Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang

Businessman

Andrew Yang is an entrepreneur who has launched health-care and test preparation start-ups. The centerpiece of his campaign is a proposal for a $1,000-per-month universal basic income, which he says will help the millions of Americans he expects will lose their jobs as a result of automation. In 2011 he founded Venture for America, a nonprofit organization that supports entrepreneurship. 

Born and raised in Schenectady, New York, he graduated from Columbia Law School in 1999 and briefly practiced as a corporate attorney.

China

Unlike many of his Democratic competitors, Yang does not believe an ascendant China is necessarily a threat to the United States. He is concerned, however, with Beijing’s military ambitions, its increasing authoritarianism, and its theft of intellectual property.

  • Yang told CFR that the trade war between the United States and China is hurting both sides, but that some of President Donald J. Trump’s aims, such as ending the theft of intellectual property, are worthwhile. 
  • He also says the United States must ensure a reliable supply of rare earth elements, which come almost entirely from China and are necessary for a variety of communications and defense technologies.
  • He says that he is troubled by China’s increasingly aggressive stances, including its dealings with Hong Kong and Taiwan and its construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea.
  • He is concerned about what he calls an increasingly authoritarian China. He calls the treatment of Uighurs, a largely Muslim ethnic minority, “unacceptable” and says Washington should lead a “chorus of voices” against their imprisonment and surveillance.
  • He says he would offer an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative by expanding U.S. investments in clean energy in Asia and forging stronger alliances in the region through U.S. trade and technology deals. 

Climate and Energy

Yang views climate change as an existential threat, a leading national security issue, and a crisis that will cost trillions of dollars to combat. He supports the Green New Deal framework and also sees global warming as an opportunity for the United States to lead the world in the creation of new technologies. 

  • Yang told CFR his “first step” as president would be to rejoin the Paris Agreement, from which Trump withdrew in 2017.
  • He has released a sweeping climate plan that would push for net-zero emissions by 2049. All new vehicles would have to be zero emission by 2030 and all electricity production by 2035. 
  • To achieve this transition, he pledges to spend nearly $5 trillion over two decades, investing in clean energy, new infrastructure, sustainable farming, climate mitigation programs, and geo-engineering projects.
  • He would apply a carbon tax of $40 per ton, splitting the revenue between his basic income plan and clean energy projects. He also proposes a climate tariff that would levy an additional tax on imports of carbon-intensive goods. 
  • He wants to end fossil fuel subsidies, which he says amount to nearly $650 billion per year. He would end all fossil fuel leases on public land. 
  • He supports building new nuclear power plants.
  • Unlike most other candidates, Yang emphasizes the need to start moving populations out of coastal areas, and he would provide relocation grants for that purpose.
  • He says that Washington must compete directly with China’s Belt and Road development projects to provide developing countries with environmentally friendly alternatives.

Counterterrorism

Yang says that white supremacist and right-wing terrorism are bigger threats to the United States than foreign terrorism. He calls for better collection of data on such crimes in order to understand the scale and target the problem.

  • Yang released a plan for fighting white nationalism and extremism that would give the FBI and the Department of Justice new tools and more money to combat domestic terrorism.
  • He wants new domestic terrorism statutes in the wake of 2019 shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
  • He told CFR that the United States’ dependence on oil has helped make it easier for terrorist organizations to fund themselves. 

Cybersecurity and Digital Policy

Yang’s focus on emerging technologies is reflected in his approach to cybersecurity and data privacy. He offers many proposals, including new data protection laws, investments in new computer systems, and changes to electoral systems. 

  • Yang wants legislation to make individuals’ data their personal property, allowing them to better protect their data privacy.
  • He says the United States must invest heavily in quantum computing, which he believes will be the next important technology because it poses a serious threat to current encryption techniques. He says federal efforts to address this threat must start now.
  • He would create a new cabinet-level post, a secretary of cybersecurity, to take on the threat of cyberterrorism to vital infrastructure.
  • He says he would not break up tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google, saying that to do so would be using a “twentieth century solution to twenty-first century problems.” Instead, he suggests that government could play a role in ensuring social media tools are more “responsibly” designed to prevent depression and other psychological issues.
  • He promises that he would tell Russia that “the days of meddling in American elections are over,” and that continuing interference will be interpreted as an “act of hostility and aggression.”
  • He proposes using blockchain encryption technology to allow U.S. citizens to vote via their smartphones, which he says would improve security and turnout. 

Defense

On defense, Yang offers a three-pronged approach: increasing care for veterans, using the defense budget to address domestic infrastructure needs, and creating a new secretary of cybersecurity. He also says he would work to end current conflicts and pledges to bolster U.S. defense alliances. 

  • Yang told CFR that he would “end the forever wars” that have cost trillions of dollars “with no clear benefit to the U.S.”
  • He says he would bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan during his first term. He says, however, that the United States will have to “continue our involvement” in Afghanistan to ensure the rights of women, rebuild the economy, and prevent international terrorist groups from using the country as a base again.
  • He says he will audit the Defense Department for wasteful spending, invest more in veterans’ programs, and appoint a secretary of cybersecurity.
  • He says he will use $60 billion of the defense budget to create a new force, a Legion of Builders and Destroyers, that would focus on improving strategically important infrastructure.
  • He says he would “return the authority to declare war to Congress” by repealing the current Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which was passed in the wake of 9/11 and used by subsequent administrations to legally justify a wide range of military actions.
  • He believes the U.S. president should not have sole authority to launch a nuclear strike, instead proposing a dual-key process in which the vice president would have to agree to any launch.
  • He says his administration would do more to secure loose nuclear materials, buying them at “exorbitant” prices if necessary.

Diplomacy and Foreign Aid

Yang says he will “rebuild our stature in the world,” work more closely with international institutions, and empower the U.S. diplomatic corps.

  • Yang pledges to rebuild relationships and alliances, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), that he says have been damaged by the Trump administration’s unilateral approach. 
  • He promises to increase funding to the State Department, which Trump has sought to cut.
  • He told CFR that global economic development is the United States’ greatest foreign policy accomplishment, and that by helping less-developed countries through trade and aid, Washington will strengthen its global influence and fend off challenges from countries such as China.
  • He promises to “empower” global institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Economic Policy

Yang’s campaign is centered on his proposal for a universal basic income, which he says is necessary to deal with the massive economic dislocation and unemployment that will be caused by automation and other technologies.

  • Yang calls his plan a “freedom dividend,” which would give every adult citizen $1,000 per month, pointing to estimates that one-third of all American workers will lose their jobs to automation by 2030. He says the dividend will reduce poverty, give people the freedom to be entrepreneurial, and boost overall growth and innovation.
  • He says the funds would come primarily from a new 10 percent federal value-added tax (VAT) and a reduction of existing welfare programs. He also claims the plan would boost economic growth by 13 percent by 2025 and create as many as 4.7 million new jobs, helping to offset the cost.
  • He says he would end “favorable treatment” of capital gains and carried interest income and would implement a financial transaction tax. He wants to modernize the Internal Revenue Service and allow it to pre-fill individual’s tax forms.
  • He advocates for “human-centered capitalism” that would end the use of gross domestic product (GDP) measurements in favor of more relevant metrics such as median income, life expectancy, and mental health. He would increase federal regulator salaries to attract the best talent, but ban regulators from going into private industry after their tenures to reduce corruption.
  • He proposes a suite of pro-worker policies, including mandatory paid leave, paid family leave, and new equal-pay regulations.
  • He wants to allow the U.S. Postal Service to offer basic banking services, which he says would free consumers from payday lenders and other predatory financial institutions.
  • He would direct his Department of Education to increase access to vocational training and other noncollege career paths. He would also address existing student debt by allowing bankruptcy for educational loans and backing partial forgiveness.

Immigration

Yang, the son of immigrants from Taiwan, lauds the dynamism of new arrivals and says the United States must welcome immigration to remain economically competitive. He also says the current system “has broken down” and proposes new border-security measures, along with a pathway to legal recognition for undocumented residents.

  • Yang argues that the some eleven million undocumented residents currently in the country must be given legal status, but also says that the solution must recognize that they “tried to circumvent our legal immigration system.”
  • His plan would create a path to citizenship for them, but it would require an eighteen-year period of permanent residency first. This would only be available to those with clean criminal records who pay all required taxes.
  • At the same time, he says it is necessary to “drastically decrease” illegal entries, warning about the current levels of drug and human trafficking and a “flooded” asylum system.
  • Instead of a border wall, Yang would use high-tech security devices, including drones and video towers, to monitor the border. He also pledges increased funding for border agencies and asylum courts. He supports repealing the law criminalizing illegal border crossings.
  • He supports the Dream Act, which protects from deportation undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
  • He wants to greatly expand visas for talented individuals who he says will boost the U.S. economy. He would increase H1B visas for skilled immigrants and give green cards to foreign students who earn their graduate degrees in the United States.
  • He wants to increase aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in order to stanch the flow of migrants from the region.

Middle East

Yang supports a less interventionist approach to the Middle East and is cautious about getting involved in its conflicts.

  • Yang says the United States has “deluded” itself about its ability to influence the region with large-scale military commitments, and he favors withdrawing U.S. troops from conflicts in Syria and elsewhere across the region.
  • He told CFR that Israel is an important U.S. ally. He believes in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and says he would work with both sides, but that a deal is up to the two parties. He pledges to restore aid funding to the Palestinians cut by the Trump administration.
  • He says the U.S. Embassy in Israel, moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by Trump, should return to Tel Aviv. Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.
  • He calls Iran “a destabilizing force” in the region but is against military action, which he says would lead to another war without benefit or a clear exit for the United States. 
  • He calls Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement “a massive strategic mistake” but says he wouldn’t rejoin it in its current form; rather, he would work to negotiate a new deal.
  • He advocates a “reset” in U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia in the wake of the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and says Washington must “take action” against Riyadh.
  • He says he would cut off all U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which he calls one of the worst humanitarian crises of all time. 

North Korea

Unlike much of the rest of the Democratic field, Yang says he would be willing to negotiate with Kim Jong-un’s government without preconditions in order to lower tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

  • Yang told CFR that his goal in North Korea would be “complete, verifiable, and irreversible” denuclearization. He says he is willing to take an incremental approach, considering some relaxation of sanctions for concessions from Pyongyang.
  • He has approved of Trump’s meetings with Kim, saying that any effort to reduce tensions is a positive step.

Russia

Yang calls Russia the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat in the wake of Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

  • Yang told CFR that Ukraine is at the front lines of pushing back on Russian aggression after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, and that he would expand security cooperation with Kyiv.
  • He says he would work more closely with NATO to help Ukraine and Russia’s other neighbors defend themselves.
  • He advocates expanding sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and other members of his government to “pressure the country to play by international rules” and deter future action against the United States and its allies.
  • He promises that he would tell Russia that “the days of meddling in American elections are over,” and that continuing interference will be interpreted as an “act of hostility and aggression.”

Trade

Yang emphasizes the role of automation and other technological changes, rather than trade, in causing manufacturing job loss, and says that his proposal for universal basic income will help workers hurt by trade to transition to other roles.

  • Yang told CFR that trade deals have “inarguably” hurt some Americans by driving the outsourcing of jobs. However, he says the bigger culprit is automation and that the solution is not protectionism but rather the redistribution of the gains of trade to workers.
  • He says that the trade war between the United States and China is hurting both sides, but that some of Trump’s aims, such as ending the theft of intellectual property, are worthwhile. 
  • He says he would not immediately remove Trump’s tariffs, keeping them until the United States can “come to a deal that addresses the concerns of American companies.”
  • He pledges to reenter the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Barack Obama administration’s signature Asia-Pacific trade deal, from which Trump withdrew. He says such a deal is needed to counter the influence of China, but that he would push for stronger provisions on labor, the environment, and data protection.
  • He says all trade deals must address climate change, and he promises to end special treatment for fossil fuel industries. He says Trump’s revamped North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) must be renegotiated to improve environmental standards.

Venezuela and Latin America

Yang says that the United States should work with allies to press Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to step down, but he opposes military action.

  • Yang told CFR that he supports Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the rightful interim president, but that he opposes a military intervention to remove Maduro from power. 
  • Instead, he says, Washington should work with regional allies to pressure Maduro to step down, using economic sanctions and offers of amnesty specifically targeted at Maduro’s inner circle. 
  • He supports increased aid to Venezuela, as well as to neighboring countries that have been dealing with an influx of Venezuelan refugees.

This project was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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