Entrepreneur Andrew Yang's most recent visit comes at an opportune time -- the presidential gun forum. Gun safety has been an emotional issue for him -- he’s the father of two sons. And he wants to make it more difficult for children to use household guns.
“Right now, there is technology available where you can make someone’s handprint – not their fingerprint – but the shape of their hand where the pressure is coming from, you can make it so that the gun is fireable only by someone with the owner’s handprint,” he said.
In addition, Yang proposes subsidizing the technology, making it free for everyone.
But that’s hardly his most notable policy proposal. Andrew Yang is most known for his concept called the Universal Basic Income.
“Universal Basic Income is a policy where everyone in a society gets a certain amount of money to do whatever you want to meet your basic needs," he explained, "And my plan – The Freedom Dividend – would put $1,000 a month into the hands of every American adult starting at age 18."
Universal Basic Income is not something Yang came up with by himself. It is a concept that has been advocated by others and even launched in some European countries.
For Yang, the basic income idea is a way to combat the continued loss of jobs to automation. He compares it to the checks Alaska gives out to citizens because of oil revenue.
“What I’m saying to the American people is that what oil is to Alaska, technology is to the entire country,” he said.
To pay for the program, Yang wants to tap into the money made by technology companies that use our personal data. He notes that personal data is now worth more than oil. In stump speeches, he jokes to audiences about whether they've got their 'data checks' in the mail yet.
“But I tell you the data check did not get lost, it went to Facebook, Amazon, Google, they’re profiting to the tune of tens of billions of dollars off our data," he said, "If we got our fair share of our own data value then we could easily afford dividend of a $1,000 a month over time."
Yang makes the argument for addressing automation in all the states he visits but he said Nevadans truly understand what it will mean for jobs.
“You have a combination of our hyper-corporatized version of capitalism now combining with technology to kick more and more Americans to the curb and Nevada is ground zero,” he told KNPR's State of Nevada.
Yang said that the country is in the midst of the greatest economic transformations in its history. He said those economic forces are partly why President Donald Trump was elected.
"We automated away 4 million manufacturing jobs in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and those states all went to Donald Trump,” he said.
The entrepreneur decided to run because he realized the economy's structure is making it more and more difficult for people to set up their own business and do what they want.
“I’m also running for president because I saw Donald Trump win in 2016 and realized that our country does not understand what’s happening," he said, "We’re scapegoating immigrants for something immigrants have nothing to do with when it’s really advancing technology and an evolving economy that have combined to make us increasingly stressed out and miserable.”
Yang said measuring the economy by Gross Domestic Product or GDP is not really taking into account the toll it is taking on people. He pointed out that the country's GDP is at an all-time high but so is stress, financial insecurity, suicides and drug overdoses.
“You have to ask yourself what are the true costs? How should we be measuring progress? If you have high GDP and your people are dying, is that a measurement problem or an ‘us’ problem. And I would say it is clearly a measurement problem," he said.
That is the same philosophy he has for addressing climate change. He said if factors like children's health and environmental sustainability were factored into people's ideas on addressing climate change, renewable energy would be considered a cost saver.
the New York Times even calls Yang the “internet’s favorite candidate” -- but both Universal Basic Income and Yang himself have yet to hit the mainstream.
Yang has qualified for the next round of Democratic debates in November, which is determined by polling numbers and donor requirements.
Andrew Yang, entrepreneur, Democratic presidential nominee
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