Andrew Yang Challenges Economist Paul Krugman To Debate On Automation

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang and economist Paul Krugman.
Scott Olson / Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang recently penned an op-ed for The New York Times in which he outlines the purported effects of automation on the United States economy, its implications for workers in various sectors, and his vision for a new economy that overcomes this obstacle via “human-centered capitalism.”

Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman — who infamously predicted in 1998 that by 2005, the Internet’s effect on the economy would not exceed that of the fax machine — has taken issue with Yang’s article. Krugman called the piece “really sad” and suggested that it poses a “blizzard of claims and facts” with the purpose of avoiding what Krugman believes is a lack of data for the central claim of Yang’s campaign.

In particular, Krugman pointed to data showing slowed productivity in the non-farm business sector and suggested that automation should be increasing such productivity.

In response, Yang suggested that the productivity growth statistic could stem from the many workers that are either being pushed into or stuck in low-productivity sectors to survive. He also hinted that it could be a “lagging indicator” that has yet to reflect the effects of automation.

The 44-year-old serial entrepreneur highlighted other organizations that have looked into automation — such as McKinsey, MIT, and the Obama White House — and expressed concern about its effects.

“Instead of citing a backward-looking stat why not get out and visit with the technologists, labor leaders, factory workers, educators, retail workers, truckers, Amazon facility workers and others who are experiencing this day-to-day?” Yang asked. “You might have a different perspective.”

Within the hour, Yang proposed a debate to Krugman.

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“If you’d like to sit down and have a debate on this I would enjoy it. We could livestream it and let people decide for themselves. This is one of the great issues of our time and it deserves careful consideration.”

Yang’s campaign centers around a universal basic income (UBI) of $1,000 per month for every American adult, which he proposes to provide a cushion for the job displacement stemming from automation. In the past, Krugman has been critical of Yang’s views on automation and also said he is not in favor of UBI, CNBC reported. According to Krugman, UBI would either be too expensive or not be an adequate social program.

“It’s a lot [of] money,” he said.

Outside of UBI, some politicians suggest retraining programs as a method to solve automation. As The Inquisitr reported, Yang claims that such programs are not effective and said politicians that suggest retraining is the solution to automation are “essentially lying.”