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Entrepreneur and 2020 Democratic candidate Andrew Yang tells NewsHour Weekend he was ‘honored and disappointed’ to be the lone candidate of color at the last debate. He joins Yamiche Alcindor to discuss his plan to give every American adult $1,000 a month, why he believes headlines about the economy are misleading, and how he would handle North Korea if he became president.
Democratic candidates will be back on stage on January 14th in Des Moines, Iowa. So far, five candidates have qualified — Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, as well as Mayor Pete Buttigieg. And joining me now is candidate Andrew Yang, who is also hoping to make the stage.
So thank you so much for being here in studio, I know you've had a busy, busy week.
As we've reported, the Democratic National Committee is going to be raising the threshold again for January. You were the only candidate of color on stage this time around. Are you concerned at all that these rules are icing out candidates of color in note?
Our biggest concern Yamiche, is how many polls are they going to run between now and January 10? We're confident that I'm going to be on that debate stage in January as long as they run some polls that show that we're growing every single day in the early states. And I was genuinely surprised that they decided to raise the thresholds.
And are you at all worried about what that says to voters, especially as the Democratic Party is becoming increasingly diverse?
Well, certainly to me, I was surprised by the DNC's decision because they'd been criticized for this past debate when I was the lone candidate of color. And then they raised the threshold that might exclude me from this next debate. So to me, it's a little bit bewildering. But, you know, you have to let Tom make his own decisions.
Let me ask you about your signature program, $1,000 a month for American adults over the age of 18. How does that program square with social safety net programs, especially food stamps and federal housing vouchers?
So the way it works is that it's universal and opt-in — the Freedom Dividend of a $1,000 a month for every American. It's taxed on top of Social Security benefits to help stave off the retiree crisis, the retirement crisis that many older Americans are facing. And so it's opt-in, if you do opt-in, you would forego cash-in-cash like benefits from certain programs.
Like food stamps and federal housing vouchers?
Not federal housing vouchers, that's not on there, but food stamps, yes. Though, when I talk to people who are on these programs, they live in fear oftentimes of losing whatever benefits they're getting. They're afraid of missing some filing requirement or having people look in on them. And so for them, unconditional cash seems like a massive improvement.
There's a lot of foreign policy issues that presidents are going to have to navigate. Right now, North Korea is threatening to deliver a Christmas gift, which might be a missile test. How would you deal with this issue if you were president?
I have family in Seoul right now, so it's personal. We need to do everything we can to encourage North Korea to denuclearize, either in whole or in part.
And while Donald Trump, I don't think, made a mistake necessarily by sitting down with Kim Jong-un, he did make a huge mistake in that he didn't actually get meaningful concessions. And this nuclear missile test, unfortunately, is illustrating that.
How would you handle it if you were president? What would you do differently than President Trump if you're faced with this issue?
I would say to the North Koreans, look, we will meet with you and try and address some of your economic concerns, because the reality is that society is on the brink of economic ruin. But we need you to work with us in terms of scaling back your missile programs and your nuclear development.
So you would meet with Kim Jong-un?
I would agree to meet if I thought it would help denuclearize the peninsula. I would not meet just for the sake of a photo op.
The economy. It's also something that's on voters minds. President Trump last night talked a lot about it. He didn't talk that much, surprisingly, about impeachment. What do you say to voters who maybe don't like the president, but really do like the way that the economy's going, especially with low unemployment rates?
Well, the unemployment rate does not illustrate the lived experience of any of the Americans I'm talking to on the trail. The fact is millions of Americans have dropped out of the workforce. 40 to 44 percent of recent college graduates are underemployed in a job that doesn't require a degree.
There's a ton of weakness in the labor market that's being obscured by the headline unemployment rate, which even Donald Trump, when he was running for president, said was fake news. It's a very, very misleading statistic.
So, in other words, you think that you would make the case to voters that the economy is basically not working for people and as a result, you should elect me for president?
What I would say to Americans is, look, record highs in this country right now — stress, financial insecurity, depression, suicides, drug overdoses, student loan debt. And they sense this. They feel it. When they see the headline stat on the TV screen, they're not saying, oh, things are great, they're saying, why does it not feel like it's great in my family? In my community?
And would you pardon President Trump if you were elected?
Oh, you'd have to make a decision at that time. But what I would suggest is that a dynamic the United States wants to avoid is one where presidents are throwing past presidents in jail, because if you look around the world, that's been a dynamic that gets established in developing countries and the United States has historically managed to avoid that.
So you would have a pardon on the table for President Trump, possibly?
I'm focused on solving the problems that got Donald Trump elected and moving the country forward. And that's what I think the president's party should be.
So that sounds like a yes, then?
Let's just say like I'm not someone who thinks that being overly vindictive or punitive necessarily is helpful to unify the country.
Well, thank you so much for joining me in studio. Andrew Yang who is, of course, running for president.
Thank you, Yamiche. It's great to see you again and great job at the debate.
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