Andrew Yang: Presidential Primary Candidate


The following is a New
Hampshire primary 2020 special presentation. The Exchange Candidate Forums
from NHPR in partnership with New Hampshire PBS. From New Hampshire Public
Radio, I’m Laura Knoy, and this is “The Exchange.” Today, we continue our series
of presidential primary 2020 candidate forums and for this
show on Thursday, November 7, we’re talking with democratic
presidential candidate, Andrew Yang. He’s with us before a live
audience in NHPR’s Studio D. [applause] Our questions today will
include some of the many that we receive from listeners. So thank you for
your contributions. Also, I’m joined by NHPR’s
senior political reporter, Josh Rogers. He and I will both ask
questions of Mr. Yang. And Andrew Yang, it’s
nice to meet you. Thank you for being here. It’s great to be here. Thank you so much for having me. I love being in New Hampshire. Josh, let’s start with you. All right, Mr. Yang,
let’s start big. What’s your view of
the role government should play in our lives
besides giving everyone over the age of
18 $1,000 a month? [yang chuckles] I love this question. To me, the government’s
responsibility is to solve the biggest
problems and address the biggest needs that don’t have any market
incentive attached to them. And I’m a parent. I talk a lot about how my
wife is at home with our two boys, one of whom is autistic. And there’s obviously no market
value attached to her work, despite the fact that we know
it’s the most important work that anyone’s going to do. The same is true with
educating our children. I believe the same is true with
keeping us healthy, keeping our water and air clean. There aren’t market
incentives attached to some of these
things and that’s where the government has to fill
in to address that need for all of us. So you’ve written that quote,
“without dramatic change, the best case scenario is
a hyper stratified society like something out
of “The Hunger Games” or Guatemala with an
occasional mass shooting. The worst case is widespread
despair, violence, and the utter collapse of
our society and economy.” I’ll let that sink
in for a moment. A survey that NHPR
took of listeners indicate that a lot
of voters this year are seeking a positive healing
vision from our next president. I mean, you see a pretty grim
future without dramatic change. Do you think that this is
speaking to what voters want? Well, I believe that that is the
vision that we have to prevent. It’s one reason why I love
being here in New Hampshire, because you all control
the future of the country. If you direct the country
towards a more positive vision of our future, then we can make
that vision of reality very, very quickly. This is the most
extreme winner take all economy in our history. And we’re now going
through the greatest economic transformation in
our country’s history, what experts are calling the
fourth Industrial Revolution. In my view, it is
the main reason Donald Trump won that
we automated away 4 million manufacturing jobs
that were largely centered in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania,
Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, all the swing states
he needed to win. You all lost about 40,000
manufacturing jobs, but you did it a bit earlier. And that devastated
many communities in the northern part
of New Hampshire. That wave then ripped a hole
in many, many Midwestern communities. And I spent seven years working
in many of these communities, so I saw it firsthand. And what happened to
those manufacturing jobs is now shifting to retail jobs,
call center jobs, truck driving jobs, fast food jobs, and on
and on through the economy. If we do not evolve in
the way we see ourselves, and our work, and our value,
then our very bleak future does await. But it does not
need to be that way. And that is the message
of my campaign– that New Hampshire can
create a new way forward for the rest of the country. I mean, what’s a
timetable on that vision? Well, the manufacturing job
loss has already been happening. And again, we automated away
4 million manufacturing jobs over the last 15 years or so. And now 30% of your
stores and malls are closing in the
next four years. And that’s not just in New
Hampshire– that is nationwide. Now why is that? It’s because Amazon is
soaking up $20 billion in business every single
year and paying zero in taxes while doing it. So the biggest misconception
is that what I’m talking about, this fourth
Industrial Revolution, is somehow in the
distant future. It is not. It has been going on
for 15, 20 years now, and it’s about to accelerate. And when you look and
you see your Main Street store is closing forever, it
doesn’t seem like an automation story because it’s not
like a robot went and took that retail clerk’s job. But if you go to the Amazon
fulfillment center that is putting that store
out of business, it’s wall to wall
robots and machines. But I mean, what is your view
of basic human nature if we’re in such a precarious
state that we have let, in your estimation,
the logic of markets so dominate our
culture that we’re facing this kind of
apocalyptic vision? What do you believe about
the nature of Americans and where we’ve let
our politics go? Most people who’ve heard
about me and my campaign know that I’m championing a
freedom dividend of $1,000 a month for every American
adult starting at age 18. And when you hear
that, it sounds literally too good to be true. But this is not my idea
and it’s not a new idea. Martin Luther King
championed it in the 1960s. It is what he was fighting
for when he who was assassinated in 1968. And it was so
mainstream it passed the US House of Representatives
twice in 1971 under Nixon. So when you’re asking how
have we gone to this point– my wife and I have had the
same conversation– how is it that what was a mainstream
policy endorsed by 1,000 economists and passed
the US House now seems really radical, and
dramatic, and extreme when we’re talking about it in 2019? What happened
between 1971 and now is that we were all
pushed to a point where we started to confuse economic
value and human value. Where we said, hey, if the
market thinks you’re worthless, then you are worthless. It’s why we have
discussions around trying to retrain coal miners and
truck drivers to be coders. Which makes no sense
on the face of it, but we’re so brainwashed
into thinking that if you don’t have economic
value, you don’t have value. That we didn’t contort
ourselves in ridiculous ways to try and push someone to
a point where they still have economic value, even
when that doesn’t make sense on a human level or
an economic level. Let’s get a little more clarity
on the universal basic income, Mr. Yang. Again, $1,000 a month
to every American adult over the age of 18 up to 64– could we just clarify that? Up until your expiration,
so it goes forever. And it would be the greatest
expansion of social security benefits in our country’s
history, in large part because we’re facing a retiree
crisis in this country, where tens of millions of
Americans will be working until the day they die. With the freedom dividend
on top of social security we can actually build an
economy that works for Americans to be able retire with dignity. OK, so from age
18 up until death. What about people who receive
other government benefits, besides social security, Mr.
Yang– food stamps, welfare and so forth. Would they also get those
benefits plus the $1,000? So the freedom dividend
is universal and opt in. And it stacks on top of things
like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and housing benefits. But if you do decide to opt
into the freedom dividend, then you’re choosing to
forego certain cash and cash like benefits from food stamps,
and heating oil subsidies, and things that are meant
to put cash in your hands to buy certain things. The goal is not to
leave anyone worse off, that’s why it’s opt in. And I would not touch
existing programs, but you would make a choice. I’ve talked to people who are
on certain benefit programs now, and they are very often are
very anxious about losing their benefits because they
haven’t filed something correctly or they have a case
manager that checks up on them. There’s a lot of stress
associated with that. And many of them would vastly
prefer an unconditional cash benefit that they could
spend how they see fit. We’ve got lots of questions
from listeners on this and I want to share a
few with you, Mr. Yang. James asks, what do you say to
critics who say your freedom dividend will cause inflation? Ken sent us a similar question. How would you keep cost
of living increases, especially rent
increases, Ken says, from swallowing up
universal income? Can you respond please
to those concerns that if you pump all this cash
suddenly into the economy, prices will naturally go up? Of course. I’d love to. So you all remember
voting for the $4 trillion bailout of Wall Street
and the financial crisis? I don’t. None of us voted for it. Does anyone remember anyone
concerned about inflation during that time? And lo and behold, there
was not meaningful inflation despite the fact that our
government printed $4 trillion for the banks. You put buying
power into our hands and it will make us stronger,
healthier less stressed out, improve our relationships,
improve Main Street economies here in New Hampshire
and across the country. There are three core
causes of inflation right now in American life. Unfortunately,
they’re the ones that make us the most miserable. They are rent, education,
and health care. Those three things have gone
up in price dramatically over the last number of years. What has not gone up? Pretty much everything else. Clothing, food, media,
electronics, automobiles, have either stayed the same
in price, gotten cheaper, or gotten better. You don’t think manufacturers,
landlords would say, hey, everybody’s
got an extra $1,000, let’s jack up the price a little
bit, they’ll never notice? So for landlords– if
a landlord– if you’re living in a rental
right now, you get an extra $1,000 a month,
and the landlord is like, you, I’m going to
stick it to you, I’m going to jack up
your rent by $600, then the first thing
you do is you look up and say, OK, let me see
if other landlords are not going to try and gouge me. And then let’s say a real
landlord tried to gouge you, if it reaches that extreme,
then you’d look around and say, well, there
are four of us, we’re getting $1,000 a
month, with $4,000 a month, we can actually buy
that fixer upper. And then you can take
upstairs, I’ll take downstairs. This actually makes
us harder to exploit and harder to push around for
landlords or abusive employers. This improves our bargaining
power because $1,000 a month is portable, it’s passive, it
goes with us wherever we want. And if they push too
hard, then we can walk. A couple more questions
on this and then I’ll throw it back to Josh. People asked us also,
Mr. Yang, why this has no income eligibility attached. They said why should Jeff
Bezos or Oprah Winfrey get $1,000 a month? They don’t seem
especially needy. So Alaska has had a dividend
for almost 40 years now where everyone in Alaska gets
between $1,000 and $2,000 a year, no questions asked. Because of the oil. Because of the oil dividend. And what I’m saying
to you all here in New Hampshire and
everyone around the country is that oil is to Alaska what
technology is to the country. That technology is the
oil of the 21st century. Our data is now
worth more than oil. Does anyone remember getting
your data check in the mail? No. Where did the data checks go? Amazon, Facebook, Google,
and the trillion dollar tech companies that are paying
zero or near-zero in taxes. So what Alaska’s done for
the last 40 years to me is a fantastic template. And the richest Alaskan
gets the oil dividend, the poorest Alaskan gets it. And what that does
is it destigmatize, it turns it not from a
rich to poor transfer, but a right of citizenship. It makes it so we don’t
have to check up on you and try and figure out how
much you made this year relative to last year. And my funding mechanism
would literally generate billions of
dollars from the Jeff Bezos of the world. And so if we try and send
Jeff $1,000 a month just to remind him he’s
an American, that’s immaterial in the
scheme of things, particularly when you
weigh it against the fact that we would make
this a universal right. Well, in an era of concern about
exploding deficits and debt, you know, it seems a
legitimate question to say, is it a waste of
taxpayer money to give it to super rich people? Well, fundamentally,
these are our resources. And so Jeff still
is an American. But the problem we have
with our deficit to me is primarily a revenue problem. Where if you have a trillion
dollar tech company like Amazon paying zero in
taxes, then of course you get to look
around saying, OK, like, where’s the money going,
where is the money going? They’re so powerful
that they’ve managed to obscure the fact that
they’re paying zero in taxes while the rest of us
are trying to figure out how to pay the country’s bills. So if we put a
mechanism in place where you all, we all, are
getting our tiny fair share of every Amazon sale, every
Google search, every robot truck mile, every Facebook
ad, and eventually, every artificial
intelligence unit of work, we can generate
hundreds of billions of dollars in new revenue
very, very quickly immediately. Enough to pay for
this dividend that would flow through
our communities and build a trickle up economy
from our people, our families, and our communities. So it’s a revenue problem
more than an expense problem. And maybe we’ll touch on
this a little bit later because I do want
to hand it back to Josh, but one last question. You’ve talked a lot about this,
$10,000 a year, $1,000 a month. Inflation adjusted too,
so it ratchets itself up based upon what the prices do. So as one of the sort of ways
that you would help people displaced by
automation, that vision that Josh painted
earlier, but as you know, Mr. Yang, $12,000 a
year, not very much to live on. So what other ideas do
you have for reducing the possible negative effects
of automation that you see? Well, this is an all
hands on deck situation. I am for education and
retraining programs, but the studies have
clearly shown that they will work on 0 to 20% of workers. And if you go to the
average truckstop and you have a clipboard
saying, hey, how would you like to get retrained as
a logistics specialist, they’d be more likely to punch
you in the face than sign your clipboard, honestly? You’d get like eight punches
for every two signatures. So we need to
retrain, yes, but we have to be realistic
about what that means. The big picture is that we
have to actually reframe what our economic
measurements are directing our energies towards. So right now, what are
the three measurements we use for our economy? Gross domestic product,
stock market prices, and headline unemployment rate. And these three numbers
are not the right numbers. One joke I tell
is, how many of you were excited about GDP when
you woke up this morning? No one cares. GDP is at record highs. Also at record highs
in this country– suicides, drug overdoses,
stress, financial insecurity, student loan debt. It’s gotten so bad that our
country’s life expectancy has declined for
three years in a row. First time that’s
happened in 100 years. Last time it happened
was the Spanish flu of 1918, a global pandemic
that killed millions. And now it’s declining
because suicides and drug overdoses have both
overtaken vehicle deaths as cause of death. So if we actually changed the
measuring sticks of our economy to be our own health and life
expectancy, our mental health and freedom from substance
abuse, clean air and clean water, how our kids
are doing, then you end up with a whole different
set of jobs and opportunities for people that are pushing
us in these directions, and solving the real
problems of our time. I know we have some questions
for you later about opioids, but I want to turn
it back to you, Josh. I’m going to shift
to some of your ideas about how to reform
our political system. You know, on your
website you say you’d like to end Super PACs
and drown out their influence, but as you know, Super PAC has
formed Math PAC to benefit you. And when you were in New
Hampshire last month, you said you knew
very little about it, but you also said,
quote, “I just hope they’re in line with my
vision for the country, and that they’ll
invest accordingly.” How do you square your position
with that statement regarding the Super PAC that’s formed
to benefit your campaign? We know exactly
what’s going on, Josh, where our government
is now bought and paid for by various corporate
interests and lobbying interests. That’s one reason
why New Hampshire is so important, is that you and
you alone can flush the pipes. My campaign raised $10
million last quarter in increments of only $30 each. So my fans are almost
as cheap as Bernie’s. [laughter] And none of that was
corporate PAC money. I’m here to try and
solve the problems. My flagship proposal is to
give every American voter 100 democracy dollars that you
could use towards campaigns and candidates. And that would flush
out the lobbyist cash by a factor of 8 to 1. That’s how we actually get our
government back in our hands responding to us
instead of the money. In the interim, we have
this corrupt flawed system, and we have to win so
that we can actually make the changes that
the American people want and deserve. So you don’t believe you can
win while renouncing the Super PAC obviously not
under your control, but others in the
Democratic primary have denounced Super PACs, some
have kind of waffled on that. But you think that you’ll
live with the system and then flush upon election,
but until then, you’ll hold your nose? I’m running my campaign,
and I’m very, very clear on what we need to clean up
about our corrupt system. If other Americans look up and
say they want to help, like, I’ve no control over that. I genuinely don’t know much
about any of the organizations that are trying to
help the campaign but I’m looking at
it saying, look, we have this messed
up system right now. If someone wants to use that
messed up system to help, I’m just hopeful that they
are aligned with my vision. And as for other ways you
hope to curb corruption, you’ve talked about bumping
up the pay of government regulators. You’ve talked about making
the presidency a job that will pay $4 million a year. I mean, how big a
problem do you think the revolving door is
in terms of the way it shapes our policies? We know it’s a terrible
problem, where regulators just check a box then go back
to industry two years later and nothing ever changes. That’s why we have to make being
a regulator a one way street, where you’re not going
to go back and work for industry afterwards. All right, well,
coming up, we’ll talk about climate change,
opioids, and a lot more. Stay with us. This is “The Exchange” on
New Hampshire Public Radio. [music playing] You’re watching Primary
2020, The Exchange Candidate Forums from NHPR, produced in
partnership with New Hampshire PBS. This is “The Exchange.” I’m Laura Knoy. Today, It’s the latest in our
Primary 2020 Candidate Forum series, and we’re talking
with Democrat, Andrew Yang. NHPR’s senior political
reporter, Josh Rogers, is also with me. And Mr. Yang, let’s
turn to climate change. I know this is a
big issue for you. I looked at your plan. It is long and detailed
with ambitious goals to get the country to a
totally green economy by 2049. What’s the first step, because
there are a lot of steps in here? The first step is we have
to put a price on pollution. One of the biggest
problems in American life is there are these
externalities is that companies are essentially
pushing onto us, the public. And then they take home the
profits and we bear the costs. So the first thing
we have to do is we have to actually put a
price on carbon emissions. So if you pollute,
then you pay back into the system that we can
then invest in a green economy, and provide an incentive for
you to lower your emissions as quickly as possible. The second big move
you make is you stop subsidizing fossil fuel
companies to tens of billions of dollars that they’ve
been enjoying for decades, and move those subsidies
and resources to wind, and solar, and
renewable energy sources so that we can make progress
in the right direction, and start reducing
our emissions to try and reach zero
emissions by 2049. So step number one, carbon tax. Yes. And I understand again, that
the plan has a lot to it. If I could ask you, though,
about the carbon tax, because that’s become
an important issue I think in this
presidential primary, you start off with $40 a ton. It eventually it gets
up to $100 a ton. How are you going to explain
to the American people that this won’t hurt
them, because as you know, most low income people
spend more of their budgets on energy? Well, this would be
essentially zero imPACt on the average
consumer’s energy bills. The $40 a ton is
literally for people who are emitting thousands and
thousands of tons every year, unless the average American
has a smokestack on their– [yang laughs] on their roof. But the cost is passed
on to consumers. And those costs will help
make us greener over time. And because you can’t have
zero cost of pollution– and I was with Ned
Reynolds, who’s an entrepreneur here in New
Hampshire in Portsmouth, and they’ve been
installing solar panels throughout the state and beyond. They have hundreds of employees. And that becomes a
win-win-win for everyone, because it obviously
lowers emissions, but it also saves you
on your heating bills, and makes the
community stronger. So that’s the kind
of move that we can make that will make
it so people’s costs are lower, not higher. Last thing we want
to do is have it hit the middle class or people
who are working every day. If the US applied this
pretty hefty carbon tax, how much do you think,
Mr. Yang, polluting industries might say, forget
the US, we’re going to build our factories overseas
that don’t have these taxes. So the planet’s net
carbon might not change, even though it
wouldn’t be emitted here. Is that a concern,
something you envisioned? If you go up to 100 bucks a ton? Well, the 100 bucks, it
takes a while to get to. But this is a massive issue,
because 85% of the carbon emissions are actually
outside of our borders. So even if we were to get
ourselves under control very, very quickly, the
earth will continue to warm because the 85%
will continue to increase. Right now, China is going to
developing countries in Africa and saying, hey, I’ve got
a power plant for you, it burns coal. What do you think? And then what does the
African governments say? Great, because they
just want energy. They don’t care what it burns. And so if we want to combat
climate change globally, we’re going to have to be
there at that table and say, why not pass on the coal
burning power plant, and instead, take
these solar panels, take these wind turbines,
and we will subsidize them enough so that this is
actually a better way to go? That’s the kind
of conversation we need to be having not just
with our own industry, but with societies around
the world if we’re actually going to get our arms
around this problem. So how do you convince
that African nation to take American solar
panels versus Chinese coal? You speak to them
in terms of costs. Because frankly, they’re not
going to care about anything but which is cheaper. And so we in America
subsidize things all the time on an export basis. We need to subsidize
things that will actually help make the planet
more sustainable, and make it so that
it’s a no brainer for that African
government to opt towards solar rather than coal. I want to ask you a couple of
questions about nuclear power. You do say in your
plan nuclear needs to be part of this
equation, describing it as a stop gap on the way to more
reliance on other alternatives like solar. And you call, Mr.
Yang, for $50 billion in research and development
for thorium-based molten salt reactors and nuclear
fusion reactors. So to me, this sounds like
a major investment, not a stopgap. We consume a lot of
energy in this country. And unless we want to
have massive changes in our way of life during
this time period, in my view, nuclear needs to
be on the table. And thorium-based reactors
have incredible benefits relative to the
current technologies. Thorium is not
intrinsically radioactive. It degrades much
faster than uranium, you can’t make
weapons out of it. And so it has a
wealth of potential to help make us more
sustainable more quickly. To me, if you’re
in a crisis, which we are in terms
of climate change, then you can’t leave
anything off the table. And that to me includes nuclear
and next generation nuclear. Is that big investment
though, $50 billion– is that a stopgap? I guess I want you to explain
a little bit more what you mean by stopgap. Is nuclear part of the
long term Andrew Yang vision or the short
term Andrew Yang vision? It’s part of the
set of solutions that we need to consider. And anyone who looks
at what we need to do on climate change
and energy consumption will say that we need to
do more of what’s working. And so if we successfully
implement next generation nuclear power plants,
and they’re working, and they’re not presenting
a problem in terms of waste disposal, then
we would keep them. If we have better
alternatives like solar panels are actually meeting
our society’s needs, then that’s the
direction we would go. But anyone who looks
at this who says we know exactly
what the makeup is going to be decades in the
future actually doesn’t know. What we’re all doing is
pushing in this direction, and then we’re going to
adopt more and invest more in what works. Go ahead, Josh, back to you. I want to talk to you– we’ve already talked
about a bunch of big ideas you have from the UBI, to
your climate change plans, to some of the reforms
around our political system. And you know, I’ve been
to a lot of your events, and I’ve talked to
a bunch of voters, who have checked you out. And a lot of them– I haven’t seen you there, Josh. You’re sort of– Well, you
know, I’m very inconspicuous. I guess so! A lot of voters I’ve talked
to have told me something along the lines of this– Andrew Young’s got a lot of
interesting ideas, you know, gives kind of a
heck of a Ted Talk. But why should I believe
he’s capable of marshaling the kind of movement
that one would need to put these ideas into place? What do you say to a person
who has those feelings? Well, that’s one reason why
it’s so tremendous being here in New Hampshire, is
that you all can, again, take a vision the
American people, and have that vision become a
revolution very, very quickly. I want everyone to play out
Andrew Yang inauguration 2021, where everyone will know
that the reason I won is because I want to
put more economic buying power into our hands
into the people’s hands. And that’s the best way to
improve our way of life. And when voters ask,
how are we going to get these ideas across
the finish line in Congress, Democrats and
progressives will be thrilled to put a
dividend in our hands, because it makes children
and families stronger, improves our mental health,
will improve our education and graduation rates
very, very dramatically. But then Republicans
and conservatives will look up and
say, wait a minute, the only state that’s
done this is Alaska, and that was a deep
red conservative state. And conservatives do
not dislike buying power and economic freedom
in Americans hands. What they dislike the most
is a giant bureaucracy making everyone’s decisions. So this is the kind
of thing we can 100% get through
Congress, because this is historically bipartisan. This is the kind of realignment
of our political ideas that we need to actually end
the partisan gridlock in DC. And it’s going to take
someone like me who is coming at it from a new
angle and approach that’s not left or right, but forward. But so what about you, though,
can catalyze this, I guess, is my question? What about you– what
in your experience would lead people to believe
that you can be the person to make this happen? Well, now as we’re
sitting here I’m either fourth, fifth, or
sixth in most national polls. And I would suggest to
you all that it’s probably more difficult to go
from total anonymity to fourth, fifth, or sixth
the national polls than from fourth, fifth, or
sixth to number one. The latter happens all of the
time in politics, in sports, in any endeavor. And so we’ve already
done the hard part. Now is the easy part. The easy part of
letting people know that we can rewrite the rules
of the 21st century economy to work for us, to work for
you, to work for our families, to work for our kids. And that we actually don’t
have much of a choice, because if we keep
going down this road, when artificial intelligence
comes out of the lab and gets rid of the 2 and 1/2 million
call center workers who make 14 bucks an hour, when the robot
trucks hit your highways here in New Hampshire– and that
doesn’t just hit the truckers, that hits the truck
stops, and motels, and diners that rely upon the
truckers getting out and having a meal– like, this is the future. This is the present. The people in New
Hampshire are smart enough to see what is going on. It started with the
manufacturing plants. It’s now on the Main Streets. And we’re going to stop it
before it hits your highways. I’ve never heard a candidate
say the easy part is going to be getting from the
middle of the pack to the top. So this is new. It is the easy part, because you
haven’t had many candidates who went from again, like, civilian
to fourth, fifth, or sixth. I mean, I’ve
already outperformed what, half a dozen sitting
senators, governors, congresspeople. It’s because I understand
what the real problems are and I know how to solve them. Well, one thing– I’ve read your book, and I
thought it was interesting, and you said at one point
describe your ideology is one of pragmatism. And you know one thing that
the book seems a bit thin on is the pragmatic part
about how to actually get these policies through. Congress is a tough
place to work. I mean, have you ever
tried to get people to sponsor bills
based on your ideas, do it by referenda at the
state level, even you know, on a municipal
level– have you ever tried to get any of
these policies in place beyond getting up on a
stage and telling people how great they are? Well, I did start a
multi-million dollar national nonprofit
from scratch that then worked with
various governments throughout the
country and I’m also realistic about what
is going on in DC. I have been to DC
and it is broken. And it’s going to take a lot to
pull people together and start solving the problems
that frankly, got Donald Trump into office. I am the last
person who would say that I’m going to go and
run DC like a business because DC is not a business. They’re very, very
different things. It’s actually much
more analogous to a nonprofit, which
again, I founded and led for seven years, where you
have thousands of constituents, and you have to galvanize
energy around a vision, and have people see that it’s
in their own self-interest to head in the same direction. So as your president, I’m going
to have a whole team of people that have very deep
relationships and familiarity with Capitol Hill. Because we need to get things
done and solve the problems. And that’s not going to
happen, as you suggest, through just one person. It’s going to be
a team of people that have a combination
of both new ideas and approaches, and
the relationships, and know how on Capitol
Hill to get them into law. When you launched
Venture for America, I believe the goal was to
create 100,000 jobs by 2025, and as far as I can
tell, we’re now at around you know maybe a little bit
more than 3,000 jobs created out of that. So you know, how do
you account for that? Well, one it’s not 2025 yet. NHPR’s True, but were you expecting it
to be at 3,400 jobs right now? But two, one of the reasons
I’m running for president is I realized that as proud
as I am of all the work we are doing at Venture for
America, that we were pouring water into a bathtub that
has a giant hole ripped in the bottom. That our economy is evolving
in unprecedented ways that’s making more and more
of us economically extraneous. And so the fact that
Venture for America created several
thousand jobs, again, I’m incredibly proud of it. But I realize that the
macro changes in front of us were much more serious than even
I’d realized in the beginning. Mr. Yang, if you were elected
president, as you know, you’d be commander
in chief, so let’s talk about foreign policy. You said you favored
diplomacy, working with allies. How would you deal
with those quote, from your website, “those
who would work against us?” And by the way, who
falls into that category? Unfortunately, right now,
the global world order that America helped
establish and has been benefiting from for
decades is now falling apart. And to me, the
order of events was that we allowed our
communities to fall apart, and then we got Donald
Trump as our president. And then Donald Trump has become
an erratic, and unpredictable, and unreliable actor
in world affairs. And now other countries
are looking up saying, well, I guess at
this point, we just have to start looking
out for ourselves or we’re not even
sure America is going to live up to its commitments. So to reverse this, it’s not
going to be fast or easy. The first thing we
have to do has actually become strong and whole at home. Because you cannot project a
sustained and reliable foreign policy if you’re falling apart
and you don’t have any kind of unity or vision at home. And then you have
to go to your allies and say, look, we’re in
it for the long haul. We’re sorry about that
four year aberration that was the Trump presidency. But we turned it around
in an awful hurry, and we’re going to be
good to our commitments. We know that the more
we invest in diplomacy, the less we have to
invest in ammunition. And that’s just not me
speaking, that’s James Mattis, the former Secretary of Defense. And so the vision is to
let the rest of the world know that we are
open for business if that business
is solving problems through diplomacy,
relationships, and partnerships. So there’s the allies part. But on your website,
you do say, you know, there are those who
would quote, “work against us.” Who do you see is working
against American interests and how would you manage
them as president? We have a very, very tough
competitive 21st century economic environment. I’m not someone who has
a zero sum game where if another country
is getting richer, that’s somehow bad for us. So the biggest threats
I worry about in terms of working against us
are non-state actors, loose nuclear material,
climate change, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence. And one thing we don’t
talk enough about is the proliferation of
drones for military use. There are now tens of
thousands of military drones in the hands of dozens of both
state and non-state actors, and these drones are
much harder to defend against than to use offensively. If you can imagine a
drone the size of a vacuum cleaner with explosives attached
to it or even radioactive material or chemical
warfare, can you imagine trying to
make an international, like, let’s say a military
base fully protected from that kind of threat? It’s very, very difficult.
So these are the things that I believe are the greatest
threats of the 21st century. And I believe you need
a commander in chief that actually
understands those threats and understands
that there’s going to be a great deal of innovation
necessary to keep Americans safe in the days to come. Well, speaking of non-state
actors, the terrorist group, ISIS, has already
named a new leader since the death of its
former leader in a raid by US forces, as I’m
sure you know, Mr. Yang. And there’s still
reportedly, thousands of ISIS fighters in Syria and
who knows where else. What would a Yang administration
approach be toward this threat? Well, first, I would never
abruptly pull our troops out in a way that left our
allies in the lurch and allowed some of our
enemies to get stronger. The goal is to work
with the governments that we have relationships
within that region to contain suppress, defeat,
and destroy ISIS over time. Of course, they’re going to have
a new leader, because that’s the way any organization works. You take one person out
and then someone else will rise in their place. And so this is going to
be an ongoing conflict. I don’t have any silver
bullets or easy answers except to continue to
engage, and defeat, and destroy over time. Just broadly, Mr. Yang, how
would you describe the bar that you would set as president
for sending American troops into harm’s way? This is a sort of an
existential question that we’ve been discussing
with all the candidates. I have a three part test for
sending our men and women the armed forces into a
foreign theater in harm’s way. Number one, there has to be
a vital American national interest at stake
or the potential to avert a clear
humanitarian catastrophe. So that needs to be one
of those two things. Number two, there needs to
be a clearly defined frame, where we can say very honestly,
looking at our soldiers in the eyes, and
say, this is how long you’re going to be
there, and when you’re going to be able to leave. Not one of these open
ended commitments, not something amorphous. And the third is we need to have
our allies engaged and willing to join us in this. If these three
things are in place, then I would consider
military intervention. Coming up more of
our conversation with democratic presidential
candidate, Andrew Yang. We’ll talk about immigration,
guns, criminal justice reform, and a lot more. Stay with us. This is “The Exchange” on
New Hampshire Public Radio. [music playing] You’re watching Primary
2020, The Exchange Candidate Forums from NHPR, produced in
partnership with New Hampshire PBS. This is the exchange,
I’m Laura Knoy. Today, our series of Primary
2020 Candidate Forums continues with democratic
presidential candidate, Andrew Yang. NHPR’s senior
political reporter Josh Rogers is also with me
asking questions of Mr. Yang. And Josh, I’ll turn
it back to you. OK, let’s move to opioids. Here’s a multipart question
we received from a listener. How are you going to address
our addiction problem that’s killing people every day? Are we finally ready to hold
the pharmaceutical companies liable? How are you going to handle
all the kids growing up with parents either dead,
in jail, or actively using, and the grandparents being
their main caregiver? How do you deal with
all those things? This makes me so angry, because
the opiate crisis is a disease of capitalism run amok. Purdue Pharma made
tens of billions of dollars off of OxyContin
and then they paid a 2% fine. And meanwhile, families
and communities have been destroyed
around the country. That’s blood money,
we need to get that money back put it towards
helping make our people well. But we have to acknowledge
too, that this is not solely a money problem, this
is a human problem. If you put money to work, it
lowers one of the barriers, but we know people
will be struggling with addiction for years and
many people will not recover. So if the government screwed
up on such an epic level that we allowed this plague to
take place among our people, then it’s up to us to
try and help people recover the right ways. So number one, clawback all
the ill gotten blood money from the drug
companies and put it to work in communities so
that if you need treatment, you can access it. But number two, we should follow
the example of other countries who’ve had these drug abuse
and overdose epidemics, and decriminalize
opiates for personal use. So if you get caught with
the drugs, we take the drugs, and then we refer you to
treatment or counseling, and not to a prison cell. This would help people
actually get the help that they need and not
fear that their lives are going to be destroyed if
they’re caught with the drugs. If you’re dealing,
you go to jail. But if you’re an
addict, we get you help. And when other countries
have done this, this has lowered overdose
rates and abuse rates in those countries
very, very quickly. We can do the same thing here. We have to say, look, this
is not a personal failing. This was a structural
systemic failing. And it’s not your
fault that you’re struggling with addiction. We have to be able to help you. So what would be the threshold
for the amount of opioids that would be legal? Well, there are clearly
defined thresholds where you get entered into
a drug trafficking statute. So anything below a
level where you’re in a dealing and trafficking
statute, and it’s for personal use. And so this would
not include cocaine? This would just be
opioids or would this also include cocaine? This would be opioids only. Because we all
know what happened. The OxyContin addiction
then metastasized into heroin and fentanyl,
because those drugs are cheaper and easier to get than Oxy. And you’re not going
to believe– no, you will believe this. You’ll believe anything
about these drug companies. But Purdue Pharma said that
OxyContin was non addictive until it actually
helped them make money to say it was addictive. And so then they change
their tune and said, actually, it’s super addictive. And they knew the
truth the whole time. Those people should
be in jail today. With thousands of people
suffering from drug issues, there’s been a real
spike in industry regarding addiction treatment. How would your administration
group about regulating that end of it, because there are
big problems there as well? Well, we need to again, invest
in the things that work. And to the extent that there’s
a service provider that is somehow profiteering
and not helping people, then we have to Identify
those actors and say, look, this is not where either the
public’s resources or family’s resources should be heading. But one of the things I’m
passionate about, as you can probably tell, is making
our mental health and freedom from substance abuse a
core measurement of what’s going on in our communities. And if you had
those measurements, then it would be much easier
to Identify what’s working and what’s not. I mean, among the things you
talk about in criminal justice reform is legalizing marijuana,
outlawing for profit prisons. Where does criminal
justice reform rank for you as a priority
if you become president? It’s very high, because
it’s destroying lives. To me, marijuana should be
legal all around the country. It’s a much safer way to manage
pain than many of the things that we’re currently
making available to people. But the criminal
justice system is also an emblem of how we’ve become
overly punitive as a country. And not just towards the
people who unfortunately run afoul of our
criminal justice system, we’re throwing people
in jail for not being able to make bail. We’re essentially
criminalization poverty in many communities. But we’re also punishing
ourselves in various ways, where we’re falling prey again,
to this logic where it’s like, oh, if you fall
through the cracks, it’s somehow your fault.
And oftentimes, there are these massive forces arrayed
against that– those people that make getting ahead
next to impossible. So we have to
address what’s going on in our criminal
justice system, become more rehabilitative,
and forgiving, and focus on integrating
people back into society in productive ways. I’m going to suggest that if
you’ve got $1,000 a month when you come out of jail,
you’d be like wow, things have gotten
better since I went in. But also, it would be a
very powerful incentive for you to stay out of jail,
because if you’re in jail, then we spend the money
on your incarceration, you don’t get it. And so now you come out of
jail with $1,000 a month, and people will actually be
to see you when you get home. [laughter] So I want to quickly
touch on guns. Pretty much every Democratic
calling for new limits on guns. What strikes you is
reasonable in terms of efforts to curb guns in our country? And what, if any, idea
strike you as going to far? I’m a parent, and
got two young kids. And one of our son’s
schools notified us that they’ll be doing the first
of four active shooter drills this week. Maybe it was this week. And those active shooter
drills demonstrably make our kids more anxious, more
stressed out, more confused, and more uncertain. And they do not demonstrably
make them any safer. So I would end
active shooter drills or make them optional based upon
the parents in our community. Because saying that
we’re going to keep our kids safe through
these drills like, actually does not
make any sense. In terms of guns
and gun rights, I am for the common sense gun laws
that most Americans agree on at this point– universal background
checks and red flag laws. And making it harder for
people to get their hands on weapons that can kill
large numbers of Americans very quickly. But to me, the unspoken truth
is that almost 2/3 of gun deaths are suicides. And so we need to
be working on trying to make our community stronger
from the ground up, which includes what’s going on
in families, and schools, and the economy. All of these things
Contribute to people making tragic
irrevocable choices that destroy their own lives or the
lives of our fellow Americans. I want to ask you a
couple of quick questions about immigration, Mr. Yang. You’ve said sending the 11
to 12 million people already here illegally– sending them back is
unreasonable, unworkable. But you’ve also said these
and these individuals tried to circumvent the legal
immigration system into the US, and any pathway to
citizenship for them must reflect this fact. What do you mean
by that, exactly? We have over 12 million people
who are undocumented here in this country. And pretending we can somehow
deport 12 million people is unrealistic on many levels. It’s inhumane, it would
destroy regional economies. It’s unworkable and we
shouldn’t pretend that it is. So I’m for a long term
path to citizenship, but that path to
citizenship should be painstaking and involve a
long enough time period where we can be assured
that someone is going to be paying taxes,
and following rules, and not generating
a criminal record. 18 years. So come out of the
shadows, register with us. We’ll keep track of you. In the meantime, you get
a job, and pay taxes, and be sort of an upstanding
contributor to society. Is that what you’re saying? Yeah, that is what I’m saying. This was something that Marco
Rubio on the Republicans were supportive of until they
lost their conviction on it. Where you only have
three approaches to this. Number one, you pretend
you can deport them, which is not realistic. Number two, you try and
integrate them into society over a long term period, which
is what I’m advocating for. And then number
three is you accept the status quo, which is that
you pretend people aren’t here, and then they get
into car accidents, and then show up at hospitals,
and have problems in school, and all of these
things that end up making it hard on our
society collectively and for the populations
in question. When you talk about effective,
secure, humane border security, what do you envision, Mr. Yang? What does your humane
border look like? The tough truth is
that we’re doing a terrible job of enforcing
our policies as they’re written on the books. We say, hey, you can
apply for asylum. But then you have literally
like a 15 month waiting period. And we have no place to
put you during that time. So then your choices are
to either detain people in inhumane conditions
for 15 months or just let them walk free. And then when they
walk free, many of them just don’t show up
15 months later, which is kind of what you’d
expect if you looked at it. And so we’re in a
terrible bind right now, where because we don’t have the
capacity to actually enforce our policies as they’re written,
we’re not doing anything well. And so this is a government
execution problem, where we need to actually build
up the resources on the border to a point where we can
enforce the policies in a reasonable way. And I looked into this in depth. We have 5,000 job openings
on the border right now and we paid Accenture
millions of dollars to source people for
those job openings, and they identified
less than 20 people. Like, we spent like a million
per person that they sourced. Because these jobs are
in the middle of nowhere. They don’t pay well. They’re depressing. They have high turnover. And so when you try and
hire people at the border, it turns out that they don’t
want to be there very long, and they quit after six months. And so we have the
mess that we have. So we need to put
real resources to work at every level, which
can include staffing up in new facilities. It can also include what people
are calling a smartwall, where you have sensors that Identify
when someone crosses over. And then you can identify
what that traffic looks like, where the people
are going, and then help intercept them when
they’re a little bit further from the border. OK, Josh, I’ll throw
it back to you. Go ahead. Your stump speech acknowledges
there are still some voters out there if they know
anything about you, it’s that you’re
Asian-American, and you want to give everyone
$1,000 a month. Those things are both true. [laughter] Good to know, good to know. Are there– tell us a few other
things that voters don’t know and that you think they should,
preferably not stuff you know, pried right out of
your stump speech? [yang laughs] I went to high school
here in New Hampshire, and I definitely
had no intention of ever running for president. You can tell by my
fashion choices. [laughter] No, I went out and
lived many components of the American dream. And I wound up starting this
nonprofit, Venture for America, that exposed me to
what’s happening in the Midwest and the
south, and explained to me that what we’re dealing with
is this historic economic and technological shift. And not immigrants that
are being scapegoated, and not you know,
Russia, and racism, and the rest of the causes that
get thrown around on cable TV. And so then you
have a limited range of choices where
you’re like, OK, what do I do to help my
country manage this time? Running for president is
not anyone’s first choice, honestly. [yang laughs] Like, I’m not
running for president because I always fantasized
about being president. I’m running for president
because like many of you in this room, I’m a
parent and I’m a patriot. And I see the future
coming down the pike, and it is not something
I’m willing to accept for my children or yours. We can do better,
we must do better. And so to the extent that
people don’t know some– don’t know much
about me, I think I’m a more normal person
than you might imagine, let’s put it that way. Like, I’m not some
maniac who was like, oh, I’m going to go to high
school in New Hampshire, and that’ll be great
for my presidential run 30 years later. [yang laughs] No, I’m just
someone who saw what was going on in our country
and said, we need to do better. I thought I could
help us do better. And I’m grateful
for the opportunity. One thing in your
book you’ve said is that if there is
to be a revolution, it’s likely to be born
of race and identity with automation driven economics
as the underlying force. Do you think Donald
Trump’s election in our current politics proves
that that revolution may be in its nascence? I do. You know, if you spend time
in these communities that have been devastated
by the automation of their manufacturing
jobs, those areas went towards Donald Trump
very clearly and aggressively. And those trends are
just going to accelerate where if you imagine all the
truck stops in the Midwest closing, that’s going to
devastate so many towns and communities. And then you look
up and say, OK, what’s going to happen
in those communities? Do we think that they will
also see massive surges in drug overdoses and suicides
if left to their own devices? Almost certainly yes. I mean, it’s happening
around the country. And we haven’t even
reached the real accelerant when AI starts hitting our
organizations in earnest. I am friends with some of
the foremost technologists in the country, and the more
you know, the more concerned you are. It is not a situation where
it’s like, I’m deep into this, and it’s going to be fine. That’s not the conversation. Like, the more they know,
the more they say, wow, this is going to be a buzz saw. So if you thought what
happened that led up to Trump has helped make us less
reasonable, less rational, turned us against each
other, which it has, unfortunately, those trends
are just going to get worse. Well, speaking of turning
against each other, earlier this year,
NHPR conducted a huge survey of
Granite Staters, we got so many responses. We asked people to
share the question you most want presidential
candidates to address. And Mr. Yang, among the very top
issues mentioned was civility. So here’s a question
from one listener, how will you bring civility
back to our national political dialogue? And I want to thank that person
for the question, and Mr. Yang, what do you think? How will you do it? I love this question
because I think the way we can
restore civility is by pulling people together and
not focusing on what divides us from each other. And if you look at
my campaign, I’ve come out as one of the
only candidates who said, I think identity
politics and cancel culture has gone overboard. That when a comedian actually
used a racial slur against me, I came out and
said, I didn’t think he should lose his job over
it, because he’s a comedian, and this did not strike
me as evil and repugnant. It struck me as bad comedy. And last I checked, that’s
not a job losing offense. Especially if you’re a comedian. I mean, you know, I guess
you could turn the other way, it’s like if you’re a bad
comedian, you should– anyway. [laughter] The essence of my campaign is
that we need a new way forward that includes our own humanity. And that means
fallibility as well, and becomes more
forgiving of ourselves, and of our fellow Americans. That if someone makes
a misstatement, instead of saying, this somehow
reflects negatively on their true nature or
their character, we can say, look, you, know someone
flubbed a statement. You know, and instead of
having this culture where we attack someone over
that, well, you look up and say, no, they probably
could have chosen better words. And I think this is how we bring
the country together, and move us forward, and start
working together to solve the problems
of the American people. Sounds like what
another former president called a kinder, gentler. You can use those words, sure. I’ll take ideas from anyone. So even you know, some
Republicans that were kinder, gentler– was. Yes. Yeah, OK. Mr. Yang, it’s been really
nice to talk to you. We could have
talked a lot longer. We really appreciate you
coming in, visiting us here in New Hampshire,
and coming to NHPR. Thank you. Thank you. It’s been a pleasure. We really appreciate
the audience that turned out this morning. Also, I want to thank my
colleague, Josh Rogers. You’ve been listening to
“The Exchange” on NHPR. [applause] This has been a New
Hampshire Primary 2020 special presentation,
“The Exchange” Candidate Forums from NHPR. [music playing]

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