Students react to Yang’s Freedom Dividend


Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons

Democratic candidate Andrew Yang speaks to a community member while campaigning.

Emily Tessmer, Editor

Presidential hopeful Andrew Yang has surprised everyone with his ability to fundraise more than $10 million in the third quarter of 2019. His campaign and supporters, otherwise known as the “Yang Gang,” continue to stand strong next to the leading triumvirate of Warren, Sanders, and Biden.

What makes his campaign unique is the idea that he would like to implement universal basic income for every American over the age of 18.

Yang calls this universal basic income policy The Freedom Dividend.

Under this proposal, every month citizens would receive $1,000. The impetus for his philosophy is that we are in the middle of a technical revolution that will continue to lead to more and more automation, taking jobs away from the workforce and thus leaving once employed people unemployed, or underemployed.

Yang’s philosophy is that the Freedom Dividend would create millions of jobs, make children and families stronger, and that it would give all Americans a better chance to painlessly transition into the economy of the 21st century.

In order to pay for it, Yang is proposing a value-added tax to tech giants such as Amazon, Google, and others who will be benefiting from the transition to automation and artificial intelligence in the years to come.

“Value-added tax has shown to be an effective and relatively progressive form of revenue gathering, regardless of what you are trying to fund,” said Stacy Taylor, economics chair for Sierra Nevada College.

Yang’s philosophy is that because of the dividend, there will be less homelessness, less crime and incarceration, and the population will benefit in areas like education, mental health, and happiness.

People in general will be more creative and productive because of the financial cushion that would be in place.

Yang considers the Freedom Dividend part of a ‘trickle up’ economy.

Alex Schoff, an SNC sophomore, likes the idea.

“The Freedom Dividend is a good idea because the average person will have more money in their pocket, and will be able to spend more money and contribute to the economy,” he said. “This could help small businesses in a time when they are being absorbed by other tech giants.”

According to Yang, the Freedom Dividend is pro-growth, pro-market, pro-consumer and if everyone is able to participate in the free market, economic growth will be stimulated.

Yang explains that it is simply a form of new capitalism that doesn’t start at zero.

Like with any idea that serves to redistribute wealth, Yang’s is being cast as “socialist” at a time when that word carries negative connotations. But Taylor says that’s too simplistic.

“I try to stay away from labels, and ask instead if a program will have a positive economic impact,” she said. “The label of socialism is interesting for a country that spends half of the current federal budget on payments that can be classified as “transfer payments,” including things like social security, disability, veterans benefits and Medicare. Is that socialism?”

Yang’s background is one of entrepreneurship, law and philanthropy. He created a company called Venture For America in 2011 which focused on creating job opportunities in impoverished American cities.

Other policies that are in the front seat of Yang’s campaign are “Medicare for all” and “human-centered capitalism.”