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“Technology is the Oil of the 21st Century,” Yang Makes Case for Presidency

Presidential hopeful Andrew Yang wants to solve the problems that led to Donald Trump’s election in 2016. In an interview with NPR’s Here & Now, Yang discussed the problems that contributed to Trump’s popularity and offered his solutions.

“The reason he’s our president today is that we automated away 4 million manufacturing jobs….” Yang said. “And my friends in technology know that what we did to those jobs we will now do to the retail jobs, the call center jobs, the fast-food jobs, the truck-driving jobs and on and on through the economy.”

Addressing technology’s impact on the economy is a big part of Yang’s campaign.

“We are in the third inning of the greatest technological and economic shift in human history,” Yang often says, according to reporting by the Washington Post Magazine.

To survive this shift, Yang says America needs an economic and social overhaul, and central to that is his signature proposal for a universal basic income, in which every American would receive a dividend of $1,000 a month.

“It would help Main Street businesses stay open and thrive,” he told Here & Now. “It would recognize the work that parents and caregivers like my wife do every single day. My wife’s at home with our two boys, one of whom is autistic, and right now that work is valued at zero in our economy. So what it’s going to do is it’s actually going to create millions of new jobs and expand what we think of as work.”

When asked how he would pass his proposal given Republicans’ likely opposition, Yang countered by citing the state of Alaska as having a similar measure that was passed by a Republican governor.

“It’s wildly popular in a deep-red state. Everyone in Alaska gets between one and two thousand dollars a year right now through oil money,” Yang said. “And what I’m saying is that technology is the oil of the 21st century, and we can do this for all Americans.”

Essentially, Yang will fund his universal basic income plan by taxing Silicon Valley.

“We will give the American public a tiny slice of every Amazon transaction, every Google search, every Facebook ad, every robot truck mile and it’s enough to pay for a dividend of a thousand dollars a month,” he explained.

Yang has other ideas about technology that extend beyond funding a universal income. He’s proposed creating a cabinet-level “Secretary of Technology.” The position would be based in California and help Washington “stay abreast of the latest developments and become a genuine partner to some of these companies on the cutting edge. Because many of these innovators right now are even crying out for some sort of regulation.”

He’s also proposed a “Department of the Attention Economy” to address the “disastrous effect” that social media and increased screen time has on the mental health of adolescents, and particularly teenage girls. The department would serve as a counterweight to the financial incentives of tech companies that are “turning supercomputers into slot machines and dopamine delivery devices for teenagers.”

Yang also told Here & Now he would re-join the Iran nuclear deal if he were elected president. He explained that rising tensions with Iran are due in part to economic sanctions. While Iran should face consequences for the recent attack on two oil tankers, he would not respond with military action.

On Trump’s tariffs on China, Yang shared a story about a farmer he met in Iowa who spent 6 years building a relationship with a Chinese buyer. That relationship “evaporated” with the tariffs.

“You need to give these business owners… much more notice,” Yang said, “because they’re investing, sometimes hiring and building plants expecting a relationship to stand the test of time, and we’re pulling the rug from under them.”

Yang also commented on the recent protests in Hong Kong against a proposed extradition law.

“I saw the protests in Hong Kong, and like many other Americans, I found them very inspiring,” Yang said. “And the fact that now [the extradition bill] has been pulled back is a real victory for the protesters, and for a level of self-determination.”

Yang is polling at 1-2% of the vote, according to RealClearPolitics, but he remains optimistic.

“I made the democratic debates in June and July,” he told Here & Now. “I’m top 10 [according to] CNN, top six or top eight in other rankings and by any objective category, I’m one of the top contenders for the White House. So I’m completely serious about solving the problems of the American people and becoming the next president.”

Yang will be participating in the first Democratic primary debates on Thursday, June 27th. The debate is being hosted by NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo, and will air live across all three networks starting at 9 p.m. ET.

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