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Andrew Yang on how the U.S. can adapt to its new economic realities

Andrew Yang may not have the name recognition of his 2020 Democratic presidential competitors, but he has gained traction since announcing his campaign more than a year ago. Lisa Desjardins sits down with Yang to discuss the proliferation of combative political rhetoric in the U.S., how the country should confront its new economic realities, his proposal for taxes and guaranteed income and more.

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  • Judy Wodruff:

    Staying with the campaign, Lisa Desjardins has the latest installment in our series of one-on-one interviews with presidential contenders.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Andrew Yang may not yet have the name recognition of his opponents on the campaign trail, but the lawyer-turned-entrepreneur has steadily gained traction since announcing his bid for president more than a year ago.

    The son of Taiwanese immigrants cleared the threshold to qualify for the first Democratic debate later this summer. And he joins me now.

    Let's start with something that was in the news this weekend, the clear feud and very significant words between Representative Ilhan Omar and President Trump. What is your reaction to what the two of them are saying?

  • Andrew Yang:

    Well, you know, I think that her remarks were taken very much out of context, and it was really weeks after the fact.

    One of the problems we're having right now is this manufactured outrage that's happening on both sides. Certainly, I think that the president's tweet that seemed to suggest that her comments were somehow dishonoring the memory of 9/11 struck me as needlessly provocative and inciting hostility toward Muslim Americans.

    And so I tweeting saying, look, we're all Americans and we need to come together. And I was personally in New York on 9/11, so I remember the day very well.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You have an idea for universal basic income.

    And I'm going to lay it out really quickly in a graphic, $1,000 per month to every adult in this country, and then you would make it so that people would have to make a choice if they were on some other programs, such as food stamps or SNAP or Social Security. They would have to choose which is better for them, between your money and the Social Security benefits. You would pay for it in large percent with a 10 percent value-added tax.

    So essentially, if I get this right, you're saying you want to add a tax to most of the things that we buy as it's being produced, and then you want to give us money in our paycheck. What does that do?

  • Andrew Yang:

    Well, if everyone watching this reflects upon what a $1,000 a month per individual would do for your household, that would be game-changer for tens of millions of Americans.

    It would improve health. Children's graduation rates would go up. Our mental health would improve. It would even improve our relationships. It would create millions of jobs around the country.

    And the reason why we need to have a value-added tax in place is that, right now, the biggest winners from artificial intelligence and new technologies will be Amazon and the biggest tech companies, who right now in some cases are paying literally zero in taxes, which is the case with Amazon.

    So we need to wake up to the challenges of the 21st century economy, get more buying power in the hands of Americans, but also make sure that our biggest companies aren't benefiting without paying their fair share.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But I think the economics of this confuse me a little bit. And I want to bring out a quote, something you said at a town hall last night with CNN.

    You told viewers there that the goal should not be to save jobs. The goal should be to make lives better.

    But yet you're running on the premise that we're going to lose potentially millions of jobs. And I'm not clear on how increasing taxes, which could actually take away some jobs, giving away money that could increase jobs, how does that — what's your vision for the economy as a whole? How do you lift up the economy and create more jobs in general?

    Or is that not your goal at all?

  • Andrew Yang:

    Well, the goal is to build a trickle-up economy, from people, families and communities up.

    And putting $1,000 a month in the hands of every American adult would actually create more than two million jobs in our economy because of increased demand for things like tutoring services, car repairs, the occasional night out, trips to the hardware store.

    All of those businesses would end up hiring people in our communities.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It sounds like your plan does not make up for the amount of jobs you think we will be losing.

  • Andrew Yang:

    Well, one of the examples I use is that my wife right now is at home with our two young children, one of whom is autistic. And right now her work is not considered a job by the marketplace or by GDP or by our economic measurements.

    But we all know that she's doing some of the most important and difficult and challenging work. So what we need to do is, we need to broaden our definition of what work is. And more and more Americans hopefully will be in position to do the work that they want to do if we put this economic buying power into their hands.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You also want to broaden the definition of American health care — or change it anyway.

    You say that you want to get to universal single-payer government-run health care, ultimately, and you want to phase that in.

    Sort of a brief question here. How long is that phase-in period? Would we see universal health care in your first term as president?

  • Andrew Yang:

    You know, it will probably happen in my second term as president, because my plan is to lower the eligibility age for Medicare.

    I am a Medicare-for-all public option proponent. I would not outlaw or eliminate private health insurance. But if we do a good enough job, with a robust public option, there really should not be as much of a need for private insurance in the market.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I have to say I was excited about this interview because you have more policy proposals, I think, than anyone else running right now, if you just take a look at your Web site, dozens of very specific ideas that you have.

    For example, you would make today, Tax Day, a national holiday. You think the NCAA should pay college athletes. You would put a term limit on Supreme Court justices, and you would lower the voting age to 16.

    Also, one of your policies is, you would decriminalize possession of small amounts of opioids, including heroin. Why, especially when we know that opioids, even in small amounts, it seems, can be very addictive?

  • Andrew Yang:

    Well, that's exactly why we need to decriminalize the use, because, when I was in Iowa, an 18-year-old high school student said to me that his classmates are literally addicted to fentanyl and heroin.

    And that struck me as incredible and tragic. And so I started looking internationally for solutions. And other countries have decriminalized opiate possession, not sale, not if you're like a drug dealer. But if you get caught with a small supply of opiates, we should be referring you straight to treatment, and not a jail cell.

    And in other countries, that has reduced both the usage rate and the overdose rate over time.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I want to turn to foreign policy.

    We're in a time of very significant global tension. And there is U.S. presence on the ground in dozens of countries right now. We have seen just in the last week protests and overthrow and Africa. ISIS is weak, but still surviving in Syria. Afghanistan is not yet fully stable.

    I'm wondering which of those situations you think would call for U.S. involvement, if any, and what kind of involvement. What is your foreign policy vision?

  • Andrew Yang:

    Well, I would want to rebuild the partnerships and alliances that we have had over the last number of years that in many cases have become very frayed because some of our longstanding allies now regard the United States as an unreliable partner.

    And, to me, our foreign policy should reflect how we're doing at home. In my opinion, the reason why Donald Trump is our president is that we have been falling apart at home. So job number one is to rebuild the American community, the American people.

    And our foreign policy should become much more restrained and judicious. I would want to rebuild our partnerships and alliances, and hopefully rely more on the U.N. and diplomacy and multilateral approaches to problems.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Would you pull out U.S. forces from, say, Afghanistan and Syria altogether?

  • Andrew Yang:

    Over time, that should be the goal.

    And, certainly, we shouldn't have done it in the way that President Trump did when he did it abruptly and didn't notify allies. And then some friends of mine resigned, you know, in protest. I mean, if you're going to do something, you have to do it responsibly.

    But we have been in some of these contexts for many years. And, at this point, it's time to own the fact that we should bring those troops home.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Andrew Yang, Democratic candidate for president, thank you for joining us.

  • Andrew Yang:

    Well, thank you. It's been a pleasure.

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