- Andrew Yang, a 44-year-old entrepreneur from Schenectady, New York, announced his presidential bid on Feb. 10, 2018.
- According to his financial disclosure statement released on July 26, 2019, Yang could be a millionaire.
- At the forefront of Yang’s top campaign issues is the Freedom Dividend, through which every American adult ages 18 to 64 receives a monthly $1,000 stipend.
The field of 2020 presidential candidates vying for the Democratic nomination is notoriously expansive. It includes political insiders and outsiders alike — with perhaps the most notorious outsider being entrepreneur Andrew Yang. He’s the only “outsider” candidate, in fact, who has qualified for the debate on Sept. 12, alongside nine other contenders. Yang’s competition includes heavy-hitting career politicians like former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
The fact that he has qualified for the September debate at all says a lot about Yang’s popularity. According to polling data from RealClearPolitics as of Sept. 10, Yang is hanging steady around 2.7% — slightly above established politicians like Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. While Yang’s bid was once considered a “longer-than-long-shot,” the idea of a Yang nomination is aligning closer with reality. Still, Yang is polling far short of Biden at 29.8%, Warren at 18%, Sanders at 17.7% and others.
Yang’s policies are unconventional, even when compared to some of the other progressive Democrats running for president. His signature piece of legislation, the Freedom Dividend, is a universal basic income that grants all Americans ages 18 to 64 a $1,000 monthly stipend with no strings attached. In fact, many of his policies would directly affect your wallet. He even wants to get rid of the penny.
The bulk of Yang’s economic policies boil down to one root issue: He believes that automation and artificial intelligence will destroy millions of more jobs in the near future, which will cause many American citizens to experience financial distress and unemployment.
Keep reading to see how this entrepreneur made his fortune and to read more about his policies.
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Net Worth: $584,047 to $2,276,015
Birthday: Jan. 13, 1975
Primary Sources of Income: Sold his stake in Manhattan Prep, where he was CEO
Career Highlights: Founded Venture for America, a nonprofit for young entrepreneurs; published author
Andrew Yang’s Net Worth: $584,047 to $2,276,015
Andrew Yang has declined to specify his exact net worth, but he did release a list of his assets in a personal financial disclosure on July 26, 2019. According to the disclosure, Yang’s net worth sits somewhere between $584,047 to $2,276,015. If it’s near the middle, it would be about $1.43 million.
Yang’s financial disclosure statement shows a diverse portfolio of investments: IRAs, 401(k)s, ETFs, stocks, real estate, municipal bonds and the list goes on. It also shows that Yang received a $42,500 advance on his book “The War on Normal People” from publisher Hachette Books. The book was released on April 3, 2019.
So, how did Yang make his fortune? Before he started his nonprofit Venture for America, Yang was the CEO of Manhattan Prep, a GMAT test prep company that helped students prepare for the standardized test they have to pass to get into business school. In 2009, Manhattan Prep was acquired by the testing firm Kaplan, which was owned by The Washington Post Company. Yang walked away with “some number in the millions,” he told Stephen Dubner of the Freakonomics podcast.
Although Yang released his financial disclosure statement in May 2019, he has yet to release his taxes. According to an interview on the NPR Politics Podcast that aired Aug. 20, Yang was set to release his taxes “any day now.”
Who Is Andrew Yang?
Andrew Yang is now known as an entrepreneur, but he started life modestly in upstate New York, born to Taiwanese immigrant parents. His father was a researcher at IBM, and his mother was the systems administrator at a local university. Yang studied economics and political science at Brown. He attended law school at Columbia before landing a job at the law firm Davis Polk in New York City when he was just 24 years old. It sounds like a dream job for aspiring legal professionals, but Yang didn’t find it fulfilling.
“When I was growing up as a kid playing Dungeons and Dragons, I didn’t dream about being the scribe,” Yang said on the Freakonomics podcast in January 2019. “I dreamt about going in the woods and killing something, which did not help my parents feel any better about my decision to quit the firm.”
Yang found his calling as a GMAT teacher at Manhattan Prep, where he worked his way up to CEO and eventually sold his stake in the company for millions. His financial gain led him to start a career in philanthropy, and in 2011 he founded Venture for America, a nonprofit that connects ambitious young entrepreneurs with startups across the country, particularly in areas that were affected by job loss like New Orleans, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
He had the goal of creating 100,000 jobs across the country. He came to a frustrating conclusion, however, when he realized that the program’s participants were being poached by big companies in places like New York and San Francisco. And even if the companies supported by VFA did employ dozens of people, it made little impact when thousands of people in these same communities were losing their jobs to automation.
In December 2017, Yang stepped down from Venture for America’s board of directors — not long after he filed for candidacy on Nov. 6, 2017, according to the Federal Election Commission.
New technological innovations, especially automation, promise to benefit some but not all. A #FreedomDividend would change that, ensuring that all Americans will have the opportunity to reap the benefits of our rapidly changing economy. pic.twitter.com/6wmdcpp2F7
— Andrew Yang (@AndrewYang) August 20, 2019
Andrew Yang’s 2020 Campaign
Yang officially launched his presidential campaign early — like, really early — on Feb. 10, 2018, through a New York Times piece. The article, titled “His 2020 Campaign Message: The Robots Are Coming,” called Yang’s bid a longer-than-long-shot. But his message of “Humanity First” has resonated with his supporters, the #YangGang, enough to qualify him for the September Democratic primary debates.
Yang’s mantra that the economy has failed the average American sounds similar to the message of President Donald Trump, which could contribute to his popularity across party lines. Yet, Yang considers himself the antithesis to Trump.
“I think that many people who voted for Donald Trump felt like the Democratic Party was not speaking to them and the problems they saw in their communities, and I am,” Yang said on an episode of the NPR Politics Podcast that aired on Aug. 20. “So that’s winning me a critical mass of Donald Trump supporters, which is, to me, crucial for the Democratic nominee.”
According to his campaign website, Yang hasn’t yet reached his 2019 third-quarter fundraising goals, but there’s still time. From the inception of his campaign through June 30, 2019, the Friends of Andrew Yang has raised $5.26 million, according to filing data through the FEC. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that around 66% of his campaign funds come from small individual contributions of less than $200, and about 33% of the funds come from large individual contributions. The other 1%, or $54,000, is from candidate self-financing.
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Andrew Yang’s Platform: Universal Basic Income
The Freedom Dividend is Andrew Yang’s signature economic policy. It’s just a fresh name for a concept that’s not exactly new, called universal basic income. The concept of UBI is actually being employed right here in America — in the Alaska Permanent Fund that grants the state’s residents an annual dividend that stems from oil revenues. But Yang’s proposal for a Freedom Dividend would be different from Alaska’s model.
Yang’s universal basic income would be a form of Social Security that guarantees payments of $1,000 per month to all U.S. citizens from ages 18 to 64. He believes that this dividend would protect American citizens from the impending crisis of job loss to automation. Yang’s campaign website cites that by 2015, automation was responsible for the dissolution of 4 million manufacturing jobs. His outlook for the future is not hopeful, as he expects automation to wipe out jobs for truck drivers, retail cashiers and fast-food workers.
How Would Andrew Yang Pay For a UBI?
Forbes and Time Magazine estimate that Andrew Yang’s Freedom Dividend would cost the government about $3 trillion per year. How does Yang plan to fund this expensive policy? His approach is multifaceted:
- A value-added tax: The government would instill a value-added tax on the production of goods and services. His proposal for a VAT would target big tech companies that would benefit from automation. For example, the public would receive a portion of the proceeds from every Amazon purchase or Google search. He estimates this would generate about $800 billion.
- Less spending on welfare programs: Yang estimates that the Freedom Dividend would reduce the need for between $500 billion and $600 billion per year on welfare programs.
- New revenue: Echoing the sentiments of trickle-down economics, Yang believes that $1,000 in the hands of every American adult would grow the economy. He approximates that this would generate $800 billion to $900 billion in new revenue.
- Taxes on top earners: This policy includes removing the Social Security cap, implementing a financial transactions tax and ending favorable treatment through capital gains taxes.
- A carbon fee: A policy that would be partially dedicated to funding the Freedom Dividend.
Although Yang insists that these policies would cover the cost of a Freedom Dividend, some critics would argue otherwise. Some argue that it would cause inflation and even give some people the incentive to stay home rather than join the workforce. Others argue that this kind of legislation would be difficult to pass through a gridlocked Congress.
The Freedom Dividend is certainly at the center of Yang’s campaign, but it’s not his only policy: His campaign website details more than 160 policies.
What Else Does Andrew Yang Believe In?
It’s not surprising that a candidate with a degree in economics and political science would have a slew of ideas for the American economy. Here is a sampling of Yang’s economic proposals.
- The president should be paid more. A lot more: $4 million annually to be precise. A higher paycheck is to ensure that the president is bought by the American people, not by corporations who pay for speaking engagements.
- The student loan burden should be reduced. Yang would immediately reduce student loan payments, proposing a blanket partial reduction in overall loan amounts. He would also ensure the government doesn’t profit from high-interest loans, among other things.
- The government should regulate cryptocurrency. Yang wants to create clear guidelines so that businesses and individuals can invest in digital assets without worrying about a “regulatory shift.”
- Data should be a property right. As it stands now, tech companies can sell data, use it to create targeted advertisements and monetize it in other ways. Yang would work with Congress to pass a law establishing data as a property right.
- Make free financial counseling available to everyone. Counseling would be offered via online courses and AI-based advisors through the Internal Revenue Service.
This is just a sampling of policies from a laundry list — one that’s almost comically long — of goals on the Yang 2020 website. When confronted with the reality that his bid is still a long shot, Yang admits that it’s not really all about winning the presidency. If nothing else, he’s happy to spread his ideas. His final sentiments on the Freakonomics podcast sum it up nicely:
“I just want to solve problems, man. I don’t really care about the seating chart. And someone said to me, ‘Hey, what if Joe Biden takes all your ideas?’ I would say that’s fan-freaking-tastic. I’m not some freaking crazy person who has been measuring the drapes since I was 16 or any of that jazz. I just want to keep this country together for your kids and mine.”
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