Yang makes im­por­tant point about job mar­ket

The Morning Call - - TOWN SQUARE - Clarence Page

An­drew Yang, who has been called “the in­ter­net’s fa­vorite can­di­date,” turned into some­thing of a lat­ter-day Oprah dur­ing Thurs­day night’s 2020 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial de­bate.

In­stead of of­fer­ing each mem­ber of his au­di­ence a new car, as Oprah Win­frey did once dur­ing her day­time tele­vi­sion talk show days, New York CEO and phi­lan­thropist Yang of­fered an on­line lot­tery.

Dur­ing his open­ing re­marks, the for­mer en­tre­pre­neur and cur­rently long-shot pres­i­den­tial can­di­date of­fered Amer­i­cans ages 18 and up a chance to be one of 10 ran­domly se­lected fam­i­lies that will re­ceive $1,000 a month for a year in an on­line Yang cam­paign-funded raf­fle.

In other words, the “some­thing big” and “un­prece­dented” that Yang promised be­fore the de­bate turned out to be an on­line door prize.

And, one pre­sumes, added to the cam­paign’s mail­ing list. That’s one big rea­son Yang’s bold move was ig­nored by his ri­val can­di­dates who con­cen­trated on their own agen­das and var­i­ous at­tacks against the so-far un­shak­able front-run­ner, for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den.

But some other view­ers, such as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Gi­u­liani, sug­gested Yang’s lot­tery might be il­le­gal. The Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion bans the use of cam­paign funds for “per­sonal use.”

Still, other deep-pocket friends could rise to the res­cue. Alexis Oha­nian Sr., co-founder of the so­cial plat­form Red­dit, tweeted sup­port, writ­ing, “Hey @An­drewYang I like this idea so much I’ll do it per­son­ally for those 10 peo­ple if you can’t.”

Meet the #YangGang.

If Yang made lit­tle im­pres­sion on­stage, he trig­gered a storm of ac­tiv­ity in Twit­ter­land around his sig­na­ture cam­paign promise, which his lot­tery is in­tended to pro­mote: A uni­ver­sal ba­sic in­come of $1,000 per fam­ily per month.

The idea is not new, although Yang has raised its pro­file to na­tional fad. Mil­ton Fried­man, Charles Mur­ray and other lib­er­tar­ian-lean­ers have pro­posed sim­i­lar ver­sions of the uni­ver­sal ba­sic in­come to stream­line tra­di­tional wel­fare pro­grams.

The dif­fer­ence in Yang’s pro­gram from other ideas, as ex­plained on his web­site, is that he would not re­place ex­ist­ing aid pro­grams. His $1,000 per month would be de­liv­ered to all Amer­i­cans, re­gard­less of in­come. That’s too costly to please lib­er­tar­i­ans and other crit­ics. It also re­lies on a new tax, which is hardly a pop­u­lar sell­ing point ei­ther.

Yang’s real tar­get, though, as de­tailed in his speeches and web­site, is not govern­ment tax-and­spend poli­cies but the shrink­ing job mar­ket brought on by com­pe­ti­tion from new tech­nolo­gies.

After hav­ing re­placed mil­lions of factory jobs with ma­chines over the past half-cen­tury, au­to­ma­tion, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and other new tech­nolo­gies now in­creas­ingly threaten even more highly skilled jobs, such as truck, taxi and bus driv­ers, and food ser­vice work­ers.

Yang’s dystopian vi­sion of the near fu­ture seems to res­onate well with a broad ar­ray of younger vot­ers — par­tic­u­larly the dis­af­fected, and mostly male, ones who have turned out over the years for other mav­er­ick can­di­dates, as var­ied as Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, Bernie San­ders and Don­ald Trump.

Some of the #YangGang for­merly fol­lowed the “alt-right,” ac­cord­ing to var­i­ous re­ports. Some are for­mer “Bernie Bros,” a some­times pe­jo­ra­tive la­bel ap­plied to fa­nat­i­cally de­voted San­ders sup­port­ers.

Un­der what­ever la­bel, Yang sup­port­ers have helped boost him into the top half-dozen can­di­dates in the crowded Demo­cratic field, ac­cord­ing to RealClearP­ol­i­tics’ av­er­ages of the top polls.

Whether Yang’s cam­paign goes much fur­ther or not, he has raised an im­por­tant is­sue that won’t go away. As much as some peo­ple, in­clud­ing me, have pointed out the role of ra­cial anx­i­eties as a ma­jor rea­son for Trump’s 2016 vic­tory, eco­nomic anx­i­eties also mat­tered.

Those same anx­i­eties shouldn’t be ig­nored by ei­ther party, ex­cept at their peril.

Tri­bune Con­tent Agency

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