Yangbucks: Yang’s Answer to Everything
DES MOINES, Iowa – This past Martin Luther King Day, eight Democratic candidates running for president took the opportunity to be featured in the Black and Brown Forum. Every four years the Black and Brown Forum offers an opportunity for the Democratic nominees to recognize the minority votes and voices in the coming elections. It is then no surprise that the forum is an issue-based discussion where the moderators ask questions primarily related to issues that affect minorities in America. This discussion, to the organizers, is especially important in Iowa since it plays such a pivotal role in the primaries season but is 90 percent white.
Unlike previous years, the 2020 iteration of the forum was a live-streamed and televised exclusive event. The event organizers realized that this year’s event needed to be passed onto the younger generation. In that effort, they allowed much of the event to be run by Vice News, a New York publication, which prides itself as a young and edgy media corporation. For this event, Vice News selected the live audience, moderated the event, and set up the venue. They managed to get a rather large selection of the Democratic candidates including Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, John Delaney, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang, and Deval Patrick.
As their branding promised, Vice News brought a youthful, energetic, and perhaps rebellious atmosphere to the forum. Each candidate, expect Elizabeth Warren, for the most part, were well and truly grilled on their various problems. Unsurprisingly, the candidates who were given the most criticism in the questions asked were those who had had scandals with minorities, such as Pete Buttigieg, or those who had no standing with minorities, such as Michael Bennet. One of the most interesting instances of this occurred when Andrew Yang took the stage and was asked various questions.
The first question to Yang asked what he would do about white supremacists in America as president. He said that he believed there must be a path forward for such people in their communities so that they can move away from extremist ideas. After this, he suggested that his idea for universal basic income, Yangbucks, could accomplish this by giving those communities extra resources they can pool together to fund deradicalizing efforts. He emphasized that though more money does not solve racism, it helps reduce one of the root causes which is economic scarcity. However, he did say that he has plans to label white supremacist terrorism as a special kind of domestic terrorism so that the government can find, measure, and diagnose it.
When asked more about his UBI plan and how it works he stated that everyone gets 1000 dollars a month through his plan, including the rich. When questioned about this particular facet, he said that overall the larger income people, such as Elon Musk, would be paying more into the system to sustain the 1000 dollars a month. He said that he believes this will help areas like middle America that haven’t benefitted much from Silicon Valley’s prosperity to feel as if they are profiting as well. Additionally, he believes that such a system will help America deal with issues such as climate change because it helps heal divisions between us so we can look forward together.
Another question he was asked was how the UBI actually helps the poor and minority persons in the country when the value-added tax requires impacts people with less money the most. Yang explained that this is true on a base level, but the value-added tax, VAT, can be modified to focus on luxury items, such as yachts and AI systems. Additionally, he proposed that with a VAT, he can provide exemptions for everyday essential items such as diapers and groceries to lessen the impact on the poor.
Overall, it seemed like Yang proposed his UBI system, not as a policy plan for president but an all-encompassing idea that solves most problems. While it sounds sensible on paper, the UBI supported by a VAT would probably be extremely damaging to the American economy. For one thing, redistributing wealth to everyone at a standard rate would be a very easy and sensible reason for groceries and other standard goods to increase in price since everyone has higher spending power. Similarly, giving more money to everyone in the country does not suddenly increase the funds going to community activities as Yang expects. People are selfish and without the properly ingrained values, they will spend all their money on themselves rather than invest. In fact, the average American spends 90 percent of their income on goods and services, making it unlikely that they will do much with more money. Lastly, the idea that taxes can be rerouted to luxury items is nonsense. Rich people already have the resources to dodge the current tax system, so there is no reason to assume that they won’t resort to buying luxury items somewhere that doesn’t exclusively tax them.