Money Matters

This 43-year-old running for president in 2020 wants to give everyone $1,000 a month in free cash


Entrepreneur Andrew Yang has a big goal for a relatively unknown business person: to reach the White House. And he’s aiming to get there by selling America on the idea that all citizens, ages 18-64, should get a check for $1,000 every month, no strings attached, from the U.S. government.

Yang, 43, who was born in upstate New York in 1975, will be running as a Democrat, according to his campaign website.

“People who think the antidote to Donald Trump is a boring generic Democrat missed the point. He is a sign of massive institutional failure. On both sides,” Yang said on Reddit on April 2.

A universal basic income (UBI) payment, which Yang calls “the Freedom Dividend,” is one of his major policies.

“The most direct and concrete way for the government to improve your life is to send you a check for $1,000 every month and let you spend it in whatever manner will benefit you the most,” Yang writes on his campaign website.

The government has “plenty of resources, they’re just not being distributed to enough people right now,” he says.

Yang, founder of business fellowship program Venture for America and author of “The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future,” believes a cash handout will improve the mental well being of Americans and encourage entrepreneurship.

“It is impossible to overstate the positive impact of $1k a month on households around the country. It would take people from a constant mindset of scarcity to a mindset of assured survival and possibility. It would transform our society in myriad positive ways by taking the boot off of people’s throats,” wrote Yang on Reddit in March.

“I’ve worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs and most have an incredible mindset of abundance and possibility. A UBI would be the greatest catalyst for arts, entrepreneurship and creativity that we have ever seen,” he said.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a similar argument in his Harvard commencement speech in May. “Now it’s our time to define a new social contract for our generation. We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things,” the billionaire said.

Why $1,000 a month?

Yang settled on the level of $1,000 a month for several reasons, he tells CNBC Make It: First, $1,000 a month was recommended by former Service Employees International Union president Andy Stern in his book, “Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream.” And $12,000 a year brings an individual close to the U.S. poverty line, says Yang, which is $12,752 per person per year for those under the age of 65, according to the United States Census Bureau. Plus, a $1,000-a-month UBI has been studied and modeled by The Roosevelt Institute, says Yang. (It could grow the U.S. economy by 12.56 percent after eight years if paid for by increasing the debt, says the left-leaning institute’s report released in August.)

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