Who's the Presidential Candidate Who Wants to Give U.S. Families $1000 a Month?
by Amy Sterling Casil
October 14, 2019 .3 min read
Did you hear that Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang wants to give every U.S. adult resident $1,000 a month? Who is Andrew Yang and what is this all about?
Andrew Yang was considered a "long shot" Democratic presidential candidate when he started his campaign in November 2017. Then he appeared on Joe Rogan's podcast and went on radio shows including The Breakfast Club. Yang is the first Asian American to be a widely visible candidate for U.S. President since the 1960s.
What's Andrew Yang's background?
44-year old Yang lives in his hometown of Schenectady, New York with his wife Evelyn and two children. He's the founder and former CEO of Venture for America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to creating jobs in communities with high unemployment. He calls himself a "nerd" and believes in tech solutions for society's problems.
Yang's parents were Taiwanese immigrants who met while they were students at Stanford University in California. After moving to New York, Yang's father worked as a physicist at IBM and his mother was a college systems administrator.
He talks about being bullied for being a "nerd" and Asian while in elementary school, but Yang attended elite Phillips Exeter Academy and graduated from Brown University. He is a graduate of Columbia Law and practiced corporate law before founding a celebrity charitable fundraising website, working in healthcare, and becoming CEO of a test prep company. Forbes reports Yang's net worth is $1 million.
Why is Andrew Yang promising people $1,000 a month?
On September 12, Yang made headlines during the third Democratic Party presidential debate by promising to give 10 people $1,000 a month for a year. When he made the announcement, Yang was already giving $1,000 a month of his own money to three randomly selected people.
Why is he giving this money away? The $1,000 monthly gift is a test version of Yang's "Freedom Dividend." The "Freedom Dividend" is a focus of Yang's campaign. Yang believes that giving $1,000 a month/$12,000 a year in basic income every month to every U.S. adult over age 18 could help solve the problem of job loss due to technology.
What are people saying about Yang's $1,000 a month giveaway?
Immediately after Yang promised to give $1,000 a month to 10 randomly selected people out of his campaign funds, campaign finance experts questioned whether it was legal. Yang's "use of campaign funds would push the boundaries of campaign finance law," said Paul Seamus Ryan, a Vice President at government accountability organization Common Cause.
At the Democratic debate, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and California Senator Kamala Harris laughed after Yang made his offer. Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg chuckled and waited to compose himself before making his opening remarks after Yang.
Tesla's Elon Musk is just one among several high-profile supporters of universal basic income payments. The concept of giving everybody a certain amount of money each month to spend any way they want goes all the way back to the American Revolution. Thomas Paine suggested a "National Fund" that would pay every 21-year-old citizen 15 pounds sterling a month.
The idea is being tested in Stockton California, a Central Valley city devastated by job loss and the foreclosure crisis. Starting in February 2019, 130 people in Stockton's lower-income areas are getting $500 a month for 18 months, no questions asked. The money is coming from a grant from the Economic Security Project and individual donors.
What benefits does Yang say the $1,000 "Freedom Dividend" will bring?
Yang believes that fears about jobs becoming obsolete and being unable to afford food or keep a roof over their heads led to Donald Trump's election in 2016. He says the "Freedom Dividend" will soften the blow of job loss that's either already happened or is on the way due to automation. Yang predicts that jobs including truck driving and call center work are being cut down.
In addition to directly benefiting everybody who will get a "Freedom Dividend," Yang also says that Universal Basic Income (UBI) of $1,000 a month would grow the economy by 12.56 percent to 13.10 percent by 2025. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the economy is set to grow about 1.8 percent a year over the next five years without a "Freedom Dividend." Yang promises that the "Freedom Dividend" will grow the economy about 50 percent faster.
Thinking about how little money people who are out of work have to spend on food, transportation, clothing, and rent, Yang may have a point that isn't as funny as some of his political opponents seem to think.
Amy Sterling Casil
Amy Casil is a single mom, college teacher, business planner and affordable housing executive who lives in Southern California. She loves outdoor living and animals and is passionate about helping women to avoid her financial mistakes and learn from her successes.