– I am Terrell Jermaine Starr, senior reporter with The Root, and I’m here with 2020 presidential candidate, Andrew Yang. – Hey man, thanks for having me, it’s great to be here. – Right on, right on. I promise, I will be really kind to you. – Oh good, you know, I got that vibe from you. – Listen, I wanna talk to you about the social media support that you’ve been getting. We see hashtags like secure the bag and Yang Gang, so tell us, who are the members of the Yang Gang? – So I’ve been running for president for more than a year, and the name Yang Gang bubbled up a long time ago, and so we’ve had the Yang Gang as like our official, you know, campaign headquarters for a while, but then what you’re talking about is I became something of a social media phenomenon over the last six weeks or so. You know, like, the enthusiasm, I have to say, when I go to college campuses, it seems like it tends to skew young, and very internet-y, like they make a lot of memes. The energy at our rallies is sky high, where we just had a rally of 3000 people at San Francisco and then 1,000 in Chicago. We were joking, it’s like man, we can plant the flag in a lot of places, and apparently like hundreds, maybe thousands of people come out. So we’re gonna test that out. I’m doing a national tour starting in mid April. But when you see the energy in person, then it makes you very excited about all the enthusiasm online, because it’s translating into the real world. It’s not just people making memes, it’s actually people who wanna come out and make real change. – You talked about how capitalism doesn’t center real people and you’ve called for a more human-centered capitalism. What exactly does that mean? – Capitalism right now, it’s become this winner take all economy, particularly in the US. You have this crony capitalism, and like, you know, really wealthy interests just pulling the strings, and then you talk about competition, and a lot of the biggest industries are getting much less competitive. Like, you see consolidation in the big tech companies, you see consolidation in the big banks and financial companies. So we need to start using different measurements to try to drive our economy and society forward, where if you just lose capital efficiency, we’re gonna lose more and more to software, robots, AI, and machines. So we should, instead of using GDP and capital efficiency, we should be using things like how our kids are doing, our own mental health and freedom from substance abuse, average income and affordability, clean air and clean water, and then use those as the actual measurements of economic progress. – Everything that you’re saying sounds like you’re centering people, which to me seems like the antithesis of capitalism itself, and it sounds like you are calling for a reform to capitalism. – We need to evolve as fast as possible, because if you just rely upon capital efficiency, and the example I used in a lot of context is look, there are three and a half million Americans who drive trucks for a living. So in 10 years, if you have trucks that can drive themselves, it doesn’t matter if you’re a really hardworking, attentive truck driver or a shoddy one. The robots gonna beat both of you, you know what I mean? It’s not dependent upon your own individual characteristics. So if we use who can drive the truck better, everyone loses, you know? And so we need to have better measurements than that as fast as possible. I think of it evolving to the next stage of our economy, but I 100% agree that if you just use capital efficiency as a measuring stick, we’re all gonna lose. – One of your main goals is to implement what you’ve called a universal basic income. – The freedom dividend. – [Terrell] Yes, there you go, the freedom dividend. You talk about the humanity of just the GDP. – Yes. – Right. So just tell us exactly what that entails. – Well, so, GDP is something we made up almost 100 years ago during the Great Depression, and I’d like to talk about my wife. My wife’s at home with our two boys, one of whom is autistic, and her work every day counts as zero on GDP. So GDP is not measuring the right things. So if we were to measure how our kids are doing and how we’re doing, like how we’re thriving or not thriving that’s actually the measurement for our economy that we need to move towards as fast as possible. And the great thing is, as president, when I’m in the White House in 2021, all I have to do is just walk down the street to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and say hey guys, GDP, almost 100 years old, kind of useless. And so we’re gonna update it to things like how our kids are doing, how our environment is doing, how we’re doing, like whether we’re mentally healthy, because there’s a mental health crisis in this country. – You make that sound a lot easier than what many people think it actually will be. – Well, taking the measurements is pretty easy, but then changing the way our economy functions is obviously a little trickier. – Which is the point, right? So how do you plan on working with congress in order to carry that out? Because what you’re saying immediately is gonna pop up in people’s mind like you’re a socialist! And you wanna give people free stuff! Then you’re gonna scare the hell out of people. – You know, what I’m happy to say is that millions of Americans are waking up to the reality that we can’t use these twentieth century frameworks for problems of 2020 and beyond. It’s not like people in, you know, 1914 when they’re drawing this stuff up were like artificial intelligence, like self driving vehicles. They didn’t see a lot of this stuff coming. One thing I’m happy to say is that as president, I actually don’t need congress’s approval to change the statistics, like that’s not a congressional thing, that’s like an agency thing, a branch. You literally can just walk down the street and say hey guys, let’s use some new stats. – How come no one else has done that? – Well, it’s because we’ve been focused on the wrong things. If you look at the big measurements that we’re using for the economy, it’s GDP, which is like near a record high, stock market growth, which doesn’t affect the bottom 80% of Americans, for the most part, and then headline on employment rate, which even though it looks good right now, there are millions of Americans that have just dropped out of the workforce, including one of out five prime working age American men. So they just have the wrong measurements, and as someone who’s done a few things that required you to actually see where you’re going, like, if you have the wrong measurements, you’re doomed. So I can’t speak to why we’ve been hanging on to this GDP measurement for a hundred years, even though the inventor of GDP even said this is a terrible measurement for national wellbeing, we should never use it as that. – So we need to completely get rid of that, and replace it with something that deals more with how human beings– – How we’re doing, right. And one of the things I said to Breakfast Club in that interview was that the median African American net worth is projected to be zero by 2053, and now you have to ask like why the heck is that? – What does that exactly mean for us? You know, for black people by 2053? What would that look like? – Yeah, so and this is why I’m running for president, why I’m so passionate about our need to really evolve and get our heads out of the sand. So if you look at the five most common jobs in the US economy, and the African American community will like, you know, it’d be occupying many of these jobs. Number one is retail, and 30% of American malls and stores are closing. The average retail worker is a 39 year old woman making between 10 and 11 dollars an hour. So if 30% of those stores close, what happens to those jobs and families? Another top job is customer service and call centers. Artificial intelligence is gonna be able to do the job of that two and a half million call center workers in the United States, who now make 14 bucks an hour. So then what happens to those workers? So these are jobs that are filled by the majority of Americans, including Americans of color, and so then if you’re automating away those jobs as fast as possible, which is what we’re doing, then who bears the brunt of it? And also who wins? Like, the people who win will be the big tech companies and the folks at the top, and we know those organizations aren’t exactly the most, you know, representative of the US population or the most diverse. – Oh, not at all, which goes to the point of closing the racial wealth gap. – Yes. – So how do you specifically plan on addressing this issue, particularly for black people so that the gap that we are experiencing closes before 2053? – Exactly, and that’s one reason why I’m so excited about the freedom dividend. Putting a 1000 bucks a month into the hands of every American at age 18, which is what I’m proposing and is what we can make happen in 2021, when I’m president, but this is something that Martin Luther King championed in 1967, the year before he was killed. He was prescient. He saw a lot of things coming, and he said look, we need to actually just move towards putting money into the hands of African American families and consumers and communities and businesses, and this is the way to do it. – How else would you address this gap, particularly giving, you know, particularly creating a plan for black people, not specifically to everybody else? – Well, so there are issues specific to the black community that you need separate plans to try and address. What I’m suggesting is that first, if you start with this 1000 bucks a month in everyone’s hands, then that disproportionately helps people that are more excluded. And by the math, it actually does reduce the wealth gap and income inequality. – By how much though? By how much? – It’s really significant. Like, you’re talking about the single biggest move that would actually close the vast wealth gap that anyone has proposed, is what I’m proposing. And so if you had 12000 per year and imagine you had a household with, like, you know, two adults and an 18 year old, that’s 36000 dollars a year in that household, and so it ends up closing the wealth gap very very quickly, and then the great thing is that there is like the effect of all that money circulating in that community, and one thing I’ve said is that if you wanna strengthen African American owned businesses, you have to get money into the hands of African American consumers. – Do you believe in reparations? – Yeah, so I 100% agree with the moral case for reparations. I read Ta-Nehisi Coates, and it’s clear that this country was built on the backs of slaves. And so the question is what we can get done as a society to help try and make that right, when in reality, there’s really nothing anyone can do that can make that right. Like, you can’t go back and undo, you know, decades of subjugation and inhumanity. There is no dollar amount you could be, like, ends, like, everything is now copacetic. – It’s not gonna make it better, but it would make people feel a little bit better. – And I’m a numbers guy, and I agree that, like in, you know, reading Ta-Nehisi Coate’s analysis, if you were to put a number on it, that number would be enormous. Like, rightfully so. – So is slavery and white supremacy, right? – Exactly, like if you were to put a number on it, the number is like, you know, like, in the trillions, realistically. Because if you look at that dollar amount and then grow it overtime and extrapolate it. So the question is how do we get started? And what I’m going to suggest is the way we get started is we put a 1000 bucks a month into everyone’s hands. That would be, literally, hundreds of billions of dollars in the hands of African Americans every single year. – We would get that, so– – [Andrew] And then, after that point, then you start looking and saying okay, what more can we do? But you start with something that will disproportionately help people of color. – Not people of color, black people. – [Andrew] Yes. – Let’s stick to black people. And you agree with the moral argument. – Yes. – Do you agree with a practical economic plan that will carry out some form of reparations, whatever it may be, for black people? – I believe that we need to move in that direction as fast as possible, yes. – Do you think soon that you’ll come up with a plan of what that could potentially look like? – Well, so I have some policy proposals that are specifically directed at strengthening, you know, the black community. – Tell us one. – So one is that if you look at historically black colleges and universities, the problem in our educational system is that it makes more sense to cater to people that have lots of money that can pay you and then donate afterwards. – [Terrell] Sure. – Meanwhile, HBCUs have been incredible successful at elevating the paths of hundreds of thousands of African Americans, and a lot of those schools are now struggling because they’re serving a group that doesn’t necessarily have the means to come back and you know, like, donate a ton. So the federal government needs to step in and say look, we need to shore up the endowments of these historically black colleges and universities that have been awesomely successful and been pillars of our country for decades in many cases, because this is something where the market will not suffice. – The problem is that there are plenty of black folk who have all types of degrees and they can’t find jobs, right, so that goes back to the reparations question. Investing in education does not necessarily equal being able to get into the workforce. Is there anything else that has an economic incentive that will repay black people for the economic racism that we have endured for hundreds of years? – Yes, so the way, the way, and I agree with you, that at this point, getting a degree does not ensure, like, a stable livelihood afterwards. I mean, the underemployment rate for recent college graduates in this county is 44%, and that’s across everyone, and so that rate– – I’m sure black people are far worse. – Yeah, it’s probably even higher. (laughter) Yeah, it’s probably even higher. So that’s one thing that I believe we have to try and adjust to, is like, if someone is like hey, education, education, education, the fact is, like, you get a degree now, like, you might just have this giant debt load and no job at the end of it. So the next big move we have to make is we just have to start putting 1000 bucks a month into everyone’s hands, that then ends up, like, really diversifying people’s options. Because a lot of people go into various higher education programs because they feel like that’s their only secure path forward, and then they wind up with a debt load, and it may or may not work out, whereas if you’re putting 12000 bucks a year into people’s hands, then like how many more entrepreneurs would there be, how many more artists and creatives would there be, how many more people would be able to chart a different sort of path for themselves that’s not dependent necessarily upon a degree or credentials. – You know, you talk about climate change a lot, right? And your plan includes, like, funding for health initiatives and research for respiratory disease caused by air emissions. So you know that EPA scientists found in a recent study that black people are disproportionately impacted by poor air quality. How much of the research made that you’re proposing will be directed to black communities that are most impacted by air emissions? – Yeah, I’ve seen that set of research, and it’s true that African American communities are disproportionately affected by air quality, and so I would wanna put the money to work where the problems are most acute, and so if there’s a population that’s disproportionately affected, then the resources should represent that. – I mean, what does that, resources should reflect that, but more specifically as president, what would be your first move? Like, what would that look like? – So, I mean, you’re talking about, like, let’s say for example it’s like NHI grants. So it could be that everyone, like if you’re trying to study the effects of air pollution on various populations, the NHI would dispense various grants. If the impact is disproportionate on the black community, then a disproportionate amount of the grant money should go towards trying to address that problem. – Okay, so you call for prioritizing sustainable infrastructure in urban development, right? And taking advantage of new materials and designs, and I think there is no city that would be ground zero for that than Flint, Michigan. – Yes, I agree. – And so what type of plan would you have specifically for Flint, Michigan as president? – At this point, it’s like a national tragedy slash embarrassment that the people in Flint still have unsafe drinking water, and the problem is that the United States of America has gotten really bad at building and rebuilding, where what’s happened is you’ve got this very old set of pipes that have then contaminated drinking water for this population, and all of these families and children are suffering as a result. The problem is that those resources would theoretically come from the state of Michigan, and Michigan does not have the resources to say look, we need to just redo this. Like, what they did is they tried to save a few bucks here and there and then it ended up, they tried to sort of hand wave away the fact that this contamination was happening. So I will vow, as president, we’re gonna make the drinking in Flint crystal, like, safe as can be, and whatever that takes, if that takes federal money, going in and just tearing out all of those pipes and rebuilding them from ground zero, then that’s what we’re gonna do, and if the state of Michigan doesn’t have the will to do that, then we’ll do it as the federal government. – Do you feel that as president that there should be a federal inquiry into what happened? – Yes, yes, and the thing is, Flint is a national symbol, but there are other Flints. Flint is not an isolated case in the sense that there other decaying water systems that are now funneling contaminated water to children and other communities, and this is in many ways an emblem of what’s gone wrong in our country, is that these systems were built decades ago. Sometimes in cases where they didn’t even know that some of this stuff existed. And then we let it decay over decades because we’ve just gotten terrible at actually building and rebuilding anything in this country. Our infrastructure is falling apart, and then of course it’s poorer communities that get ignored politically that end up bearing the brunt of it. – How much of the criminality in it and how much of the lack of political will is fueled by racism? – A significant amount of it. Because right now in this society, money talks, and if there was, like, some rich white suburb where like anyone caught a whiff of some kind of drinking water problem, like people would be on it, you know, immediately. The next day, it’d be like freaking scientists and microscopes studying the heck out of that. And then if it’s some poor black community in Ohio, like, you know. (laughter) Like, you know, just turn a blind eye, and that’s, you know, that’s an emblem of what’s gone wrong in our country, is that we size people up based upon their economic value as opposed to their human value. So the slogan for my campaign is Humanity First, is that we’re all human beings, we all have equal value, and we need to start acting like that, and just because a community might not have the political clout or the financial resources does not mean that we can poison their kids and think that’s a moral way to operate as a country. – What would you say to the people of Flint in particular who feel that racism is fueling this crisis where they can’t go to the tap and drink water? – I would say they feel that way because it’s accurate, and it would be actually highly bizarre if they did not feel that way. So, you know, like, I agree with them. So the question is what are we gonna do about it? And as president, one of the things I’m gonna do is I’m gonna go to Flint, I’m gonna stand there, and I’m gonna be like hey, like I promise you that I’m gonna come back and just drink from a tap, and whatever needs to happen between now and then so that, actually, scratch that, I have two kids who are six and three. They’re gonna drink from the tap. And so whatever we need to do between when I’m there and my kids drinking from the tap, that’s what we’re gonna do. – Oh, so, have you experienced racism in your life? – I was the lone skinny Asian kid in all white neighborhood, so I experienced a lot of that sort of juvenile, you know, taunting. I was called, you know, gook and chink and things like that all the time as a kid. I understand what it’s like to be in that situation. I would not pretend to understand what it’s like to grow up African American, because they’re very different sorts of experiences, but I know what it’s like to have had my set of experiences, and I understand that when someone meets me, the first thing they register is that I’m Asian or Asian American, and then some things go through their heads, and I understand what that process is. One of the things I think is going wrong in this country is that we’ve sort of oversimplified racism into particular things. Like to me, a lot of racism has to be about some kind of power dynamic. It’s like, if you see me and acknowledge my race in your head, like, of course you do, that’s just human nature. That’s not racism. Racism is when somehow there’s some kind of negative impact on my life because there’s a power dynamic that I’m on the other end of. And so, you know, we have to try and like address the institutional or systemic racism where we can find it, while also looking at each other and saying hey, the fact that you notice, you know, that I’m of a certain background. I mean, that’s not a problem. – You know, there’s a lot of challenges that Obama had when he was running for president. Was America ready for a black president? It clearly was, and I just wanna ask you, what about America being ready for its first Asian American president? Have you thought about that? – You know, I’ve been campaigning in Iowa and Ohio and New Hampshire, and I have to say that my race has not been a huge pressing issue for many of the voters there. Like, they’re more focused on what I can do, what my vision is for the country, and what my vision would do for them and their families. They’re more concerned about their own wellbeing and their family and their communities. So I don’t think that my race is an issue to the voters in the places that I’ve been at least, campaigning. – You propose that every police officer is equipped with a body camera. There are a lot of departments that have body cameras, but they don’t release the footage. – Yeah, that’s a problem. – So how are you gonna get around that? Because you’re for funding the cameras. The departments often refuse to release the footage, so how you get around that? – Yeah, so what you have to do is you have to set up, like, a legal predisposition where when you show up at the hearing or the tribunal and then you ask hey, where’s the footage? And they’re like hey, we don’t have it, we don’t use it. Then that ends up starting to count as like a negative factor against the officer, where it’s like wait, if you don’t have the footage, then we’re actually gonna start questioning more closely your version of events, because right now, the absence of footage is sort of a default. If you make it so that the footage is the default, and then the absence of footage means that maybe something shady went on, then you can start trying to ratchet up the incentive so that people have to not just have the cameras on, but then use the footage to figure out what happened after the fact. – What’s the punishment for when police officers don’t comply? – This is one of the trickiest things, is that police have a hard time policing themselves. You know, it’s like, and that’s not unique to that particular group of people. I mean, it’s true of a lot of groups. – Yeah, but most of the groups don’t have guns. – Yes, so the question is how do you actually have some sort of enforcement mechanism that’s independent of the existing police department, particularly when you’re trying to figure out what happened after the fact, and that’s something that I am very very open to empowering some sort of independent body, in the Department of Justice or elsewhere, to sort of assist with trying to figure out what happened, and then if you don’t have footage, then they’ll be like look, if you don’t have footage, then unfortunately, we’re starting to see that as very very negative. But the first step is making sure that everyone can have the footage, and then the second step is saying okay, look, if you don’t have the footage, then something that’s not kosher might have gone down here. – There are many people who feel that policing as we know it is unsustainable and that it needs to be abolished and replaced with a different type of enforcement. What is your response to that? – Well, I think that that’s insightful in the sense that community based policing would be much much more effective in many many situations, and trying to demilitarize police departments. It’s like a lot of these police departments have essentially military hardware. And then so if you have military hardware and you don’t really know the people you’re policing, then you wind up with this very very naturally mistrustful dynamic. – Would you cut off any type of program federally that would give police officers military equipment? – Yes, I would. I do not think that police departments need military equipment in like 98% of situations, and that if they do need it, then there are other units that can assist with that. I mean, that’s why these other units exist. – What makes you different from Bernie Sanders? Because both of y’all talk about giving everybody free stuff. – Well, you know, I’m aligned with many of Bernie’s goals and values. Like I think my approaches are sometimes a little bit different and I would argue a bit more modern. The main thing I would distinguish myself in terms of the freedom dividend is I just wanna give everyone straight cash of 1000 bucks a month. Like, that’s the most impactful thing we can do. And then, like, a lot of Bernie’s things try and get to the same place, but do it through various institutions, like free public college and this and that, and I’m like no, straight cash. Money is the most effective way we can help people improve the situation for their families, their communities, and themselves. – You tweeted back in June 2018 about the deaths of whites outnumbering births, and that sparked a backlash of people who think that falls into the narrative of white genocide in America. Just wanted to ask you how you respond to that criticism. – You know, I mean, I was literally just retweeting a New York Times article that had a stat that said hey, more whites are dying in various counties than are being born, and then I looked at that, and a lot of it’s because of opiate deaths, and so I just retweeted that, because you know, to me that’s a really compelling picture, is that if you have communities that are dying from drugs, I mean, and it’s not frankly communities that people had previously associated with that sort of phenomenon. But I care about, you know, you can probably see if you went back in my Twitter, I’ve tweeted about a lot of different things. – Yeah, but I think the critique is that it plays into this notion of, you know, the white person’s dying in America, and, you know, people of color are kind of coming in and taking over. That’s the sentiment, even though that retweet may not have come across that way. – No, and I appreciate that. Thank you for providing the context. So here are just the straight facts. Americans are dying younger because of suicide and drug overdoses, regardless of their racial background. Like, our overall life expectancy has declined for the last three years, which is almost unheard of in a developed country. That’s just gruesome and horrific for all of us, you know, of any background. You look around and be like wait a minute, we’re supposed to be the richest, most advanced country in the world, and we’re dying of drugs and suicides at epic levels to the point where it’s actually bringing our life expectancy down? And so I completely disagree with the narrative you just described, which is like somehow other people are like taking over. What I’m saying is like there’s just a society wide disintegration that’s happening to us all, and you know, we need to start looking at and being like is it normal for a developed country’s life expectancy to go down three years in a row? No, it is not. – What do you say to people who don’t know you, and the first thing that pops in their mind is this man does not stand a chance in hell of winning? – Well, you know, it’s funny. There are various sites where they put odds on someone becoming the nominee, and right now I’m fifth. They have me at 14% to win the nomination, and the reason for that is that I’m already peeling off voters from all these different segments of the population, in part because I’m telling the truth about what’s happening to our society. And so my chances of winning go up every single day, and I’ve already qualified for the democratic primary debates, raised over a million dollars in increments of only 20 dollars in the last five weeks. This campaign is just gonna keep on rising, we’re gonna peak at the right time, and then when I’m president, I’m gonna get people that money, because that’s what people have put me– – Gonna release that bag, right? – I’m gonna get you that bag. – Are you gonna get me mine first? – Yeah man, you can be there at the inauguration. – Okay. (laughter) Mr. Yang, thank you so much for the time. – It was a pleasure man, it’s great to be here.