In This Episode
Tommy talks to Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang about why he feels a universal basic income is necessary as more jobs are automated, how he’d get his agenda through Congress, and why he feels America needs to leave the penny behind.
Learn more about Andrew Yang here.
Interview: Tommy Vietor and Andrew Yang
Tommy: [00:00:00] I would like to welcome to Crooked Media HQ Andrew Yang, a entrepreneur running for president for the Democratic nomination in 2020. It’s great to have you here.
Andew Yang: [00:00:09] It’s great to be here Tommy. Thanks so much for having me.
Tommy: [00:00:12] Straight from Iowa? Or you been here a couple days?
Andew Yang: [00:00:14] I’ve been in LA for about a day.
Tommy: [00:00:17] Okay, cool. What’s good to have you let’s jump right into it. So, your candidacy is really been like laser focused on a big central idea, which is the need for universal basic income. And I want to get to that in detail, but I was hoping we could start with how you arrived at the need for UBI through your work at Venture for America.
Can you talk to us about what that was and what you did?
Andew Yang: [00:00:39] Yeah very much so. So, I started my career as an unhappy corporate attorney and then worked in startups. I started my own business that flopped and then I worked at another startup and software, and then became the head of an education company that did very well and was bought by a bigger company in 2009.
And in the wake of the financial crisis, I thought, wow we have so many talented people doing the same things in the same place as Wall Street, Silicon Valley, consulting. And I thought well, we need more people generating jobs and businesses in places like Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Birmingham, New Orleans. So I spent the last seven years helping hundreds of entrepreneurs create jobs in those cities as part of this organization that I started: Venture for America.
And it was during my time in these cities that I realized that we were automating away jobs much more quickly than we are creating them, particularly where the Midwest and the South were concerned and if you look at 2016 when Donald Trump became president, he won Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa -all states that we automated away four million manufacturing jobs in. And working in technology, you know that we’re going to do the same thing to millions of retail jobs, call center jobs, fast food jobs, truck driving jobs.
So when you realize that we’re in the midst of the greatest economic and technological transformation in the history of our country and the third inning has brought us Donald Trump, then you think okay, what can we do about that? What’s a realistic countermeasure? And when I’ve dug into it universal basic income was the most powerful response that we could adopt. And really universal basic income is the reason I’m running for president.
Tommy: [00:02:21] So I’ve listened to a ton of your interviews in preparation for this. Every one includes a part where you just scare the shit out of everybody about how automation is coming.
Andew Yang: [00:02:30] Well, I’m good at that.
Tommy: [00:02:30] Can we can we just let rip on that? I want to hear your, I want to see in person.
Andew Yang: [00:02:35] Ha ha ha sure. So the five most common job categories in the United States are administrative and clerical, retail, food service and food prep, truck driving and transportation, and manufacturing. Those five jobs comprise about half of all American jobs. They’re all going to shrink very very fast.
30% of American malls and stores going to close in the next four years because of Amazon sucking up twenty billion dollars in business. And the average retail worker is a 39 year old woman making $10 an hour. So if you think about her mall or store closing, what’s her next move going to be? Driving a truck is the most common job in 29 states in this country. There are 3.5 million truck drivers average age 49, 94 percent male. And so, if robot trucks are hitting the highways in five to ten years, what does that mean for them as well as the over 7 million Americans who work in truck stops, motels diners and retail establishments that will line the trucker’s getting out and eating?
Google just recently demoed AI that can do the work of an average call center worker, and there’re 2.5 million call center workers the United States. They make 14 bucks an hour, average education high school. So when you start digging in, you realize that we’re going to automate away the most common jobs in our society – and we’re only in the midst of doing so.
I studied economics and when you look in a textbook what happens to 4 million manufacturing workers who lose their jobs, the textbook says they get retrained, rescaled, find new jobs and all is well. But in real life, almost half of those workers left the workforce and never worked again. And of that group, about half filed for disability.
And then you saw surges in suicides and drug overdoses in those communities to the point where it’s brought down America’s life expectancy for the last three years in a row, which is unheard of. The last time American life expectancy decline for three years in a row was the Spanish Flu of 1918. It’s been a hundred years and it’s highly unusual for life expectancy in a developed country to decline even one year, let alone three.
So if that’s what happened manufacturing workers, It’s clear that that’s what’s going to happen to the retail workers, call center workers, and on and on. And it’s not just blue collar workers. Bookkeepers, accountants, insurance agents, financial advisors, pharmacists – there are many white collar jobs that will also be upended by AI.
And you’re already seeing this in many organizations. I spoke at a group of CEOs in New York and I ask them, how many are looking at having AI replace thousands of back office workers and out of 70 CEOs? 70 hands went up.
Tommy: [00:05:01] Wow.
Andew Yang: [00:05:01] So this is not just an us versus them thing: this is a human thing. And we need to wake up to the fact it is not immigrants, it is technology. And then have meaningful solutions that will actually help America manage this transition. Yeah, so was that scary? Did it work?
Tommy: [00:05:17] Yeah, that was pretty scary.
I mean and it’s also you know, I think people maybe hear, okay robot trucks are coming. I mean wasn’t that one of the first companies that Uber acquired? Was a…
Andew Yang: [00:05:28] Auto
Tommy: [00:05:28] Automated, yes, right. So like this is something people are putting big money into.
Andew Yang: [00:05:32] Oh yeah, the savings behind automating freight are estimated to be a $168 billion per year. And that’s not just labor savings, that’s fuel efficiency, equipment utilization because a robot truck never needs to stop. A human truck driver has to get out of 14 hours and go to sleep. The robot truck never needs to stop. It would also save about 4,000 lives a year because that’s how many people died in accidents with human truck drivers right now.
So if you have a $168 billion dollars a year in potential savings, then that would justify investing tens of billions a year to try and make it happen.
Tommy: [00:06:06] Right, right. OK, so let’s go just with the basic question. Like what is the universal basic income plan you’re proposing: the Freedom ividend.
Andew Yang: [00:06:14] Well, the Freedom Dividend is a universal basic income plan where every American adult gets $1000 a month starting at age 18 until the day they die. So every American adult gets $1,000 and then you get it, you can do whatever you want. $12,000 a year and it continues until you expire.
Tommy: [00:06:31] So I want to start by saying, like, I really respect and appreciate the fact that you aren’t just naming the problem of automation because I think every candidate out there is like: automation is coming; people are going to be displaced. Then we pivot back to: so we need more retraining and all the things you’ve recommended that failed.
I have some questions about the way the Freedom Dividend works, if you don’t mind indulging me
Andew Yang: [00:06:53] Please!
Tommy: [00:06:53] Because I’m learning about this on the fly. So let’s say I’m a truck driver I make 50 grand a year. I get laid off because of automation. I get a Freedom Dividend worth $12,000 a year. Aren’t I still in a pretty tough spot economically?
Andew Yang: [00:07:07] Oh, yeah, but right now so I’m running for president. I become president 2021. The dividends go out in 2022. And then the truck driver looks up and says wow, apparently my job is going to disappear pretty soon. It’s not gone right now. So then I get $12,000 a year, but I haven’t lost my job yet.
So maybe, not being a total idiot, like, you know President Yang’s like, hey your jobs gonna a disappear. You got your 12,000. So I save it. And then, when my job does disappear three or four years later, I’ve got 50,000 in savings. President Yang has appointed a trucker transitions czar to take some of that $168 billion a year and put it towards new resources and opportunities for me.
And when I go home, having lost my job, at least now it’s not an existential threat. Like it’s not that I’m going to fear for my very existence. I’m not going to take my gun and riot. Because tens of thousands of truckers are ex-military. And right now, if you said look, you’re about to lose your life savings and you’re making 50,000 and it’s going to go to zero then you’d expect some very terrible catastrophic type of reaction to that. Whereas…
Tommy: [00:08:13] Like a militia force? So what do you mean ex-military? What are we talking about?
Andew Yang: [00:08:19] Well dozens of truckers in Indianapolis protested several months ago by doing something called a slow roll. So they started driving their truck slowly and gummed up traffic. That’s the entire highway starts going 45 miles an hour.
Now what they were protesting was the digital monitoring of their driving time. They didn’t like the fact they have a timer. So if you take, 3.5 million truckers who in many cases sunk their life savings into a small fleet of trucks, and then you say hey you’re now competing against robot trucks that don’t need to stop, then to me, it’s entirely reasonable at some of those truckers will park their trucks in a highway in a place that’s going to really screw things up. Or even worse, they’ll like park their truck, bring their guns out and say, you know, the robot truck should not be allowed. Because in this case they feel like their very existence might be at stake.
Tommy: [00:09:11] So we’re thinking like a post automation Mad Max trucker scenario. I mean like you’re worried about like actual violence, not just people losing their jobs. It sounds like.
Andew Yang: [00:09:20] Yeah, I mean you can see right now that, again, you’ve had these record levels of suicides and drug overdoses in response to the decimation of manufacturing jobs.
It’s only a matter of time before some of that despair ends up becoming externalized and that would include violence. If you look at the first Industrial Revolution at the turn of the century, there were mass riots that killed dozens of people and caused the equivalent of billions of dollars worth of damage. And this Industrial Revolution is projected to be two to three times faster and more severe than that one.
So if you’re into history and you say okay, this is what happened last time and this time will be two to three times worse, then it would almost be surprising if there were not some form of violence.
Tommy: [00:10:02] Another question I had about the Freedom Dividend. So my understanding is it doesn’t come on top of other welfare programs.
You have to sort of choose one or the other; you have to o,t in. So, if you’re getting Social Security, disability insurance, or food stamps, you have a choice between the existing welfare state and the Freedom Dividend. I guess my question is why wouldn’t you want to help the poorest people more? Like why structure this so Jeff Bezos gets the same money as a homeless guy.
Andew Yang: [00:10:29] Yeah, so one of the lessons we took was from Alaska, which is had this petroleum dividend in effect for almost 40 years. And it’s not means tested; everyone in Alaska just gets between one and two thousand dollars a year, no questions asked. And because of that, it’s politically very popular and everyone sees it as just like something that they get as an Alaskan.
And so if you want to get people in America excited about the dividend, then having it be distributed across the board to every citizen seems like something that would become universally popular.
I’m all for taking steps to try and see to those who have a greater need in different ways. And the freedom dividends not intended to solve all problems. You know, it would channel tens of billions of dollars into the hands of Americans every day. And anyone listening to this, you know $1,000 a month would be a huge difference maker in many many people’s lives.
But to me, there are other things that we should do to help those who need frankly even more than any amount of money. I mean, there are certain programs that you need to have in place. Money is not a cure-all, but this to me is the best way to provide a floor for everyone. And then we can start attacking some of the other systemic issues of poverty in different ways.
Tommy: [00:11:44] But, there’s some argument for just sort of like, finding some tiering. Say it cuts off after $250 thousand a year or $500 thousand. I hear what you’re saying in that if you make a benefit universal, everyone gets it, they’re less likely to resent it. But I feel like you could maybe manage the cost because I’ve heard you talk about costing maybe 2 trillion or 1.8 trillion a year for the freedom dividend if fully implemented. Yeah, that’s pretty significant right?
Andew Yang: [00:12:10] Yeah, that’s significant. Though you know – and you and I know this – is that unfortunately there aren’t even that many rich Americans such that doesn’t even bring the cost down because of the way our incomes distributed. But one of the great things about not having means testing is that you destigmatize it so it’s not like, oh I get it, uou don’t, you know, you’re giving it to me somehow. There’s no rich to poor transfer.
So if it’s truly universal, if it’s truly so something that everyone enjoys, then you get rid of any stigma and you also get rid of any monitoring requirement or need to try and under-report your income or change in circumstances. Then there’s no issue around timing of payments.
So I love the EITC. The EITC has been great at fighting poverty, but 30% of familiesE that should get the ITC don’t get it because of various administrative hurdles. And there’s also this massive timing of payments problem because if I lose my job this year, maybe the EITC will give me some extra money next year when it’s tax time. But like I needed the money right now right now.
Tommy: [00:13:06] Yeah, so my understanding is the primary way you finance the Freedom Dividend is through a value-added tax on tech companies like say Amazon. But a VAT tax or sales tax, they tend to be the really the most regressive form of taxation companies tend to pass those costs along to consumers.
I mean those costs are likely to disproportionately hurt people who are poorer. So I just want to make a… why finance it that way?
Andew Yang: [00:13:30] So in a vacuum, like a value-added tax does tend to be regressive because poor people just spend a higher proportion of the buying power on consumer staples. And there are things you can do where you can tailor it: you can exempt certain consumer staples; you can have the VAT be higher on luxury goods.
In this case because we’re taking every dollar from the value-added tax and putting it directly into Americans hands and adding another $2 on top of it. Then it would be the opposite of regressive. It would increase the buying power for approximately the bottom like 90% of Americans who aren’t making in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Tommy: [00:14:06] But if you’re the bottom 90% and let’s say you’re on welfare you getting food stamps. So you’re not taking the Freedom Dividend and then there’s a VAT on whole bunch of things you buy. Isn’t going to hurt you?
Andew Yang: [00:14:16] Yeah, like in the in certain situations we have to do more. So the easiest thing to do would be to take.
So I have a physician principle of do no harm. The last thing I want to do is stick it to someone who’s relying upon benefits or fixed income. And so the easiest thing to do is just to say hey, if you’re on one of these programs are benefits, we’re just going to scale up your benefits to a point where the VAT is immaterial to you.
Tommy: [00:14:39] Got it. So I guess here’s probably the most important question I have is how do you think you can get this passed? Because I think, not to be cynical, but –
Andew Yang: [00:14:47] You’ve been in government for a while man
Tommy: [00:14:49] Mitch McConnell, Mitch McConnell’s a pretty very cynical guy, you know, he’s got his wife like cutting deals for him in Kentucky
Andew Yang: [00:14:54] That’s madness. I know I couldn’t believe that.
Tommy: [00:14:56] It’s… drives me crazy. Um, so, you know a lot of probably to say this is welfares, this is socialism. Whatever. I mean, what’s your plan to get this through? I guess you’re also talking about proposing that Medicare for all. I mean the cost of both is going to give people some sticker shock.
Andew Yang: [00:15:10] Yeah. So this is the fun part of it, is that when I’m president in 2021 the Democrats – thanks to you all, thank you Pod Save America – will be so pumped to have gotten Donald Trump out of there will all be dancing a jig, you know in DC. And so everyone will be super excited about the dividend because it’s going to get more money into the hands of everyday Americans and make families and children stronger and healthier.
And then on the conservative side, they’re going to look at this and be like, wait a minute, this is actually a big win for rural areas in red states that have been decimated by automation. And a lot of their constituents will say, what I don’t like is the government making my decisions. But this is actually the Frreedom Dividend. This is pro-economic freedom.
And so there will be at least some conservatives who will look at this and say, well Alaska passed something just like this. And Alaska is a deep red conservative state. That was a Republican governor.
There’s some need of appeal on the conservative side because it feels like it’s somehow increasing people’s economic autonomy. Now, that’s not going to work on everyone. I mean obviously, they’ll be some Republicans that are like, I hate this it’s like, you know, massive government handout etcetera etcetera.
But we don’t need 81% of Congress really need 51% because this is just a bill like any other. And so when the dividend goes out, then Americans be so pumped that the government did something that actually changes people’s lives in such a direct concrete way that then we’ll be able to hopefully get some other big things done too.
Tommy: [00:16:40] I mean, I feel like you’re a thoughtful logical rational human being.
Andew Yang: [00:16:44] Well, thanks man.
Tommy: [00:16:45] Right trying to apply those principles to a party that has lost its mind. I mean, they’re likely to call this like the death panel dividend right, like they did with Obamacare. Mitch McConnell prioritized defeating Barack Obama in the re-election above saving the economy, giving people-
Andew Yang: [00:17:00] Yeah, you know that’s true.
Tommy: [00:17:02] That’s where my cynicism comes from. It’s like I just wonder how we will get Republicans to change their mind or if you thought through like what it would take politically to try to bring people over.
Andew Yang: [00:17:14] Well one thing I’ve found is that cash is hard to demonize.
Tommy: [00:17:17] True
Andew Yang: [00:17:17] It’s like, like if you say hey, I’m gonna change your healthcare be like, oh death panels, doctors, like it’s gonna screw it up. But it’s like hey the Asian man wants to give you money. It’s a little trickier to be like, oh the money’s gonna kill you. It’s like…
Tommy: [00:17:29] But like food stamps have been demonized right and stigmatized.
Andew Yang: [00:17:32] They have been and that’s one reason why the dividend so powerful is because the food stamps it’s like, it’s like something for other people. Like you go to folks in various parts of countries and go, oh, they’re getting something, they’re pulling one over on you. This time it’s like, everyone gets it. Chill out. It’s going to be great.
And I’m already getting people from you know the conservative end of the spectrum and libertarians and independents. Folks in Iowa and Ohio have said to me that they actually hoped they were getting someone like me when they voted for Donald Trump, which I take as like a very mixed bag because a part of me is like, oh no, but that part of it was like, oh, well, you’re gonna vote for me. I guess that’s a win.
Tommy: [00:18:13] All right, I’m gonna move away from UBI if that’s okay.
Andew Yang: [00:18:17] No, we must talk about UBI this entire… I’m kidding
Tommy: [00:18:19] I mean look, it’s an intereseting topic. I learned a lot about it.
So, you were at the Iowa Democratic party Hall of Fame dinner this weekend along with 18 of your best candidate friends. I noticed you kind of you dinged Biden for missing the dinner. You repeated that criticism in a tweet today. I guess he was at his granddaughter’s high school graduation. Is that sort of like a weird thing to attack him for?
Andew Yang: [00:18:43] Well, so when I first did it, and you look at the quote “attack”, it was like, you know a joke. It was like, I guess Joe Biden really doesn’t like to travel.
Tommy: [00:18:50] Right.
Andew Yang: [00:18:51] And it just struck me as really jarring that they were literally 19 candidates there and everyone but the front-runner.
Tommy: [00:18:57] Right sure.
Andew Yang: [00:18:58] And it was something like this elephant in the room. So I just said like, you know, hey, like I guess Joe Biden doesn’t really like to travel very much. And then, and then you know from there he said something about how like he has values of a different kind that led him to attend his… and I wouldn’t begrudge anyone like making a choice not to attend an event. But there was like this implication there that was like he had somehow like made this decision that the other 19 candidates like had not made.
And so I pointed out, I was like look 19 candidates, like 19 candidates have families. Like we all are going to miss stuff. And so it’s fine if you decide to miss stuff too, but you know, it’s like making it seem like it was a value judgment on his part that other people weren’t making. I thought was like, you know a little bit unfortunate truly.
Tommy: [00:19:52] We have seen recently that abortion rights have just been under assault by the Trump Administration, by the courts, by states. Have you thought about how you would ensure that reproductive rights are protected across the country?
Andew Yang: [00:20:04] Well, I think it’s crazy that in 2019 we have states passing laws that are bringing us back to the Stone Age in terms of women’s reproductive rights. So I want to protect women’s reproductive rights to the highest possible levels.
And there’s nothing in the Constitution about the number of Supreme Court Justices. I think we should very very much consider increasing the number of justices past nine and appointing justices that would protect women’s reproductive rights. There’s really nothing off the table when it comes to protecting women’s reproductive rights for me.
Tommy: [00:20:35] So so, the primary goal would be to really think about packing the courts as soon as possible and preserving Roe or preventing it from being overturned in that way.
Andew Yang: [00:20:44] Yeah. Yeah, that’s right.
Tommy: [00:20:45] And what about sort of enshrining Roe in legislation? Is that something you think we should pursue?
Andew Yang: [00:20:49] Yeah, I think that’s the right move too. And you know, I mean, I understand that Americans have different feelings on this, but I’m very much pro-women’s reproductive rights. I do not think it’s the role of government to be curbing that.
Tommy: [00:21:01] The Trump Administration talks relentlessly about immigration. If you’re the nominee, I imagine that will be the attack every day. There will be some caravan headed to your house or the border or whatever – you know, whatever bullshit they make up – but like that aside, there is also a massive surge of migrants coming to the US from so-called Central Triangle Countries: El Salvador Guatemala, etcetera. What would you do to reduce the flow of asylum seekers and fixed what I think people in both parties view to be a broken system?
Andew Yang: [00:21:33] Now so the first thing to do is try and adequately resource the system we have because if you go, if you go near the process you see that we have a massive shortage of not just judges to administer asylum cases, but case managers and facilities and border officers.
There was one thing I saw where there are something like hundreds of unfilled job openings because it’s just hard for them to hire in these stations. So one if have a process, you have to adequately try and resource and implement it. But the big thing there, and this is one reason why cutting back international aid was so destructive, it’s like obviously if you’re going to try and get people to migrate less out of an area, then you try and support the existing government and way of life. So that people feel like they don’t need to migrate hundreds of miles over dangerous conditions for for another opportunity that they have an opportunity closer to them.
Tommy: [00:22:27] Do you think about increasing foreign aid as part of an immigration policy?
Andew Yang: [00:22:31] Yeah. Yeah. I think that would be the right thing to do.
Tommy: [00:22:35] So I’ve noticed like as I was prepping for this – your voice is in my head for hours – most of the time…
Andew Yang: [00:22:41] Sorry!
Tommy: [00:22:42] It was it was magnificent, frankly. But I mean, I’ve noticed you’ve done a lot of outlets, non-traditional stops, in the Democratic primary circuit. Let’s say like Joe Rogan, Ben Shapiro, Dave Rubin. So there have been some reports that are unrelated to you and your candidacy that suggests that some of those guys are a gateway via YouTube to more radical fringe outlets like Infowars or like worse. Does that worry you at? That that some of these guys like the Ben Shapiros could provide a way for people to find that kind of content or is that YouTube’s problem? How do you think about it?
Andew Yang: [00:23:21] You know, it’s a really profound question and it’s becoming all the more pressing in an age where white nationalism and tribalism are surging into very, you know, like tragic murderous behaviors. And there’s a guy named Jaron Lanier is one of the pioneers of the internet and he said something that stuck with me.
He said that the internet is more powerful at conducting negative ideas and sentiments than it is positive ones. So the YouTube controversy on clamping down, I mean, it’s so core. Because if you have toxic ideas that are out there, they can spread like wildfire and end up like leading people to terrible ideologies. The conversations I had with various thinkers, I mean as you say, it’s like… I mean one of the things I’m trying to do, and this also being very candid, starting out there weren’t a lot of mainstream press outlets that were having me.
Tommy: [00:24:16] Sure.
Andew Yang: [00:24:17] So someone’s like, oh is this a strategy? It’s like, actually my strategy was to try and reach Americans and if there was like someone who wanted to have me on. I do think that it’s important particularly if you’re going to try and win a general election to try and reach people at different points in the political spectrum. I certainly would never go on a program where it was like where I thought it was like a direct gateway to hateful ideologies.
But this is one of the most pressing problems of our time is to figure out how we can manage freedom of speech and First Amendment rights with the fact that unfortunately the internet is highly conductive for toxic and poisonous ideologies.
Tommy: [00:24:56] Yeah, so I think I read that you don’t agree with I think Elizabeth Warren’s proposal, for example to break up some of the biggest technology companies: the Facebook’s, the Google’s. Why is that? Am I right first, and why is that?
Andew Yang: [00:25:09] You’re generally right. And this is not to say I’m against breaking up tech companies because some of them you should break up certain parts their businesses. And it has gone really haywire in Silicon Valley where the primary business model is to get bought by one of the behemoths now, it’s not like build a company for 20 years, you know stand the test of time.
Yeah, it’s just like, hey if I become enough of a pest then someone will throw some money at me and I’ll get like absorbed into the borg
Tommy: [00:25:33] Innovation competition at its best, right?
Andew Yang: [00:25:35] Yeah. Yeah. So there are massive excesses. We should have some of these companies get quote unquote broken up in some respects. The problem is that, assuming that if I break up Amazon into four mini Amazon’s that then competition will take hold and that will improve the situation, doesn’t take into account some of the dynamics of technology marketplaces.
So the comparison I make is that no one wants to use the fourth-best navigation app and no one is Bing-ing anything.
Tommy: [00:26:02] I was Bing-ing your name all weekend.
Andew Yang: [00:26:04] Well, then you’re the only one I found.
Tommy: [00:26:05] That’s where all my questions are from.
Andew Yang: [00:26:06] The CEO of Bing is like –
Tommy: [00:26:08] Who is the CEO of Bing?
Andew Yang: [00:26:10] I don’t know. I think it’s still a division of Microsoft
Tommy: [00:26:12] Okay. Got it.
Andew Yang: [00:26:13] So saying like, hey like are they are quasi-monopolies that need to be curbed? Yes. If I break them up into four mini versions of themselves, it probably does not solve the problem. And one of the problems that I cite is that right now our young people are in a mental health crisis with the anxiety and depression coincident with smartphone adoption and social media apps. And my friend Tristan Harris says that we have the smartest engineers in the country turning supercomputers into slot machines and dopamine delivery devices for teenagers.
Now if you say hey now Facebook and WhatsApp and Instagram have separate ownership structures, does that make our kids less depressed? Probably no impact. And so the the break them up solution to me is not necessarily digging in and solving the true problems that technology is causing. Sometimes break up, breaking them up, having them divest as part of the business would be the right solution. But in other cases you’d want to adopt different types of approaches.
Tommy: [00:27:15] All right, I’m going to ask Jeeves that answer later and see if it’s right. But like, you know, you look at a Facebook, right? They acquired Instagram, they acquired WhatsApp so suddenly they are by some major order of magnitude the biggest messaging platform on the planet.
Do you think a company like that? Let me ask this differently. Do you think we should update our antitrust laws?
Andew Yang: [00:27:36] Oh, yeah.
Tommy: [00:27:37] To address something like that. Ok.
Andew Yang: [00:27:38] Yeah, so price is the wrong framework for antitrust because a lot of the stuff they’re like, it’s for gouged you like I wouldn’t dream of it? I just want to give it to you and I like absorb all your data and rest of it.
So so certainly we need an updated framework and what I’ve been saying is we can’t have 20th century solutions to 21st century problems. And having a price and competition framework is a 20th century solution and those are not the problems we face.
Tommy: [00:28:02] Why do you hate the penny?
Andew Yang: [00:28:05] Because someone threw one at me when I was a kid and I swore I would get all the pennies out of the world.
It’s it’s that there’s actually like there are several economic and environmental rationales to get rid of the penny
Tommy: [00:28:19] Really?
Andew Yang: [00:28:19] Like we actually spend more than one cent per penny on its production.
Tommy: [00:28:23] Yes, it’s stupid.
Andew Yang: [00:28:24] Yeah, we lose, I think it’s something along an order of magnitude may be like like 25 million dollars a year making pennies.
Tommy: [00:28:30] What’s the argument against getting rid of the penny then?
Andew Yang: [00:28:34] Inertia. And that’s one of the greatest things that’s happening in this country is that inertia is taking over a lot of things where like, why do we have lifetime appointments for Supreme Court Justices when that clearly makes no sense anymore?
Like we should change it to 8 year term limits. Why haven’t we? Inertia. So why do we have pennies? Inertia. And you know, one of the themes of my campaign is that we have to examine things and say look, we can improve that we totally should.
Also pennies are bad for the environment because extracting copper like it, you know, it costs energy.
Tommy: [00:29:03] Yeah. Well you if you hate inertia, you’re going to hate the government.
Andew Yang: [00:29:09] Thanks for the heads up.
Tommy: [00:29:11] Then like there’s no more annoying question than when you say, “Why do we do this?” And the answer is, “Because that’s how we’ve always done it.” Just like come on.
Andew Yang: [00:29:19] Well, I mean, I admire you and your team so much. I mean you did, you fought the fight, you know, you spent time in Iowa and like helping you get Obama like and served in government and you got a sense.
Like I have friends who work the administration, the Obama Administration and they saw what was going on in DC and they’re like, holy cow. Like that the best of them were frustrated, you know, and like I’m definitely ready to enter the frustration zone you know, when I become president with the knowledge that a lot of the stuff that we’re going to try and get done it’s going to be like a massive challenge because of the nature of the institutions.
Tommy: [00:29:53] Yeah, all right, I’m gonna close this in foreign policy if that’s all right.
Andew Yang: [00:29:58] Sure.
Tommy: [00:29:58] So President Trump, fantastic president, he’s done a number on basically every alliance we have since taking office.
Andew Yang: [00:30:06] Its terrible, yeah.
Tommy: [00:30:06] He’s called into question the value of NATO. He wouldn’t reaffirm Article 5. He’s undercut the Japanese and South Koreans and negotiations with North Korea. Have you thought about how you would undo that damage? Is there like a hundred day plan to try to fix some of the damage has been done?
Andew Yang: [00:30:21] Well, I’m the fourth candidate after Bernie, Elizabeth Warren and one other to sign the end the Forever War pledge, which is that we need to try and push the power to declare war back to Congress where it belongs, in the Constitution.
And having that as one of my first acts. Then the rest of the world be like, oh I get it. This President is different than the last one, that I’m kind of the opposite. And so the second thing I would do is then go to our longest-standing partners and say America is open for business again. That that guy is gone, it’s this guy. And this guy wants to work with you, wants to rebuild long-standing relationships, and make it seem that we’re reliable, will be here for the the test of time.
One of the things I’ve said is that our foreign policy reflects how we’re doing at home. To me Donald Trump’s our president because our way of life has been disintegrating for years. You know life expectancy, income and affordability, mental health crisis, it’s like there’s so much despair and suffering and anger in this country, so much so that we ended up with this guy as president. A and then he’s going on breaking partnerships and alliances around the world and everyone’s like what the heck’s going on with the US?
So my goal is to be the opposite of Donald Trump. The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math.
Tommy: [00:31:37] It says that on your hat.
Andew Yang: [00:31:38] It does say on my hat. And then… It doesn’t say that entire phrase, that’d be very long phrase to have on a hat.
Tommy: [00:31:43] Big hat.
Andew Yang: [00:31:44] But then the rest of the world, if you can imagine President Yang coming in, like the rest of world be like wow, like America has a very different leadership style. And they’ll find that I’m someone that they can work with.
Tommy: [00:31:55] Would you repeal the AUMF?
Andew Yang: [00:31:57] Yes, I would that’s one of the things that to me has been such a like a concession of power in the part of Congress. And so it should be in Congress’ hand whether or not we go to war, have any sort of military intervention, and one pipe dream of mine – I know this one’s going to be tough – not only do I want Congress to have the ability to declare war, I also want one adult child of Congress to have to participate in whatever military action we take.
Because to me there’s something fundamental that if you’re going to send America’s young men and women to into battle, at least one of your kids should also be going.
Tommy: [00:32:31] Yeah. Well, so knowing that you want return that authority to where it belongs, to Congress, wondering when you think it’s appropriate to use military force. Because, for example, Obama used military force in Libya to prevent what he thought would be like a catastrophic loss of civilian life in Benghazi that.
I think the near term objective was achieved but the long-term situation in Libya’s a mess. He was criticized for not responding fast enough in Syria after Assad used chemical weapons, the so-called Red Line debate. I mean, like how do you view when it’s appropriate for the US to use military force to intervene?
Andew Yang: [00:33:09] Well, this is one of the reasons why I think it’s so important to have Congress actively involved with this, is that if the people of United States and the Congress agree that it’s the right thing to do to intervene militarily, then that to me is like a huge source of popular judgment. Like in a way that’s to me more powerful than if an individual, even the president United States thinks that it’s the right thing to do.
In terms of principles if you can avoid catastrophic loss of life and in a way, that doesn’t bog us down for years on end with an indeterminate time line, then that to me is like a more appealing use of military force. But even then, I would push it to Congress and say look guys, this is what I think we should do, like do I have the go ahead? Because that’s the way the Constitution set it up.
Tommy: [00:34:01] But I mean Congress is a bunch of cowards who don’t want to take votes that are difficult. The population, writ large, is understandably and rightly reticent to get involved.
But World War I, World War II, if there’s not presidential leadership, we’re probably not entering those wars right? I mean like they’re going to look to you, regardless of your efforts to restore their authority.
You know what I mean? So I just don’t know if you, if there’s a conflict in recent history you think, “That was just. That made sense. That was appropriate.
Andew Yang: [00:34:32] You know, to me the times I get most excited about it is if you feel like you can help maintain the integrity of a society in some way or if there’s.. it’s not quite like humanitarian interventions because I know we’re talking about military action.
Tommy: [00:34:46] Well, I mean, you know, you could debate… sorry. Continue.
Andew Yang: [00:34:49] No, like, that if there is a way that we can essentially prevent like a collapsing society or failed state, those are the situations I’m most drawn to. And I would be very happy to champion that cause in Congress and say look, if we do this we can help preserve the integrity of this society in a way that’s going to end up being very positive not just for them, but for American interest over the long term or globally, I would love to make that case.
Tommy: [00:35:16] So when I hear, when I imagine a near-term failed state, I think: Venezuela.
Andew Yang: [00:35:21] Yeah
Tommy: [00:35:21] Is that an example of someplace where you think it might be appropriate?
Andew Yang: [00:35:25] Particularly if there is a constituency in Venezuela that welcomes, you know, that that sort of move, like you know, unilaterally I would not want to do it because I do not think it’s the United States place to decide, you know, the regimes of other countries if we can at all prevent being that sort of outside force.
But if there was a group in Venezuela, which there may well be, that says look, we’re actually welcome you intervention because we need to try and have some sort of infrastructure while we establish our new government or something along those lines, then I’d love to work with them on that.
Tommy: [00:35:58] I’m curious about how you think about diplomacy. I mean, do you, are you sort of “I’ll talk to anyone anywhere” camp like Obama was? I mean, let me say it this way: do you think Trump’s negotiations with North Korea have been appropriate or successful?
Andew Yang: [00:36:13] Well, I don’t think his exact negotiations have been the way I’d go about it. But I do agree with the principle that it’s very hard to get things done if you’re not willing to talk to someone or engage them. And I also am not the sort who thinks if you talk to someone you’re somehow endorsing their government or their approach to things. So my my first position would be, we should be engaging directly, even with people that we might consider adversaries.
Tommy: [00:36:41] So if you, if you win, would you re engage in those talks with Kim Jong Un in North Korea? I mean, clearly like the, the problem he’s trying to solve is very real. In fact, it’s gotten considerably worse since he took office because the DIA estimates they’re making a new nuke a month.
So it’s something we’re going to, it’s going to come to a head at some point. I’m just curious how you would approach what past presidents have viewed as really like an existential threat to the US.
Andew Yang: [00:37:05] Yeah, and like my sister-in-law is in Seoul right now. I mean, this is something where, you know, it’s like I have some personal, yeah. To me, a lot of these actors are going to do whatever they think is in their best interest. And what we have to avoid is we have to avoid a situation where they think stockpiling nuclear weapons and acting erratically is in their best interest.
And the best way to show them that it’s in their best interest to scale down and possibly give up some of these weapons is to engage with them and say look, what’s it going to take, you know, right? Because right now unfortunately some of them think if I don’t have these weapons, the US would come in and oust me tomorrow and you know, if that’s the situation they’re in then it gets more dangerous.
Tommy: [00:37:44] Last question the New York Times wrote a piece suggesting you are too nice to be president or to run for president. So I was hoping you would roast me or somebody in the room, just say something really shitty. Pick your poison, there’s like eight people over there. You can, you can go for it.
Andew Yang: [00:38:01] I don’t like the look of that one. Um, no.
Tommy: [00:38:03] What do you, what do you make of it? What do you make of a political process so cynical that someone could be too nice to run for president.
Andew Yang: [00:38:12] Well, I mean, I appreciated the headline. I was like, wow, I’m a nice guy. Because the approached I have the campaign and in life is just like we have to solve the problems that are that are making people’s lives miserable, and in this case, have threatened to tear us apart.
And so I don’t particularly like to demonize people because I don’t find it to be helpful or productive, but no one runs for president unless they have a deep fighting spirit, I would say. And you’ve been on the trail, you know what I mean? Like you have to go out there and make the case every day. Plus, I think I’m a bigger asshole than that particular journalist thought.
Tommy: [00:38:52] Okay.
Andew Yang: [00:38:53] So it’s like, I’d love for them to, like, if they just saw me like you know like in other circumstances, they might be like, “I take it back.”
Tommy: [00:39:03] Alright, well, we’ll find a chance to correct them. Andrew Yang, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate you taking the time.
Andew Yang: [00:39:08] Oh, thank you for the opportunity Tommy.