While a number of big names have yet to announce their run for the presidency in 2020, others are already hard at work on the trail, including Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang who, according to CNBC, has already launched a pilot program centered around a major focus of his campaign.
Yang, a 43-year-old author and entrepreneur, is running largely around the idea of universal basic income, or in layman’s terms, free cash payments, and has vowed that if he is elected in 2020, every American citizen between the ages of 18 and 64 will receive a monthly check of $1,000.
In an effort to demonstrate the potential benefit of distributing the cash payments, the 2020 candidate is personally funding a pilot program called the Freedom Dividend, selecting the Fassi family of Goffstown, New Hampshire as recipients of the $1,000 payment every month for the next year.
Charles Fassi, 49, his wife Jodie, 47, went into “protective mode,” selling their car and putting their house on the market in order to keep their daughter Janelle, 20, in college. Janelle applied for the program, and after being interviewed by Yang, Jodie was chosen as the recipient, as the vision is for every individual citizen to be given the payment. Yang explained, though, the Fassi family as a whole was selected because their story is “so compelling and relatable” and will be a prime example for Americans to see what the campaign could do for the rest of the country.
The presidential hopeful explained that part of the reason he believes in the free monthly paycheck is due to automation causing professional displacement, which is expected to do so at a greater rate in the future.
“You’ll see fast-food restaurants bringing in more self-serve kiosks and burger-carrying robots. We’ll see more companies figuring how to make do with fewer call center workers. In the net downturn is when the rubber hits the road,” Yang told Medium writer Nick Thompson in September.
The World Economic Forum reported that automation and artificial intelligence would actually end up creating more jobs than it would eliminate, resulting in 58 million new work opportunities by 2022. Yang, however, insists that the cash payment would be necessary to help people get through the years before this happens and would impose a 10 percent value-added tax on goods and services produced by a company in order to fund the plan.
Meanwhile, not everyone is a fan of a universal basic income, including University of Oxford president Ian Goldin, who warned in the Financial Times that the system is expensive and could actually discourage people to go to work.
“De-linking income and work, while rewarding people for staying at home, is what lies behind social decay,” Goldin said. “Wherever possible, safety nets should be a lifeline towards meaningful work and participation in society, not a guarantee of a lifetime of dependence.”