Businessman and nonprofit founder Andrew Yang announced his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in February 2018, but hardly anyone knows his name. While his chances of winning the Democratic primary are low, and the odds of him becoming the next president are miniscule, his talking points could prove to be important for the future of American politics. The 43-year-old entrepreneur has centered his campaign around universal basic income, or UBI, a proposal that every household be given $1,000 a month with no questions asked. In exchange, welfare and food stamp programs would be removed.
“We need to accelerate and evolve as an economy and a society and the most direct way to build a more human-centered economy is through a universal basic income or ‘Freedom Dividend’ of $1,000 per adult per month,” Yang told The Washington Times. “But if we do not act in the face of this tidal wave, we are going to wind up in a much, much rougher spot than Donald Trump being president.”
Yang’s push for UBI might just be the shove it needs to move it into the mainstream political discussion. Some cities like Stockton, California have experimented with the idea on a smaller scale. A county or state-wide implementation of such a program seems distant.
The main benefit of UBI is its promise to allow every American household to live a sustainable life. It aims to allow Americans to afford shelter and basic living necessities, such as adequate food. It would also wipe out Medicare and welfare fraud. UBI drawbacks are obvious just the same. If everyone receives an additional pay boost, costs may very well rise by that same amount, effectively cancelling out any aid UBI was supposed to provide.
Whether the name “Andrew Yang” makes any headway in the 2020 campaign is less of story than whether any serious candidates utter the words “universal basic income.” It just might be a major campaign issue for the 2020 race.