Andrew Yang: Inside the Mind of a 2020 Presidential Candidate

How does an entrepreneur go from starting a business to wanting to run for president? Andrew Yang discusses the journey his life has taken from “scrappy entrepreneur-type” to a 2020 presidential candidate. He talks about what sparked his interest in running for office, the growing student loan debt, the shifting technological and economical policies, and much more.

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I had not spent time in Michigan or Ohio or Louisiana or Alabama or western Pennsylvania before starting Venture for America and I saw firsthand the aftermath of the automation of millions of manufacturing jobs where a place like Detroit was built for a population of one point seven million people and it now has six or two to eighty thousand people. So despite the heroic efforts on the ground a lot of parts of Detroit you look up and they just blasted out abandoned neighborhoods. And so I thought oh my gosh like the devastation in these communities and not just economic devastation but there was a lot of human devastation and cultural devastation. There's a lot of despair a lot of anger. And so when Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016 I looked into the numbers and I found that the single biggest variable that explain the movement towards Trump in Michigan Ohio Pennsylvania and Wisconsin was the adoption of industrial robots in each voting district where the more you'd automated away jobs the more people moved towards Trump. And you're on the West Coast and we know this but my friends in Silicon Valley are 100 percent confident that we are going to automate away millions more jobs in retail truck driving and transportation customer service food prep and on and off throughout the economy. And I realize that we're in the third inning of the greatest economic and technological transition in human history and the third inning has already given us Donald Trump.

And it's only going to accelerate and take off as artificial intelligence gets better and better. And so I went to our political leaders and said Guys this is the core problem. We've automated away four million manufacturing jobs in the swing states and we're about to triple down on that. What are we going to do. And the political leadership that I met with including many Democrats really didn't have any answer like they do. They just were. Completely unequipped with trying to address this which in a way you know it shouldn't be shocking because this is an unprecedented level of change. But some of the answers were just so dispiriting they were like We can't talk about this. We should study this more. I mean things that are just ridiculous on the face and then the third big one was that we need to educate and retrain Americans for the jobs of the future. And as you know from having read my book I looked into the data on federally funded retraining programs and we're really really terrible at it. The success rates are between zero and thirty seven percent and fewer than 10 percent of workers qualify. So are our political leaders are suggesting a fantasy to the biggest set of economic and technological changes in history. And so that's when I realized that someone needed to bring real solutions to bear. And that's what I decide to run for president.

And Americans are dying every hour of drugs our labor force participation rate is down to sixty two point nine percent which is the same levels as El Salvador in the Dominican Republic. Nearly one out of five prime working age men between the ages of 20 or 30 has not worked in the last 12 months. There are more Americans on disability now than work construction. Up to 20 percent of working age adults in some parts of the country. So when you actually start digging you find that the data is horrifying that we are actually disintegrating. In most parts of the country and there was a stat that came out recently that literally 80 percent of the job creation or the business creation over the last number of years has come in 20 counties not 20 percent of counties but 20 counties. So when you go out to the rest of the country you realize that what they're going through is completely dissimilar to what people who've been on the coast or Manhattan order in Silicon Valley have been experiencing. But we have completely oversold and overprescribed college as the answer to everyone's ills both individually and economically. It's as if if you have enough college graduates then the jobs will follow. But unfortunately the data does not paint that picture where. 44 percent of recent college graduates are underemployed and doing a job that does not require a college degree. The cost of a college degree has tripled over the last number of years to a point where now we're up to one point five trillion in school loans and the default rate is climbing into the double digits. So there is this real bill of goods that's being sold to young people in this country it's like oh go to school go to school and then they come out of school and they have this debt that they can't discharge.

Even through bankruptcy and they can't find a secure path forward because we're cutting all the rungs of the ladder out in front of them. So as president there are many many big moves I would make. The first thing I would do is create a meaningful path towards debt forgiveness for people who are burdened by student loans that they'll never be able to pay back because it's immoral what we've done to so many young people. And if you have this I used to call my law school loans my mistress because I felt like I was sending a check to another family in another town every month and there's no growth in the economy to that like young people should be starting businesses starting families buying homes and not servicing their debt that I'm not going to pay back. So one is large scale student loan forgiveness but the other big move we have to make is we have to get the cost of college under control and I dug into why costs have skyrocketed and it's not teachers it's not even facilities it's administrators where the number of administrators in these schools has shot up 250 percent from the 70s and 80s. So what I would do. I would require schools to have an administrator to student ratio consistent with the 70s and 80s. And if they want they can actually have more administrators in that but they just won't get access to federal loans and federal moneys which would cause a massive massive contraction in the number of administrators in these colleges.

But it's the only way to get the costs down because right now they just keep on charging more and more tuition. And then the public bears the costs because if you're a parent you feel like you have no choice. Your kid takes out these massive loans that we then subsidize as a society. And then you're crushed by this debt and you default and then the government has the bill just so that the college is going to have more administrators. So that's one of the big things we have to take take down several levels. And the third thing is that instead of overprescribing college so much we need to build up technical vocational and apprenticeship programs around the country where in the US only 6 percent of high school students pursue technical training. In Germany it's 59 percent. And we have 15 million middle skill jobs right now in this country that we can't fill because people aren't training for it. We've stigmatized that kind of work. We've said essentially we don't go to college you're a loser. And what we've done is we've created a whole new set of losers. All these people that frankly should not have gone to college in the first place and 41 percent of people who start college don't finish it within six years. So imagine owing the debt and not even having the degree. That's the situation we've pushed hundreds of thousands of Americans into.

So my plan to forgive student loan debt is this if you are if you will commit 10 percent of your wages for 10 years you will be debt free after 10 years. And that way people who know that that's going to be a good deal for that we'll take it and then there'll be a light at the end of the tunnel and then the people that made these loans will start to learn that. You know you can't just keep on piling on debt on the people unsustainably. So we call it the 10 by 10 student loan Emancipation Act. But that that's going to be one way for people to be able to still work hard and make a contribution but have a light at the end of the tunnel.

Jobs that are most prone to automation are repetitive manual jobs. Yes like warehouse shelving or driving a truck. But also repetitive cognitive work and I can tell you as a former corporate lawyer that a lot of professional services work is repetitive cognitive. So we're talking about corporate lawyers accountants bookkeepers journalists in many cases radiologists. There are many professions that involve taking a lot of data insurance either taking a lot of data and processing it in repetitive ways. The neat the Federal Reserve categorizes 44 percent of jobs as either repetitive manual or repetitive cognitive. So definitely not just talking about blue collar workers it's one reason why so many college graduates are finding themselves underemployed that a lot of the traditional white collar roles are getting automated more and more.

The impact of universal basic income according the Roosevelt Institute would be. A huge up step in growth where it would grow the economy by about 13 percent or two and a half trillion dollars per year and would create four and a half million new jobs nationwide. Because right now fifty nine percent of Americans can't afford an unexpected preference the dollar bill. So if you put money into people's hands they're going to spend it on car repairs books for their kids nights out things that drive the economy forward. The reason why some people dislike universal basic income in my opinion is because they bought into this notion that your work is who you are your value is tied to what works with a monetary market says your value is and that if you somehow get money through some other means that it's going to to erode your character. And that's deep seeded in American life. I mean people call it the Puritan work ethic. But what's interesting is that going back even to Thomas Paine one of the founding fathers he was for a citizen's dividend in Alaska. They've had a petroleum dividend for 36 years and it's created thousands of jobs is wildly popular it's increased children's health it's reduced income inequality. The thing that excites me most about universal basic income is its effect on families and children day to day where when families received cash in one study in North Carolina children's personalities change to become more agreeable and conscientious and as a parent like those things would be great in your kids. Mental health improves domestic violence goes down hospital visits go down people's productivity rises over time so there is some incredibly profound effects. We need to evolve forward as a society and as an economic systems. Very very quickly to value human activities in a different way than the market does because the market is going to zero out truck drivers it's going to zero out of accounts. It's going to zero. And more and more groups of people.

And if we cling to it for too long we're gonna go off a cliff with it.

You don't elect Andrew Yang if you want business as usual.

If you recognize that the operating system of government has broken down and it needs a rewrite and so we would make the big changes as quickly as we could and there would be. I believe real enthusiasm for that because again I mean if you look at it we've been waiting for someone to transform government from the inside out for a number of years now.

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Andrew Yang is an American entrepreneur, the founder of Venture for America, and is a 2020 presidential candidate for the Democratic party. You can interact with him and follow him on Twitter @AndrewYangVFA

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