louder still were those who identified themselves as "progressives."

"It's not left, it's not right, it's forward," Yang said, capping off his speech.

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