Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang took to Twitter Saturday to share a New York Post article on a Lyft driver that was found dead by apparent suicide in the back of his car. The article highlights the case as another example of the cabbie suicide epidemic that is reportedly taking place in New York City and widely believed to be due to financial stress.
Yang highlighted that the recent suicide marks what is possibly the ninth for-hire driver to commit suicide in New York City in approximately one year.
“If these had been sweatshop workers in Asia making goods for US consumers it would have sparked an international response,” Yang wrote in a follow-up tweet.
The 44-year-old serial entrepreneur’s campaign centers around a universal basic income (UBI) of $1,000 per month for every American adult, which he believes is necessary in the face of automation and an increasing amount of people struggling to get by financially.
“High suicides, record drug overdoses, crumbling marriage rates, crazy college debt, lower social ties and even rising racial and gender divisions. GDP is higher than ever but it is clear something has gone wrong with our economy,” he tweeted back in 2018.
Per TIME, Yang points to UBI trials thus far that show improvements in everything from mental health to graduation rates and suggests that such a proposal is necessary to provide a financial floor for individuals living in the United States. Although critics suggest that such money would be wasted on things like beer and tobacco, a 2012 cash-transfer program in rural Kenya did not show this wasteful spending. Instead, the capital led to increased assets for families involved, as well as increased earnings and more money spent on healthy food for their kids. The program also led to increases in nutrition, education, long-term earnings, small business, life expectancy, and psychological well-being.
Family and friends of taxi driver Kenny Chow have gathered for a vigil here on 86th St near East River. Chow is the fifth cabbie in recent months to commit suicide. Taxi alliance says Uber and Lyft are to blame for taking biz away from cabbies. @wcbs880 pic.twitter.com/CJ2nzS9G8l— Mack Rosenberg (@MackRosenberg) May 27, 2018
Sam Altman, an American entrepreneur and president of Y Combinator, who has raised money for Yang’s campaign, is supportive of UBI. He is also using the nonprofit research arm of his company to plan a five-year UBI trial in two states.
“There are all sorts of in-the-interest-of-justice reasons why we should do it. I also suspect that it would be a net positive for the U.S. economy. This level of redistribution would lead to more human potential getting unlocked.”
According to Yang, his UBI proposal branded the “Freedom Dividend,” can be funded by implementing a Value Added Tax (VAT) and consolidating some welfare programs.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. For readers outside the U.S., visit Suicide.org or Befrienders Worldwide for international resources you can use to find help.