His journey to the 2020 stage is a uniquely American one. The son of immigrants from Taiwan, he went on to become a lawyer, an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, and now a 2020 presidential candidate.
So, this afternoon, we're going to hear from him on his campaign strategy and his policy priorities, from his proposal for universal basic income to his concerns over automation and data privacy.
Before we begin, I'd like to quickly thank our presenting sponsor for this series, Bank of America.
And now, I'd like to go ahead and jump right into the program and introduce my colleague, Robert Costa, and Democrat presidential candidate, Andrew Yang. Thank you.
MR. COSTA: Mr. Yang, it's an interview.
MR. COSTA: We're adding that time on to the end. Thanks for joining us.
MR. YANG: Well, if the debates were like that, I'd spend all day out there meeting with people.
MR. COSTA: Well, thanks so much for joining us here at The Washington Post.
And thanks so much for being here in the room and online. We really appreciate it. We've enjoined this 2020 candidate series to get in-depth with candidates, candidates who are making moves in the 2020 race.
You just raised $10 million in the third quarter.
MR. YANG: Yes, thank you, Yang Gang.
MR. COSTA: People across the country are starting to pay attention to your campaign in a new way.
What is your path at this moment to the nomination?
MR. YANG: Well, we went from 2.8 million in Q2 to 10 million in Q3, which I daresay stunned the political establishment.
And our numbers show that our growth is just continuing to take off. That $10 million we got, the average donation was only $30. So, our fans are even cheaper than Bernie's, but there are a lot of them. And that number is growing all the time. So, we surprised the political world in Q3. Q4 is going to be another highwater mark, and we're growing and growing in the early states.
I'm going from here to New Hampshire tomorrow, where what used to be a group of, frankly, maybe 10 or 20 voters in these early states, now it's hundreds. We've had standing-room only crowds in early state venues, and we've even had to turn people away.
So, the growth that we saw in Q3 is just continuing, Bob, and it's just going to continue until the voting starts in February.
MR. COSTA: Out of the opening four states, is New Hampshire the most critical because of the primary system there, the open system?
MR. YANG: We're going to do well in all four states, but I enjoy heading back to New Hampshire all the time. I went to high school there. Not intentionally; I certainly wasn't planning on running for President. I was, like, 14 or 15.
MR. COSTA: You went to Exeter.
MR. YANG: Yeah, I went to Exeter. But I think we're going to do very well in New Hampshire, in part because it's an open primary. Republicans, Independents can participate.
MR. COSTA: You have momentum, but let's say you don't win the Democratic nomination, do you pledge to support the Democratic nominee?
MR. YANG: Yes, I would never do anything that would increase the chance of Donald Trump becoming President. The goal is to beat that man, get him out of the Oval Office.
MR. YANG: I genuinely believe I'm the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump in the general election. I'm one of only two candidates in the field that 10 percent or more of Donald Trump voters say they would support in the general, which means if I'm the Democratic nominee, we win. But if I am not the nominee, I will 100 percent support whoever the nominee is.
MR. COSTA: So, you're ruling out entirely, as well, an independent run or a third party run.
MR. YANG: Yes, I'm ruling them out.
MR. COSTA: When you think about your campaign right now, you're still an outsider, you're antiestablishment. What's your case to voters who are wary of you not having government experience?
MR. YANG: Well, the tough truth, Bob, is that Donald Trump became President because of problems that have been building up over years. And if most Americans thought that someone with decades of government experience would solve the problem, then we would not be where we are right now.
And that's not just Donald Trump. If you look back over the recent past, America has been hungering for some kind of change agent to respond to what's going on in our communities for years.
You can see it with not just Trump's victory, but Bernie Sanders' outside success in the last election, with Barack Obama's victory. We've been aware of the fact that our government is decades behind the curve for a while now, and it's reaching catastrophic levels.
MR. COSTA: Do you believe we live in a populist time and that Democrats should rally behind a change agent in their primary process?
MR. YANG: I think that we need a candidate that's actually going to solve the problems on the ground that Americans are experiencing every day in our communities. And however you choose to define that, I believe that should be the mission.
I've been blown away when I go to communities around the country where some people think Democrats don't speak for them. And I'm talking about truckers and warehouse shelvers and union workers, people that I thought the Democratic Party was hand-in-hand with.
When I was growing up, I thought of the Democratic Party as a champion of the working man, the little guy or gal. But then, when I go to these communities, a lot of them say the Democrats are not speaking to them. And that's one of the reasons I think my campaign has been so successful, is they feel like I am speaking to the problems they see.
MR. COSTA: What has that campaign actually been like? What was it like for you at that first debate surrounded by lifelong politicians? Were you nervous? Has it been a tough transition to go from the private sector to this kind of spotlight?
MR. YANG: Well, I was joking that the debates got easier when I realized it wasn't really a debate.
MR. YANG: And after that, it got a lot easier. So, that probably took a little bit of adjustment, I would say, but I'm a very fast learner. And we raised over a million dollars after each of the last two debates, almost entirely from new donors. So, whatever we're doing on the debate stage is working.
MR. COSTA: Some Asian-Americans have criticized you about the way you talk about math and how Asians know many doctors. What's your response to that criticism?
MR. YANG: I think people can tell the spirit of when I use that kind of humor, and I think Americans are very, very smart, where if I make a joke that, you know, I'm an Asian guy that likes math, they don't think, like, "Oh, all Asians like math." Like, I don't think that's the way it works in people's minds.
I think if anything, by bringing these stereotypes and bringing them into the light and poking fun at them, you're actually dispelling them and making them weaker.
I know that the Asian community is very, very diverse, and I would certainly never suggest that my experience or anyone's experience speaks for everyone in a community of, literally, millions.
MR. COSTA: Do you believe that could be dangerous territory if you brought other stereotypes into the fore--into the public discussion at all, whether it's about Asian-Americans or other groups?
MR. YANG: I'm very proud to be the first Asian-American man to run for President as a Democrat. When I talk to Asian-Americans, AAPIs around the country, they seem excited, as well. I would never do anything to intentionally undermine either that community, or any community, really.
MR. COSTA: You've gotten a lot of support from disaffected men online. You have a very positive message in the terms of universal basic income, your freedom dividend, but how have you grappled with this kind of online support from that group?
MR. YANG: It's interesting you ask that, Bob. To me, if you look at what's going on in our economy, we automated away four million manufacturing jobs in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, and about two-thirds of those jobs were filled by men prior. About two-thirds of manufacturing workers are men.
And our economy is evolving in ways that are pushing more and more Americans to the sidelines, but the group that's getting particularly hard hit are men without college degrees.
If you're a non-college-educated man in the U.S., you have a lower than 50/50 chance now of ever getting married, as one example.
And if you look at what's happening in automation, 94 percent of American truck drivers are men. And men deal with idleness very poorly by the numbers. If you're an unemployed man, your volunteering rates are actually lower than an employed man.
Think about that: You have more time, but you volunteer less.
And if you look at idle men rates of alcohol and drug abuse go up. And then, various social ills and even physical ills and health problems follow.
Women, not a shocker--women do not go through the same process if you're not working, in part, because women, it turns out, are never truly idle. No, it's true.
MR. YANG: And this is not Andrew Yang talking, this is numbers and data.
So, when you say to me, hey, there are a lot of people who happen to be men who seem to be supporting my campaign, I think it's strange that I'm one of the first people to point out what's going on in our economy that's affecting all Americans, but it's affecting certain groups in very specific ways.
MR. COSTA: Why do you think the freedom dividend, which, if you don't know is a thousand dollars a month to every American, would benefit people more than other options that are on the Democratic slate, such as Medicare for All?
MR. YANG: Well, I would ask anyone watching this around the country, what would you prefer, a thousand dollars a month in your pocket, or any of a range of other suggestions.
And to be clear, I'm for Medicare for All, though I would not get rid of all private insurance. I think we need to face facts that 94 percent of the new jobs that are getting created are temp gig or contract jobs that don't have health care benefits. And so, tying health care to employment makes less and less sense.
But the fact is, a lot of the solutions that politicians have been offering will not improve people's lives nearly as much as $1,000 a month, because if you get $1,000 a month, you will do any of a range of things with it. But you know how to solve your own problems the best.
I've been giving families around the country $1,000 a month for months now. It's a lot of fun. I recommend it, if anyone wants to--but one of the recipients is a guy named Kyle Christensen, who lives in Iowa Falls with his mom who is recovering from cancer.
And I saw Kyle on one of my last trips to Iowa and he seemed like a different man. He was beaming. And he said he used some of the money to buy a new guitar for himself and was playing shows for the first time in years, and he was so proud as he was telling me this.
Now, what government program would have ever put Kyle in a position to buy himself a guitar? For him, it was a guitar. For Jodie Fassi in New Hampshire, it was car repairs. For Malorie Shannon in Florida, it was going back to school.
But we Americans know how best to solve our own problems, and $1,000 a month would help us all move forward.
MR. COSTA: If your goal is to put more money in people's hands, why not just raise the minimum wage?
MR. YANG: Well, raising the minimum wage doesn't actually affect some of the underlying trends in our labor force where we're getting rid of a lot of the most common jobs in our economy.
It also doesn't help people like my wife who is at home with our two boys, one of whom is autistic. If I say, "Hey, guess what, the minimum wage goes up," the 10 million stay-at-home moms in this country would be untouched by that.
The reality is we're reaching a point where if I come up with software that can replace a call center worker who is making $14 an hour, changing the minimum wage will do nothing to actually keep that person bringing home a paycheck that can support their family. Because where they're getting paid $10, $12, $14, or $15 an hour, the software can do it at essentially zero marginal cost, you're going to see those jobs start to disappear.
And I know this in part because I spoke to a group of 70 CEOs in New York City not that long ago and I asked them, how many of them are looking at replacing their back-office clerical workers with artificial intelligence and software? And guess how many hands went up out of 70? All 70.
And so, if we're looking to get money into Americans hands, the most efficient way to do so is just to put money into Americans' hands, which is what I'm suggesting we do.
MR. COSTA: You mentioned someone who bought a guitar with $1,000.
MR. YANG: Well, it wasn't a thousand-dollar guitar, to be clear.
MR. COSTA: Right.
MR. YANG: He did other things first, and then there was some money and then he just spent--
MR. COSTA: But let's say that gentleman was already on a temporary assistance for needy families' program, or the SNAP program, and getting $1,000--or $1,200 in federal benefits today. If your program was instituted, would that person get $1,000 in addition to the current 1,000 or 1,200 they're getting from the federal government or not?
MR. YANG: The last thing I would ever do is take anything away from Americans, particularly if people are relying upon government programs for their basic needs. So, the freedom dividend would be universal and opt-in, but if you do opt in, then you're choosing to forego cash and cash-like benefits from certain other programs which would include--
MR. COSTA: So, you wouldn't receive SNAP anymore?
MR. YANG: Well, in the hypothetical you were describing, the person would look up and say, "I prefer $1,200 of my current benefits to $1,000 unconditional payment."
MR. COSTA: Aren't those the people that may need $1,000 more than anyone, in addition to their current benefits?
MR. YANG: Well, again, we don't want to do away with any programs. The goal is to set a floor, a foundation, for all Americans, and then continue to solve problems on top of that.
MR. COSTA: But why not give the person who's already on federal benefits $1,000 in addition than giving $1,000 to a billionaire?
MR. YANG: Well, first in my system, a billionaire, like, you know--like the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos--
MR. COSTA: They won't opt in.
MR. YANG: We'd be extracting hundreds of millions or maybe billions from the Jeff Bezos' of the world. So, if we try and send him a thousand bucks a month to remind him he's an American, it's probably a win, and then he probably would forego the thousand or donate it to charity or something.
For the person who's struggling, we need to do more, 100 percent. And keep in mind, the $1,000 a month is on a per-adult basis. So, if you have two adults in your household, that's $24,000 a year.
How many of you all are parents, like I am? Imagine knowing that your child is going to get $1,000 starting at age 18, which is a huge stressor for so many families, and then knowing if they get $1,000 a month, then all of a sudden, their college is partially paid for, their future is more assured. Like, everything becomes much less stressful and easier. So, if someone's--the freedom dividend is not intended to solve everyone's problems all at once. It's intended to provide a floor that we can all be excited about.
MR. COSTA: But I'm just trying to understand, why does someone who's perhaps the poorest of the poor who's already on federal benefits have to choose between the federal benefit and the freedom dividend? Why do they have to make that choice, if you're President of the United States?
MR. YANG: Well, part of it is that a lot of the existing programs, unfortunately, penalize you the better you do.
And so, one example is that a friend of mine, his sister was on disability and she wanted to volunteer for a local nonprofit. But she was afraid to do so, because she was afraid she would be identified as being non-disabled and then lose her disability benefits. And so, she chose not to volunteer. Now, I think we can all agree she should be able to volunteer. And if she can volunteer one, two days a week, she should be able to do that and retain her disability benefits.
The reason why the freedom dividend, to me, is better is that you can keep it on top of whatever else you do. But there are many, many Americans who are receiving well in excess of $1,000, very appropriately so, because their needs are higher.
MR. COSTA: To keep this sustainable, if it was ever implemented, would you support taxing assets in the future at a high level of people who are very wealthy to sustain this kind of thing?
MR. YANG: Well, we're in the midst of the greatest winner-take-all economy in the history of the world. And when I say "greatest," I don't mean, "best," I mean, "most extreme"--the most extreme winner-take-all economy in the history of the world. And we need to find ways to effectively rebalance that.
So, I am not conceptually against a wealth tax or an asset tax or various things, but I consider myself a very fact-driven and data-driven person and that, if something like a wealth tax was tried in a host of other countries that are very sophisticated like Germany and France and Denmark and Sweden, and they repealed it because they had massive implementation problems and compliance problems and it didn't generate as much revenue as they thought it would, then I'd take that experience as very instructive. And I certainly don't want to walk us down a road that other countries have walked down and learned hard lessons from.
MR. COSTA: So, you're not ready to support an asset tax?
MR. YANG: I wouldn't rule it out, but it's not, to me, the first and best choice. We have to look at--
MR. COSTA: Then, how do you pay for--
MR. YANG: We have to look at what has worked in other countries around the world. And Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, all have a value added tax, along with Canada and, like, most every other developed country.
And what that does is that gives us a slice of every Amazon sale, every Google search, every Facebook ad, every robot truck mile, generates hundreds of billions in new revenue in a very sustainable way.
And when you're projecting not that far into the future, the savings from automating truck driving are estimated to be $168 billion a year. How much of that we will receive right now in our current system? Zero or next to zero, because it's going to flow to the bottom line of companies like Amazon that literally pay zero in taxes.
But if you have a value added tax, then we get a toll for every robot truck mile. So, of that 168 billion, we get our fair share. That's tens of billions of dollars. And you play that out over many of the other innovations that are happening in the 21st century.
There's a joke that people told--like why did you rob the bank? Because that's where the money was. The same is true for us now. We have to go where the money is.
And the trap we're falling into--there are a couple of traps--one, that we somehow don't have the money, which is ridiculous. We're the richest, most advanced economy in the history of the world, up to $20 trillion in GDP, up 5 trillion in the last 12 years.
We can pay for just about anything under the sun, as evidenced by the fact that do you all remember voting for the $4 trillion bailout of Wall Street? Do you remember anyone complaining about where the money was going to come from? No, but when it was crunch time, it was $4 trillion for the banks.
MR. COSTA: So, where's the money coming from, a value added tax? Is that it?
MR. YANG: So, a value added tax generates hundreds of billions of new revenue and is going to go up and up as our economy becomes more sophisticated if we have the right mechanism in place.
But here's some of the great secondary effects: If we put $1,000 a month into the hands of the average American citizen, 78 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Almost half can't afford an unexpected $400 or $500 bill.
So, what's going to happen to the money when we put it into their hands, our hands? It's going to get spent. It's going to get spent in communities every single day on car repairs and daycare and little league signups and local nonprofits and arts and creativity and caretaking.
MR. COSTA: Why do you resist talking so much about tax increases on income?
MR. YANG: Oh, so, this is the great part: So, after you put that money into the economy, it grows the consumer economy by approximately 10 percent, and we generate hundreds of billions of new revenue because of all the economic activity. So, that's another source of revenue, essentially, because we get the money back.
Number three, we save billions on things like incarceration, homelessness services, emergency room health care that we spend hundreds of billions on right now.
A corrections officer in New Hampshire said to me we should pay people to stay out of jail because it costs so much when we send them to jail. This is a corrections officer talking, not exactly someone you'd expect to hear this from. Though he was going to retire, so at this point, he was like, "All right, I can come clean."
So, we can save billions, there. And then, another study showed that if you were to eliminate poverty in this country, we would increase our GDP by $700 billion just on the basis of better health and education outcomes.
If you're a good company, you invest in your people all the time. Raise your hand if you've been through one of those weeklong training programs that they send you to.
You learn something. You know, there's something there--
MR. COSTA: So, you're against--so, you say people don't want to be retrained. You talk about that a lot on the campaign trail.
MR. YANG: Yeah, that's true.
MR. COSTA: What about trained professionals, teachers who teach people new skills--why not put this money into the education system instead of every citizen's hand?
MR. YANG: Well, that's the great part about this, is that if you put it into our hands then, to the extent that there are educational offerings that make sense, they're going to materialize overnight. But they're going to materialize because we, as the shareholders of the economy decide to put our money to work, not because the government decides to institute a top-down jobs training program that oftentimes would not work.
And we know this because of what happened to the manufacturing workers in the Midwest. When I dug into what happened here--let's say that I'm a government program and I'm like, "Okay, I've got to retrain these thousands of manufacturing workers." Let's say there's not even an appropriate school in the area, which is sometimes the case. You know what happens? Some fly-by-night school opens the next day and is like, "Give me your money, government. I will retrain everyone." And then, that fly-by-night school gives them the certificate and then closes as soon as the retraining is done.
If I'm the government official, I check the box and say, "Hey, everyone was retrained." If I'm the school, I no longer exist but my shareholders have money. And you know who suffers? All the people who now have a value-less certificate. That's how you wind up with a population--
MR. COSTA: What's the future of public schools under a Yang presidency?
MR. YANG: So the public school data--and I'm a parent, so I feel this acutely--the data shows very clearly that two-thirds of our educational outcomes are due to out of school factors. So we are going to our teachers and saying educate our kids, but they know that they can only control a third of the kid's outcome.
So a few things we should do. One, we need to pay teachers more because a good teacher is worth his or her weight and gold. And that's not a feel good. That's just the data.
MR. YANG: Second, we have to deemphasize the SATs and standardized tests that at this point are crushing kids' hopes and dreams more than serving as any useful function.
You all know that we invented the SAT during World War II to identify which kids not to send to the front lines? That's the genesis of the SAT. And now we treat every year like it's wartime, and our teachers are getting pushed into a point where they know they are doing something that is not right by the kids because they need to teach the test. So we need to get the tests off of our teachers' backs and let the teachers do their jobs.
And then the third thing, back to my original point, teachers know they can only control a third of the kids' educational outcomes. The other two-thirds are parental time, words read to the child, stress levels in the house, type of neighborhood, type of home environment. And so if we put money directly into the parents' hands, that will actually help the kids to be in a better position to learn when they show up to school and give the teachers a better chance to do their jobs.
MR. COSTA: You have a very sunny pitch when you're on the campaign trail. But you often talk in dark terms about the future should automation--
MR. YANG: I'm a very sunny guy.
MR. COSTA: You are. You're a very sunny guy. But sometimes you paint a pretty grim picture. I've listened to a lot of your interviews. You talk about what happens when truckers lose their jobs in a few years.
MR. YANG: Yeah, what does happen?
MR. COSTA: And you've painted a picture--and you tell me if I'm wrong here--of mass not only unemployment but civil unrest in this country. Where do you think the possibility of violence and civil unrest is on the horizon?
MR. YANG: Unfortunately, you don't have to look very far, and we all know this. We all see that our communities are disintegrating. If you have 3 1/2 million truck drivers in this country, which you do have, and only 13 percent of them are unionized, and you start to decimate their jobs in significant numbers, expecting all of them just to take that well seems to be inconsistent with our own history.
The first industrial revolution of the turn of the century gave us mass riots that killed dozens of Americans and caused billions of dollars' worth of damage. That's why we have Labor Day today. We inaugurated Labor Day because of those riots.
We then instituted universal high school in 1911 in part to try and help the population adjust. And this industrial revolution is projected to be two to three times faster and more dramatic than that one. So even based on our own history, you would expect massive social convulsions, including potentially violence. I wish I had better news to report, but this is just our history.
MR. COSTA: So is it fair to say you're arguing that unless a universal basic income is implemented, people who are maybe losing their trucking jobs are given some kind of money, there could be riots in the streets?
MR. YANG: I believe 11 Uber and limo drivers killed themselves in New York over the last several years, including a couple who killed themselves outside of city hall because they were protesting the fact that their medallions went from being a secure livelihood to less than subsistence over a period of time. And that is now. Not speculative. That is actual documented fact.
Now did these drivers killing themselves outside of city hall cause society-wide soul searching into the fact that we have created this punishing, inhuman economy? No. Most of you didn't even know it happened. And so expecting the next phase to be somehow violence-free strikes me as a little bit overly optimistic.
MR. COSTA: Is it overly optimistic to believe that $1,000 a month will somehow change that dynamic in a dramatic way, or are there other factors out there that you may have to consider if you're elected president, cultural factors, family factors?
MR. YANG: To me, again, the Freedom Dividend is just a foundation or a floor. It doesn't solve the problems. It's not a magic bullet. It does get the boot off of people's throats. It does help reverse the mindset of scarcity that is tearing us apart.
Right now, if Americans can't pay their bills--which 78 percent of us are struggling to do--studies have shown that that constrains your mental bandwidth and has the functional impact of decreasing your IQ by 13 points, or 1 standard deviation. So if anyone watching this has this feeling that America is getting less rational, less reasonable, less optimistic, less forward-looking, we are, by the numbers, because that is what you would expect if you were to introduce pervasive financial insecurity into a population.
The Freedom Dividend helps reverse that mindset of scarcity with at least the beginning of a mindset of abundance, which will help us focus on climate change and other problems. But it does not solve everything. It will supercharge non-profits and arts and cultural organizations, journalism. All the things that we volunteer in our lives that right now the market ignores will actually have a much better chance to flourish with the Freedom Dividend in place.
MR. COSTA: What about the aging crisis that could be on the horizon, a baby boom generation that's getting older, may not have enough in their savings account, living longer because of healthcare and new developments in medicine? Should there be more of a focus on the aging population rather than the whole population in general?
MR. YANG: Well, the Freedom Dividend would stack on top of Social Security, would be in essence the greatest expansion of Social Security benefits in generations. And I agree with you a hundred percent that we have a massive crisis on our hands because half of Americans will never retire. They will never have the savings.
And do you all want to live in a country where Americans are just working themselves to death until the day they die? When you go into a convenience store, it's going to be a senior citizen trying to make ends meet instead of a teenager working for a discretionary income? That is the economy we are in right now. So if you believe that we have massive opportunities and a lot of work to do to try and help our seniors stay healthy and strong and actually build organizations around meeting those needs, then there needs to be resources around those problems. And the Freedom Dividend will help move us in that direction in a much more real way than anything else we can do for seniors.
MR. COSTA: You've talked a lot about giving people money, but what about giving people rights to their data. You come from that Silicon Valley world. How would enable people to have more rights about the information about their lives and their data usage?
MR. YANG: Yeah, I can't believe this is not more of an issue in 2020. How many of you saw the study that said that our data is now worth more than oil? Raise your hand. Keep your hand up if you remember getting your data check in the mail.
MR. YANG: None of us. Of course, a joke. So where did the data check go? It went to Facebook, Amazon, Google, these mega tech companies that again pay little to no taxes. And we are none the wiser. It was a fair trade for a little while, but we were getting these free fantastic services, but now it's reached this much more pervasive point where we're getting bombarded with ads. Our information is getting sold and resold.
And in many cases, our information is worth thousands of dollars and we are seeing none of it. So what I'm saying is that our data should be ours. It should be our property. If a tech company decides to do something with it, they need to let us know what they're doing and share the value, and let us unplug if we choose to do so.
MR. COSTA: What makes you different than Senator Warren in terms of having that regulatory emphasis?
MR. YANG: Well, number one, Senator Warren does not seem to think that automation and the fourth industrial revolution represent a problem. She believes that bad trade deals were the primary driver of the lost 4 million manufacturing jobs and that if we change the rules then the economy will reformat itself in positive ways.
I think we are going through the greatest transformation in the history of our country, that changing the rules will not change the reality on the ground for many Americans that we're already seeing and experiencing, and that we need to actually rewrite the rules of our economy from the top down to become a trickle up economy, from our people, our families and our communities, up. And the most effective way to do this is to make us all participants and shareholders in the progress of the 21st century. But, you know, I'm a big fan of Senator Warren's and I think she is fighting for a better version and vision of our country.
MR. COSTA: Where are you on trade? Do you support adding more tariffs in the relationship with China, or not?
MR. YANG: Well, I think tariffs are naturally very zero-sum, and they also end up generating additional barriers, because if you impose a tariff on China, China imposes a tariff on us, and then who suffers, producers in Iowa and other parts of the Midwest. So the reality is many Americans feel like trade deals have not been good for them and their communities, and they are right. And so if we're going to pursue a trade deal, we have to share the gains in very real and concrete ways with the Americans that are going to be on the losing end. If we can't figure out an effective way to do that, then we need to rethink some of the deals we're making.
MR. COSTA: Let's stick with foreign policy for a second. You have raised $10 million, as I said, in the third quarter. You went from being a person nobody knew six months ago to somebody who's been on every debate stage.
MR. YANG: Yeah, my wife knew me.
MR. COSTA: I'm not going to dive into that one. I will leave that alone. I'm sure she knows you very well.
MR. COSTA: But you could be, in a populist age, in an unorthodox age, a serious contender for the nomination in just a few months and a serious contender for the presidency.
MR. YANG: Yeah, that's right. Yes, all true.
MR. COSTA: So let's take it seriously. You're going to have some choices to make if you're sitting at that desk, the Resolute desk. Hong Kong protests. Do you support the protesters in Hong Kong?
MR. YANG: I think we have to reckon with what China sees as its top priorities, which right now we are seeing play out in front of us. Number one is maintaining robust economic growth, and number two is maintaining social order. And those two things are now butting heads in various ways.
If we want to both manage the relationship and serve our own values, we have to find a combination of carrots and sticks that help bring the Chinese to the table to address not just what's going on in Hong Kong but our own intellectual property rights, the trade issues that we have, climate change, North Korea, artificial intelligence. It is one of the most important relationships that may well define the 21st century. And it's something that I'm excited to get to work on.
MR. COSTA: Do you stand in solidarity with the protesters or not in Hong Kong?
MR. YANG: I think most Americans--and I'm on the record saying that I think that the Chinese response to people who were standing with the Hong Kong people, it's off-base. I think most Americans are deeply sympathetic to the democratic protests in Hong Kong and I am too.
MR. COSTA: Are you?
MR. YANG: Yeah, of course.
MR. COSTA: You stand in solidarity with them.
MR. YANG: I think that most Americans stand in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong. But I don't think that--right now the issue that catalyzed the protests was this extradition law, which has already been pulled back. And so now the protests are evolving into a very different thing.
MR. COSTA: What do you make of the NBA's handling of China?
MR. YANG: I applaud the NBA for saying very clearly that they would not discipline Daryl Morey* or any of the employees for exercising their free speech rights. I think that was the appropriate stance. I think it's appropriate for a company to stand up for its own values and then pay something of an economic price. You know, it's easy to stand up for your values if there's no price involved. And so I applaud the NBA for not bending to Chinese demands when it came to disciplining Daryl Morey.
MR. COSTA: Do you think LeBron James bent to Chinese demands?
MR. YANG: I think that LeBron's comments were probably something that he could have worded a little bit differently. I think the next day he came out and said as much.
MR. COSTA: Syria. The decision has been made by President Trump to remove U.S. troops. As President, would you send in more troops to help the Kurds?
MR. YANG: The hard part is you can't reverse the reality on the ground. So abruptly pulling troops out of Syria has resulted in a very, very tough picture for our Kurdish allies. But after you have a new administration, it's not necessarily the case that you can reverse the damage that's done.
MR. COSTA: You could send troops in, as President.
MR. YANG: I would want to figure out what the best course forward was. One thing I will say is, I've signed a pledge to end the forever wars. I do not think it's appropriate for American troops to be stationed in foreign theaters, indefinitely. That is not the will of the American people and that's not the way the Constitution intended that sort of decision to be made.
MR. COSTA: What do you see as the threat or non-threat with Iran?
MR. YANG: I think yet another mistake on the part of this administration was pulling out of the multilateral treaty with Iran. And I would try to reenter it and extend the timeline so that they made sense. But to me, the Trump administration made a mistake by pulling out of that agreement
MR. COSTA: What would your approach be to the U.S. relationship with Israel?
MR. YANG: We have had a very special, historic relationship with Israel that I think transcends any individual administrations, and that is the way I would continue.
MR. COSTA: Tulsi Gabbard's been also a non-interventionist on this stage. I'm not sure how close you are to her ideologically or not on that issue. But what do you make of the idea of she may run as a third-party candidate?
MR. YANG: She is on the record saying she would not run as a third-party candidate, and I would just take her at her word.
MR. COSTA: Do you see yourself as a non-interventionist? You have said you want to end endless wars.
MR. YANG: I want to end endless wars, but I also want to let the world know that America's commitment is ironclad and that if we committed to, for example, defending another country, then they should expect that we are 100 percent behind that commitment.
MR. COSTA: Are you for the Green New Deal?
MR. YANG: I love the vision and spirit of the Green New Deal, and I'm on the record saying that we need to head in that direction as quickly as possible. The only thing I would differ from on the Green New Deal is really the timeline, which I think is a little bit brief. But other than that, it was 100 percent spot-on and the direction we need to go.
MR. COSTA: What about the possible taxes included in that?
MR. YANG: Well, we have to have a big picture perspective. And this is really the tension that we have to get beyond, where if you say, hey, we need to make progress on climate change, some Americans just think higher prices, fewer jobs, like economic setbacks. But the reality is there's a massive set of opportunities because we spent hundreds of billions of dollars subsidizing the fossil fuel industries from their inception to today. And if we take that same level of energy and put it towards renewable forms of energy, updating our infrastructure, making process on climate change, we can actually create tens, hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
This is going to sound so politician-y, but I was just in New Hampshire, and I was with an entrepreneur who helped create almost 300 solar panel installation jobs. And those jobs are going to be local. They are going to be very hard to automate. They're going to help move us in the right direction.
So the challenge is changing our economic measurements to correspond to how green our economy is. And the easiest way to do that is actually make sustainability part of our economic measurements. Right now we are chasing GDP off a cliff even as our life expectancy is diminishing and GDP has less and less correlation to how we're doing. So we should modernize GDP to include clean air and clean water, and how sustainable our infrastructure is, mental health and freedom from substance abuse, childhood success rates, our own health and life expectancy, and then redefine economic progress so that we can see that making us greener actually is moving us ahead.
MR. COSTA: You have a lot of positions. You've thought out a lot of your policies. But at the end of the day, there's only one winner of the Democratic nomination. You have to get through this crowd ahead of you. You are rising in different respects. Pete Buttigieg is making a big generational case. You're a young man, a young candidate. Do you feel like you can steal some of that generational appeal in the coming months ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire?
MR. YANG: I think Americans sense that I have a modern up to date approach to solve some of the problems of this era. Like it or not, the 21st American economy is fundamentally different than the economy that's come before, and we need to have our government catch up to the real challenges as quickly as possible. I do think that my experience with technology does set me apart from some of the candidates, and this is the kind of expertise we are going to need to modernize our government.
MR. COSTA: Because he comes from the center of the country, Indiana. He speaking to the same type of voter you're trying to make a pitch to in many respects. What makes you different than him? Is it just the experience, being more of an outsider and a non-elected official? Someone who's trying to pick through Buttigieg and Yang, what do you say to them?
MR. YANG: Well, I think they could dig into our platforms and get a sense of our visions for the country. I will say that everyone can see what my vision is because I have over 160 policies very clearly laid out in my website, most fundamentally that I want to make our economy work for us by having a dividend of $1,000 a month for every American from 18 till the day we die. And that vision I believe sets me apart not just from Pete but from every other candidate.
MR. COSTA: Does Vice President Biden go far enough with his policy proposals to be a successful democratic nominee in 2020?
MR. YANG: I think he is the frontrunner in most polls, so [laughs].
MR. COSTA: But as you've said before, you think it's mostly because he's seen as the best candidate to beat President Trump. I am asking, do you think he goes far enough on policy?
MR. YANG: If you listen to Joe, I don't think he's really leading on policy. I think he's leading on, one, his own bio and his set of experience, and a restoration of the Obama-Biden administration. So I just don't think policy is like the main message that you hear from Joe when he speaks.
MR. COSTA: We've got a question from Twitter here. Bloomberg reported today that Buttigieg's campaign has received staffer recommendations from Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. Do you approve of that?
MR. YANG: I was joking when someone asked me, hey, would you accept that? I was like, well, I don't know Mark, so it would be kind of odd if he sent an email being like, hey, hire this person.
To me, if someone like Mark Zuckerberg recommends a staffer to you, then you should assume that you should take a look at that person because they are probably very smart and good at their job and have very relevant expertise. So to me, it would have been surprising if Pete didn't take a look at those staffers or potential staffers.
MR. COSTA: Have tech leaders or private industry leaders recommended staffers for your campaign?
MR. YANG: That's a good question. I don't remember them specifically doing so, but I do have a lot of techies that have endorsed me, including Elon Musk, Sam Altman, Alexis Ohanian, and Jack Dorsey has made a donation. So there are a lot of techies that have supported my campaign because they know--if you go to a techie and say, hey, are we automating away the jobs and you're in private, they'll be like, oh, yeah, we are. And then you say how do you feel about it, they will say not very good. And then say, would you like to something about it, then some of them say, yeah, I would, because they're parents, they're Americans, they're human beings, first and foremost. And so if someone who supported my campaign said they had someone smart who wanted to work on the campaign, of course I would take a look.
MR. COSTA: At a meeting before this event, you said to a group of reporters that you'd be willing to stock your Cabinet with leaders from the Silicon Valley sector, the tech sector.
MR. YANG: I said not the Cabinet. I said the administration with people who wanted to solve problems.
MR. COSTA: So normal people, as you say in your book, your phrase, why should they trust an administration that's bringing on all these tech leaders, the people they blame for some of their automation woes? Why should they trust that administration?
MR. YANG: Well, the administration, the Yang administration will be laser-focused on trying to solve the problems of this era. And to the extent that there are people who want to help solve those problems, that to me is an intrinsically good thing. And if some of those people come from the very industry that is changing our way of life, that's also not a bad thing, because they will have the sharpest perspective on what we need to do to actually improve the lives and lots of the American people
MR. COSTA: I want to come back to a comment you made about Senator Warren. You said she's mistaken in her view that trade is the problem here, not automation.
MR. YANG: By the numbers, I do believe she is mistaken, yes.
MR. COSTA: Would the Democratic Party be making a mistake by trying to counter President Trump on trade rather than focusing on automation or other issues in 2020?
MR. YANG: I believe they would. And so if you look back to 2016, Donald Trump said that it's immigrants to blame. And then now Democrats are saying I guess it's trade to blame. The studies I have seen have said very clearly that 70 to 85 percent of the job loss that we've experienced in manufacturing has been due to automation and technology and machines and not immigrants or trade.
And so if you ignore that elephant in the room, I think you are making a grave mistake, particularly as what happened to those manufacturing jobs is now happening to the retail jobs, as 30 percent of stores and malls close, to the call center jobs, as those jobs get taken by software, to the fast food jobs, the self-serve kiosks are in every McDonalds by 2021, to the truck driving jobs when eventually AI can drive a truck better than a human driver. If we are stuck chasing immigrants or trade deals while artificial intelligence is about to leave the lab, we are sunk. And so if Democrats believe that it is not technology, I would urge them please just look at the numbers, look at the data, and decide for yourself based on that.
MR. COSTA: Senator Warren is out front talking about taxes. Why do you sometimes seem to avoid talking about taxes? You always talk about the Freedom Dividend. Is it just a natural aversion politically to having tax increases being at the front of your discussion in your argument?
MR. YANG: I'm all for trying to rebalance the economy, which will of course include higher taxes on the companies and institutions and individuals that are benefiting the most from the inequities in our economy.
MR. COSTA: What would the highest individual rate be?
MR. YANG: Well, the argument I make to folks is that Jeff Bezos, who probably owns this building.
MR. COSTA: Well, he doesn't own this building.
MR. COSTA: In disclosure, he does own The Washington Post. It is a personal property.
MR. COSTA: Some people may not know.
MR. YANG: Yeah, we're letting them know. We're letting them know. So Jeff Bezos is worth $120 billion post-divorce.
MR. YANG: Let's say I ratchet the personal income tax rate all the way up to 80 percent. How much of that $120 billion are we going to get from Jeff? Next to nothing, because Jeff is not dumb enough to pay himself $10 billion a year and he'll let us tax 80 percent of it. He probably pays himself some nominal rate while the vast majority of his wealth is in Amazon stock. So the way we get that balanced is we actually take a toll on Amazon sales, and then that will channel hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars into the hands of the American public.
MR. COSTA: Or you could tax assets or you could tax capital gains.
MR. YANG: I'm all for raising capital gains tax. You should not be privileging capital gains relative to labor. If anything, it should be going the other way around. But at a minimum, you would have them be the same, and that is part of the plan.
MR. COSTA: Beyond the Freedom Dividend, I want to come back to this truck story you often tell, that self-driving trucks could be the ruin of this economy, a symbol of automation.
MR. YANG: Well, it'd be great for GDP. It's just going to be terrible for human beings.
MR. COSTA: And you seem open to regulation, Mr. Yang. So why not just limit self-driving trucks? Why not put a regulation saying that's not allowed?
MR. YANG: I am open to in some instances forestalling automation, if it's necessary. But we have to be realistic. If we were to say, hey, guess what, every truck must be driven by a human, are we going to do the same thing for all of the retail and fast food establishments, all of the other parts of the economy that are getting transformed? And if you believe that $168 billion in savings is the result of automating truck driving--and we're not talking just about money; we're talking about fuel efficiencies because they'll take less fuel and they'll be able to drive 24/7. You are talking about saved lives, because right now accidents with truckers take about 4,000 lives a year. So if you were willing to say to all of this, we are going to stop progress dead just in this one industry, that to me is not a long-term recipe for success in this country.
MR. COSTA: We have a minute left. Let's say you don't win the nomination. You have said early on in this interview you would support the Democratic nominee. Would you be open to serving on the Democratic ticket?
MR. YANG: Of course. I'm not someone who's had some crazy native desire to be President of the United States since I was a kid because I'm not insane.
MR. YANG: I'm a parent. I'm a patriot. I just want to help solve the problems of this era. I believe I can do that best as President. But if that's in some other capacity, I'll be there.
MR. COSTA: Who on that debate stage is closest to you in terms of your view of the world? Who's closest to you in that sense?
MR. YANG: It's funny you ask that. I mean, you'd have to sort of like put us altogether in some kind of like franken-candidate.
MR. COSTA: No, there must be someone in spirit who's perhaps closest to you.
MR. YANG: I will say the only person who's taken me aside and said that we need to really worry about the fourth industrial revolution because it could potentially tear our country apart is Joe Biden.
MR. COSTA: Joe Biden pulled you aside. That's an intriguing--would you serve on a Biden ticket? You said you were open to anything.
MR. YANG: I'm definitely open to working with Joe. We've actually talked about it.
MR. COSTA: So that's Andrew Yang, joining us for Post Live.
MR. YANG: Thank you.
MR. COSTA: And remember, we have Beto O'Rourke. Beto O'Rourke is going to come on Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. for The Post Live. The former Texas congressman will join us. He will be here for another hour-long conversation. So we hope to see you online at 9:00 a.m. for Congressman O'Rourke. But for now, Andrew Yang, thank you so much for being here. And thank you all for joining us for an enlightening conversation.
MR. YANG: Thank you.
[End recorded session]