Andrew Yang, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, advocated for the introduction of guaranteed social security payments for all U.S. citizens over the age of 18 Tuesday.
Yang’s main pillar in his campaign platform is his basic income plan, which would give every adult citizen $12,000 per year through a series of monthly payments.
The government-sponsored payment program would help ease an economic burden on citizens, enabling them to tackle other pressing political issues, according to Yang.
“It would replace that mindset of scarcity with a mindset of relative abundance, and allow us to take on challenges like climate change in a more real way,” Yang said. “That is the great challenge of this era, to take the giant capital and market we are all subject to and rewrite the rules.”
Basic income plans have been experimentally implemented in multiple countries including India, where the state of Sikkim plans to establish a basic income for all citizens by 2022. In the United States, the guaranteed income proposal has previously received support from activists like Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who called it a tangible program for combating poverty in the past, according to The Atlantic.
Yang believes that an income floor, along with his plan to forgive a significant portion of student loan debt if elected, would enable more students to pursue careers and interests that they are passionate about.
“We need to make it so that you all can actually live out the ambitions you came to Georgetown with,” Yang said. “If we fail in that, then we have failed you, and we have failed everyone. Because what you do will actually be very very important in the future of this country over the years to come.”
Yang is the first Asian-American man to run for the Democratic nomination for president. He is the founder of Venture for America, a nonprofit that trains recent college graduates and young professionals in entrepreneurship by placing them in various startups across the country. Yang served as CEO of Manhattan Prep, a test preparation company, until 2011.
The event, titled “Entrepreneurship and Elections,” was hosted in Lohrfink Auditorium by the Georgetown University Lecture Fund.
The need for an income floor has become more pressing in light of the rate of technological advancement and the automatization of jobs in manufacturing, retail, fast food and other industries, according to Yang.
“Unfortunately, what half of Americans do is called repetitive cognitive work or repetitive manual work, and those jobs are going to get automated away in very large numbers,” Yang said.
Automation would negatively affect 83 percent of jobs with a wage under $20, or 81 million jobs, according to a December 2016 White House report. Yang said the relationship between the increasing automatization of jobs and widespread job insecurity among U.S. citizens is the main reason President Donald Trump was elected into office in 2016.
While Trump’s popularity can be attributed to his emphasis on relevant problems in the U.S. economy, his proposed solutions are the opposite of what the country needs, according to Yang. Yang said Trump’s lack of tangible solutions to the problems facing the United States motivated him to run for president.
“[Trump] said we’re going to build a wall, we’re going to freeze time, we’re going to turn the clock backwards,” Yang said. “And I want to do the opposite of all those things. I want to accelerate our society and our government. I want us to see ourselves as having value independent of what the market says.”
Tuesday’s event was co-sponsored by the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation, Georgetown University College Democrats, the School of Foreign Service’s global business program and the Baker Center for Leadership and Governance.
Through his presidential campaign Yang hopes to introduce new policies and ideas to revitalize the many outdated aspects of the American government and economy.
“We actually have to start trying to update the operating system of our government for this era,” Yang said. “We have to try and galvanize the American people, reclaim our democracy in a meaningful way and then make moves that we can agree on.”