Andrew Yang Says He ‘Would Not Touch’ Existing Welfare Programs With His UBI Proposal

Democratic presidential candidate, entrepreneur Andrew Yang greets guests at the Polk County Democrats' Steak Fry
Scott Olson / Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s campaign has drawn attention for its unique focus on the threat of automation, his solution of a universal basic income (UBI) of $1,000 monthly for every American adult, and its focus on economic dangers as opposed to social issues. Per The Atlantic, this focus has led to support from disaffected voters of all ends of the political spectrum that believe that the purported economic crisis that automation is creating is fueling many of the social problems of the world.

Yang’s draw across the spectrum has also led to criticism from across the political world. He is feared as a socialist from people on the right and accused of being a libertarian trojan horse from the left. In regards to the latter group, they believe his UBI is a scheme to destroy the social safety net. During a recent interview with Cenk Uygur of the progressive political commentary program, The Young Turks, which is available on YouTube, Yang was pressed about this criticism.

Uygur began by asking Yang which welfare programs he would end or decrease funding for as part of his UBI proposal.

“I would not touch any of our existing programs,” Yang said. “The Freedom Dividend is meant as a compliment. Now it is the case that if you were to opt-in to the Freedom Dividend that there are certain cash-like programs that you would be forgoing benefits from. But if you enjoy your current benefits, we would not touch them.”

When pressed by Uygur about which programs UBI recipients would need to forgo, Yang said they would be “cash and cash-like programs,” such as SNAP benefits. Yang continued by saying that many recipients of such benefits would prefer the UBI to their existing programs, claiming that the majority of recipients on them are receiving less than $1,000. He also pointed to the restrictions of existing programs.

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“And if you talk to them, they live in fear of losing their benefits at any moment because there are almost always reported requirements and case managers,” Yang said.

Yang also addressed criticism that his value-added tax (VAT) proposal, which he plans to use to tax gig tech companies and fund a large portion of his UBI, is regressive. According to Yang, the VAT could be regressive in a vacuum, but not in the case of his plan, where he would redistribute the money to Americans and boost the buying power of 94 percent of Americans.

RealClearPolitics reports that Yang is currently in seventh place with 3 percent support. He was recently bumped from sixth place by Beto O’Rourke, who jumped to 3.2 percent following the September debate, and is set to appear in the October debates.