Andrew Yang Defends Universal Basic Income On MSNBC

Democratic presidential candidate former tech executive Andrew Yang speaks during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Loyola Marymount University on December 19, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang ended his boycott of MSNBC on Friday and appeared on the network’s All In with Chris Hayes. The 44-year-old serial entrepreneur discussed his health care plan before defending his campaign’s signature proposal: a universal basic income (UBI) of $1,000 per month.

Hayes highlighted concerns with Yang’s proposal, including how it would interact with other government benefits and programs, as well as whether his plan would be enough money for everyone in poverty.

“The last thing I would ever do is take something away from Americans or leave someone worse off,” Yang began, noting that his Freedom Dividend is universal and opt-in, meaning those who opt-in would forgo “certain cash and cash-like benefits.”

According to Yang, such benefits don’t include health care or housing vouchers, adding that many people he speaks to on government assistance are “anxious” about losing such benefits. He also addressed the earned income tax credit and noted that 30 percent of Americans eligible for the credit don’t receive it.

“I would never do anything to leave Americans worse off. We have to build a foundation or a floor that elevates us all and starts to move us forward in the 21st century.”

Hayes noted Yang’s focus on automation and countered with the belief of economist Paul Krugman — who Yang previously challenged to a debate — which claims that such a threat has always loomed throughout industrial development. The 40-year-old American journalist than asked Yang why he believes that this time is different.

“The rate and pace of change, and the scope of technology is much, much more extreme this time. It’s going to impact many more parts of the economy than past transitions.”

Yang noted that South Carolina — where he spoke for the interview — lost 90,000 manufacturing jobs and highlighted that a third of their malls and stores are closing. According to Yang, new job creation will favor people with different skills and with smaller numbers than jobs being lost across the community.

The candidate also noted the decline in union membership after Hayes suggested that worker bargaining power could at least partially be the answer to the shift in jobs due to automation.

Yang is currently sixth in the polls and has received increased attention since his last debate performance. Whether he will be able to break into the top contenders remains to be seen, although he has previously said that having a UBI pass in America is more of a priority than winning the presidency.