Tag Archives: Andrew Yang

I’m With the Yang Gang: Volunteering with the Andrew Yang Campaign

A compelling thread of history is the power of ideas and their ability to shape the world around us. The power of ideas could not be more evident than in the Silicon Valley. Computer processing power has increased with the invention of the silicon transistor and turned what was a valley known for its delicious produce, into one known for its global technological impact. 

To quantify the change, in 2017 the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated the per-person GDP of Silicon Valley was $128,308, making it $66 dollars short of being the highest in the world, of all nations.

What’s often puzzled me is why our political leadership seems unable to deal with the real impact of ideas from the technology sector – for example, their inability to address the automation of jobs by software and robotics. 

So, when I saw a man named Andrew Yang running for President in December 2017 and heard him talking about how to develop and adjust our public policy around the realities of technological change, I was immediately a fan. 

Yang talked about how automation was replacing jobs across the country, how this was affecting the real economy and that it required we think harder and implement policies like a universal basic income

Technology has completely altered societal norms in many areas, especially in the labor force. We’re increasingly seeing various jobs across the labor force being replaced by automation, machines, improved business efficiency and robotics. And yet, our federal government has done little to prepare for any of these realities; if they had, it wouldn’t take a relatively unknown entrepreneur to make this a national issue. Commentary on cable news from political leaders also suggests that none of them seem educated about technological trends.  

Yang has risen into this vacuum to inject a dose of reality to a system that desperately needs it. 

Over thousands of years of recorded history, there are many who subscribe to the “Great Man Theory of History” view that our world is shaped by individual leaders. To my eye, a great leader is one who recognizes the trends of the time and is able to forecast the future. 

In 2017 I saw a candidate who was addressing my concerns and I had to act immediately. I emailed his campaign and joined his early staff. The vibe was very much like an early stage startup – it felt familiar to me. The team was tasked with a difficult mission – to take a relative unknown and raise his profile with the American public. 

It was no easy task at a time when it was easy to quickly dismiss the entire mission as oddball politics. I started off doing simple things – tabling at community colleges, talking to students about what they were studying and their hopes for the future. It wasn’t always easy; many were disinterested or didn’t see politics affecting their lives in any meaningful way.

But, for every three rejections, there was always one person who showed interest, and was curious and excited to engage with new ideas in politics. That one out of three people were interested made it seem possible that we could build a movement around them.

Yang had previously served in the Obama administration as a “Champion of Change,” advising the administration on how to create jobs in places hard hit by the 2008 financial crisis. He was invited to do so because of his work with a non-profit he founded called Venture for America, which worked to create entrepreneurship in places across America that didn’t have a start-up ecosystem. 

As a presidential candidate, Yang’s signature policy is the “Freedom Dividend,” a new right of citizenship that gives every American over the age of eighteen $1,000 a month paid for by a value-added tax on technology. This idea sounded unrealistic to many and has required the Yang campaign to frequently stress how deeply American this idea really was – Alaska, a deep red Republican state, for instance, has a freedom dividend called the petroleum dividend

It was difficult to find media to cover these ideas, but we were able to get on great podcasts like Making Sense with Sam Harris, Freakonomics Radio, The Joe Rogan Experience and more. These appearances lit a fire across the Internet; tens of thousands of people started flowing into our social media spaces and websites and our donations skyrocketed. 

This was the beginning of what would ultimately be known as the “Yang Gang”, a grass-roots movement of thousands of volunteers, that has pushed Yang’s candidacy into the ranks of the serious contenders. 

Our growth as an online movement happened quickly with new fans, thousands of new volunteers and people looking to assume leadership across this country to turn this campaign of ideas into a movement for change across the nation. I moved on from managing our digital strategies and began organizing locally and regionally to make sure our ground game was as strong as our digital game.

I’ve been helping pro-Yang groups get started across my region in Northern California. It’s fascinating to meet diverse groups of people from all walks of life learning to engage in the American political process. Our campaign’s mission is to see ideas become reality and at these events I see the power of democracy being mobilized to advance ideas once seen as impossible. 

Arun Kumar is based in the Silicon Valley and is a lead volunteer with the Andrew Yang presidential campaign.

This article was edited by contributing editor Meera Kymal.

Andrew Yang Brings Presidential Campaign to Ethnic Media

On Tuesday, July 23, Andrew Yang became the first presidential candidate to participate in a teleconference with ethnic media reporters, organized by Ethnic Media Services and India Currents magazine.

Pleased to be offered a bubble tea as he sat down at a dais, Yang greeted about four dozen ethnic media representatives by noting how his own parents, after immigrating to the United States, had relied on Chinese newspapers for news and loved watching Chinese television as they raised their two sons.

“I’m an entrepreneur, not a politician,” he said as he introduced himself. Before deciding to run for president, he spent the past seven years, “creating thousands of jobs in Ohio, Michigan and Alabama … but it was like pouring water into a hole in the bathtub,” he said

“Technology is transforming our way of life,” he remarked, and “our political system in America is way behind the times in understanding technology.”

Yang was queried repeatedly about his position on immigration issues. Emphasizing the contributions immigrants, including his own family, make to the U.S. economy, he cited his own father’s 65 patents for General Motors and IBM and the proliferation of immigrant and second-generation leaders in upper corporate echelons in Silicon Valley as examples of how immigrants make the country “stronger and more dynamic.”

“My immigration policy,” he said, “has a number of facets.” Among them would be to “greatly expand” the H1-B visa program, which he said, “has zero crowding-out effect on American workers.”

If companies couldn’t hire the people who obtain those visas in the United States, he said, they would hire them in another country.” 

For those who come to the United States to get an education, “we should staple a green card to their diplomas. We should get them to stay,” he added

Immigrants don’t cost U.S. citizens jobs. It’s automation and technology that are driving the transformation, he explained, and Washington politicians who aren’t up to the challenges of changing with the times, he maintained.

Looking ahead to the next Democratic candidate debate, July 30 and 31 in Detroit, he described that city, where he worked for nine years, as an archetypal example of the transformations buffeting U.S. society, and the government’s inability to navigate a changing world.

Detroit, he said, has gone from a city of 1.7 million people to 680,000 as it’s lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs due to automation. Current retraining programs, are ineffective with a success rate of 15-20%, leaving us instead with record levels of disability, suicide and overdose rates that for the first time have overtaken vehicular accidents as the country’s leading cause of death. 

He also advocated for “securing the southern border,” to “put resources in place so there’s a humane policy” and to “create a new path forward” for 12 million undocumented immigrants already in the country – too many to be deported without crashing the economy. In response to another question, he added that the U.S. should “of course” do what it can to ease the pressures in nearby countries that force people to take their chances on emigrating to the U.S.

Yang’s campaign is perhaps best known for his “Freedom Dividend” proposal to guarantee U.S. adults a monthly $1,000 stipend per month. In response to a reporter who questioned the possibility that the concept might seem too “communist” for American voters, Yang responded that the money would be funded through a tax on corporations such as Amazon that currently do not pay taxes despite being ”a trillion dollar company.” 

“If Americans get our fair share, there’s lots to go around,” he said. Furthermore, he argued that $1,000 per month would hardly be a disincentive to work, but would allow new mothers to tend to their children, teenagers to stay in school and boost the economy and create jobs by putting more disposable income into circulation.

The GOP-dominated state of Alaska, he said, already has such a program, passed by a Republican governor in a very pro-market, pro-business political climate. He also cited JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimond’s recent advocacy for “something similar,” a negative income tax, Yang said, commenting with a chuckle that Dimond is “not very communist, or socialist.”

Asked about climate change, he described it as “an existential threat” and said the government “needs to do much more.” Too often, he said, the government acts merely “after the fact” of a disaster and instead “needs to be engaged in making communities more resilient.” As an example, he said that the National Parks System invests about 5% of what experts believe should be dedicated to tending its lands, leading to wildfires quickly burning out of control.

“The federal government is the natural leader,” he said, and disasters such as the Pasadena Fire could be prevented “if we provided better resources.”  

Yang cited an interview he’d done that has been viewed or listened to a combined 10 million times in various social media platforms as a transformative moment in his campaign so far, although he said at the outset of the conference call that he acknowledges only ranking “seventh or eighth” among the candidates so far. That interview can be seen here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTsEzmFamZ8).

Yang said politics is an unusual career path for his culture, but he’s proud to be the first Asian American to run for president as a Democrat and suggested that his campaign will counter fears generated by the rise of racism and hate in the United States.