Watch or Listen: 2020 Candidate Forum with Andrew Yang

Nov 6, 2019

Andrew Yang, Democratic candidate for President.
Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

The New Hampshire Primary 2020 Candidate Forum series on The Exchange continued Nov. 7 with Democrat Andrew Yang. The entrepreneur and political newcomer discusses domestic and foreign policy, as well as some of the ideas he's become known for, such as "universal basic income." 

Yang warns of automation endangering American jobs.  He says providing an income  of $1,000 to all Americans over 18 would help solve that problem by creating a "trickle-up" economy.

Air Date: Nov. 7, 2019

Watch the forum:

More on the candidate:

U.S. News & World Report on Andrew Yang's personal and political history, as well as  his stands on a number of issues, including education, immigration, and corporate reform. 

From The Hill: Andrew Yang pushes his universal basic income, or "Freedom Dividend,"
as a solution to automation.  

Politifact takes a look at Andrew Yang's Freedom Dividend.

This Vox correspondent writes that Andrew Yang's universal basic income of $1,000 a month could end poverty but it won't solve the problem of workers being displaced by technology. 

Time takes a close look at the so-called "Yang Gang," a growing group of fans with online roots. 

Andrew Yang has called for eliminating superPACs but Vox reported in October that he'd received the backing of a superPAC called Math PAC. 

The Des Moines Register reports: With fewer than 100 days until the Iowa caucuses, Yang's campaign opened a third office in Iowa this month.

Transcript

  This is a computer-generated transcript, and may contain errors.

Laura Knoy:
I'm Laura Knoy. and this is The Exchange. Today, we continue our series of presidential primary 2020 candidate forums. And for this show on Thursday, November 7th, we're talking with Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. He's with us before a live audience in NHPR's Studio D. Our questions today will include some of the many that we receive from listeners, so thank you for your contributions. Also, I'm joined by NHPR's senior political reporter, Josh Rogers. He and I will both ask questions of Mr. Yang. Andrew Yang, it's nice to meet you. Thank you for being here.

Andrew Yang:
It's great to be here. Thank you so much for having me. I love being in New Hampshire.

Josh Rogers:
All right, Mr. Yang, let's start big. What's your view of the role government should play in our lives besides giving everyone over the age of 18 a thousand dollars a month?

Andrew Yang:
I love this question. To me, the government's responsibility is to solve the biggest problems and address the biggest needs that don't have any market incentive attached to them. And I'm a parent. I talk a lot about how my wife is at home with our two boys, one of whom is autistic. And there's obviously no market value attached to her work, despite the fact that we know it's the most important work that anyone's going to do. The same is true with educating our children. I believe the same is true with keeping us healthy, keeping our water and air clean. There aren't market incentives attached to some of these things. And that's where the government has to fill in to address that need for all of us.

Josh Rogers:
So you've written that, quote, Without dramatic change, the best case scenario is a hyper stratified society like something out of The Hunger Games or Guatemala with an occasional mass shooting. The worst case is widespread despair, violence and the utter collapse of our society and economy. Let that sink in for a moment. You know, a survey that NHPR took of listener to indicate that a lot of voters this year are seeking a positive healing vision from our next president. I mean, you see a pretty grim future without dramatic change. Do you think that this is speaking to what voters want?

Andrew Yang:
Well, I believe that that is the vision that we have to prevent. It's one reason why I love being here in New Hampshire, because you all control the future of the country. If you direct the country towards a more positive vision of our future, then we can make that vision a reality very, very quickly. This is the most extreme winner take all economy in our history. And we're now going through the greatest economic transformation in our country's history. What experts are calling the fourth industrial revolution. In my view, it is the main reason Donald Trump won, that we automated away four million manufacturing jobs that were largely centered in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, all the swing states he needed to win. You all lost about 40,000 manufacturing jobs, but you did it a bit earlier and that devastated many communities in the northern part of New Hampshire.

Andrew Yang:
That wave then ripped a hole in many, many Midwestern communities. And I spent seven years working in many of these communities. So I saw it firsthand. And what happened to those manufacturing jobs is now shifting to retail jobs, call center jobs, truck driving jobs, fast food jobs and on and on through the economy.

Andrew Yang:
If we do not evolve in the way we see ourselves and our work and our value, then a very bleak future does await. But it does not need to be that way. And that is the message of my campaign: that New Hampshire can create a new way forward for the rest of the country.

Josh Rogers:
I mean, what's the timetable on that vision?

Andrew Yang:
Well, the manufacturing job loss has already been happening. And again, we automated away four million manufacturing jobs over the last fifteen years or so. And now 30 percent of your stores and malls are closing in the next four years. And that's not just in New Hampshire. That is nationwide. Now, why is that? It's because Amazon is soaking up $20 billion in business every single year and paying zero in taxes while doing it. So the biggest misconception is that what I'm talking about, this fourth industrial revolution, is somehow in the distant future. It is not. It has been going on for 15, 20 years now, and it's about to accelerate. And when you look and you see your main street stores closing forever, that doesn't seem like an automation story because it's not like a robot went and took that retail clerk's job. But if you go to the Amazon fulfillment center that is putting that store out of business, it's wall-to-wall robots and machines.

Josh Rogers:
But I mean, what what is your view of basic human nature if we're in such a precarious state that we have left, in your estimation, the logic of markets so dominate our culture that we're facing this kind of apocalyptic vision? What do you believe about the nature of Americans and where we've let our politics go?

Andrew Yang:
Most people who've heard about me and my campaign know that I'm championing a freedom dividend of $1000 a month for every American adult starting at age 18. And when you hear that, it sounds literally too good to be true. But this is not my idea and it's not a new idea. Martin Luther King championed it in the 1960s. It is what he was fighting for when he was assassinated in 1968. And it was so mainstream it passed the U.S. House of Representatives twice in 1971 under Nixon. So when you're asking how have we gotten to this point, my wife and I have had the same conversation. How is it that what was a mainstream policy endorsed by a thousand economists and passed the U.S. House now seems really radical and dramatic and extreme when we're talking about it in 2019? What happened between 1971 and now is that we were all pushed to a point where we started to confuse economic value and human value, where we said, hey, if the market thinks you're worthless, then you are worthless. It's why we have discussions around trying to retrain coal miners and truck drivers to be coders, which makes no sense on the face of it. But we're so brainwashed into thinking that if you don't have economic value, you don't have value that we then contort ourselves in ridiculous ways to try and push someone to a point where they still have economic value, even when that doesn't make sense on a human level or an economic level.

Laura Knoy:
Let's get a little more clarity on the universal basic income, Mr. Yang, again, a thousand dollars a month to every American adult over the age of 18, up to 64? Could we just clarify that.

Andrew Yang:
Up until your expiration, so it goes forever and it would be the greatest expansion of Social Security benefits in our country's history, in large part because we're facing a retiree crisis in this country where tens of millions of Americans will be working until the day they die. But with the freedom dividend on top of Social Security, we can actually build an economy that works for Americans to be able to retire with dignity.

Laura Knoy:
Ok, so from age 18, up until death. What about people who receive other government benefits besides Social Security, Mr. Yang, food stamps, welfare and so forth. Would they also get those benefits plus the 1000?

Andrew Yang:
So the freedom dividend is universal, and opt-in, and it stacks on top of things like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and housing benefits. But if you do decide to opt into the freedom dividend, then you're choosing to forego certain cash and cash-like benefits from food stamps and heating oil subsidies and things that are meant to put cash in your hands to buy certain things. The goal is not to leave anyone worse off. That's why it's opt-in. And I would not touch existing programs, but you would make a choice. I've talked to people who are on certain benefit programs now and they are very often are very anxious about losing their benefits because they haven't filed something correctly or they have a case manager that checks up on them. There's a lot of stress associated with that, and many of them would vastly prefer an unconditional cash benefit that they could spend how they see fit.

Laura Knoy:
We got lots of questions from listeners on this and I want to share a few with you, Mr. Yang. James asks, What do you say to critics who say your freedom dividend will cause inflation? Ken sent us a similar question. How would you keep cost of living increases, especially rent increases, Ken says, from swallowing up universal income? Can you respond, please, to those concerns that if you pump all this cash suddenly into the economy, prices will naturally go up?

Andrew Yang:
Of course, I'd love to. So you all remember voting for the four trillion dollar bailout of Wall Street in the financial crisis? I don't. None of us voted for it. Does anyone remember anyone concerned about inflation during that time? And lo and behold, there was not meaningful inflation, despite the fact that our government printed four trillion dollars for the banks. You put buying power into our hands and it will make us stronger, healthier, less stressed out, improve our relationships, improve main street economies here in New Hampshire and across the country. There are three core causes of inflation right now in American life. Unfortunately, they're the ones that make us the most miserable. They are rent, education and health care. Those three things have gone up in price dramatically over the last number of years. What has not gone up? Pretty much everything else. Clothing, food, media, electronics, automobiles have either stayed the same and price gotten cheaper and gotten better.

Laura Knoy:
You don't think manufacturers, landlords would say, hey, everybody's got an extra thousand, let's jack up the price a little bit. They'll never notice.

Andrew Yang:
So for landlords, if a landlord, if you're living in a rental right now, you get an extra thousand dollars a month, and the landlord is like "ooh, I'm going to stick it to you. I'm going to like jack up your rent by, you know, six hundred." Then the first thing you do is you look up and say, okay, let me see if other landlords are not going to try and gouge me. And then let's say every landlord tried to gouge you. If it reached that extreme, then you'd look around and say, well, there are four of us. We're getting $1000 a month with $4000 a month. We can actually buy that fixer upper and then you can take upstairs. I'll take downstairs. This actually makes us harder to exploit and harder to push around for landlords or abusive employers. This improves our bargaining power because a thousand dollars a month is portable. It's passive. It goes with us wherever we want. And if they push too hard, then we can walk.

Laura Knoy:
A couple more questions on this and then I'll throw back to Josh. People asked us also, Mr. Yang, why this has no income eligibility attached. They said, why should Jeff Bezos or Oprah Winfrey get a thousand bucks a month? They don't seem especially needy.

Andrew Yang:
So Alaska has had a dividend for almost 40 years now where everyone in Alaska gets between one and two thousand dollars a year. No questions asked. Because of the oil dividend. And what I'm saying to you all here in New Hampshire and everyone around the country is that oil is to Alaska what technology is to the country. That technology is the oil of the 21st century. Our data is now worth more than oil. Does anyone remember getting your data check in the mail? No. Where did the data checks go? Amazon, Facebook, Google and the trillion dollar tech companies that are paying zero or near zero in taxes. So what Alaska's done for the last 40 years to me is a fantastic template. And the richest Alaskan gets the oil dividend, the poorest Alaskan gets it. And what that does is destigmatize it. It turns it not from a rich to poor transfer, but a right of citizenship and makes it so we don't have to check up on you and try and figure out how much you made this year relative to last year. And my funding mechanism would literally generate billions of dollars for the Jeff Bezos is of the world. Yeah. And so if we try and send Jeff a thousand dollars a month just to remind him he's an American, that's immaterial in the in the scheme of things, particularly when you weigh it against the fact that we would make this a universal right.

Laura Knoy:
Well, in an era of concern about exploding deficits and debt, you know, it seems a legitimate question to say, is it a waste of taxpayer money to give it to super rich people?

Andrew Yang:
Well, fundamentally, these are our resources. And so Jeff still is an American. But the problem we have with our deficit to me is primarily a revenue problem, where if you have a trillion dollar tech company like Amazon paying zero in taxes, then, of course, you got to look around saying, OK, like, where's the money going? Where is the money going? They're so powerful that they've managed to obscure the fact that they're paying zero in taxes while the rest of us are trying to figure out how to pay the country's bills. So if we put a mechanism in place where you all, we all, are getting our tiny fair share of every Amazon sale, every Google search, every robot truck mile, every Facebook ad, and eventually every artificial intelligence unit of work, we can generate hundreds of billions of dollars in new revenue very, very quickly, immediately, enough to pay for this dividend that would flow through our communities and build a trickle-up economy from our people, our families and our communities. Well, it's a revenue problem more than an expense problem.

Laura Knoy:
And maybe we'll touched on this a little bit later, because I do want to hand it back to Josh. But one last question. You've talked a lot about this. $12,000 a year, $1000 a month,.

Andrew Yang:
Inflation adjusted too so it ratchets up based upon what the prices do.

Laura Knoy:
So as one of the sort of ways that you would help people displaced by automation, that vision that Josh painted earlier, but as you know, Mr. Yang, $12,000 a year, not very much to live on. So what other ideas do you have for reducing the possible negative effects of automation that you see?

Andrew Yang:
Well this is an all hands on deck situation. I am for education and retraining programs, but the studies have clearly shown that they will work on zero to 20 percent of workers. And if you go to the average truck stop and you have a clipboard saying, hey, how would you like to get retrained as a logistics specialist? They'd be more likely to punch you in the face than sign your clipboard. Honestly, you'd get like 8 punches for every two signatures. So we need to retrain, yes, but we have to be realistic about what that means. The big picture is that we have to actually reframe what our economic measurements are directing our energies towards. So right now, what are the three measurements we add we use for our economy? Gross domestic product, stock market prices and headline unemployment rate in these three numbers are not the right numbers. One joke I tell is how many of you were excited about GDP when you woke up this morning? No one cares. GDP is at record highs. Also at record highs in this country: Suicides, drug overdoses, stress, financial insecurity, student loan debt. It's gotten so bad that our country's life expectancy has declined for three years in a row. First time that's happened in 100 years. Last time it happened was the Spanish flu of 1918, a global pandemic that killed millions. And now it's declining because suicides and drug overdoses have both overtaken vehicle deaths as causes of death. So if we actually change the measuring sticks of our economy to be our own health and life expectancy, our mental health and freedom from substance abuse, clean air and clean water, how our kids are doing, then you end up with a whole different set of jobs and opportunities for people that are pushing us in these directions and solving the real problems of our time.

Laura Knoy:
Well, I know we have some questions for you later about opioids, but I want to turn it back to you, Josh.

Josh Rogers:
We're going to shift to some of your ideas about how to reform our political system. You know, on your web site, you say you'd like to end super PACs and drown out their influence. But as you know, a super PAC has formed Math PAC to benefit you. And when you were in New Hampshire last month, you said you knew very little about it, but you also said, quote, I just hope they're in line with my vision for the country and that they'll invest accordingly. How do you square your position with that statement regarding the super PAC that's formed to benefit your campaign?

Andrew Yang:
We know exactly what's going on, Josh, where our government is now bought and paid for by various corporate interests and lobbying interests. That's one reason why New Hampshire is so important, is that you and you alone can flush the pipes. My campaign raised $10 million last quarter in increments of only $30 each. So my fans are almost as cheap as Bernie's and none of that was corporate PAC money. I'm here to try and solve the problems. My flagship proposal is to give every American voter 100 democracy dollars that you could use towards campaigns and candidates that would flush out the lobbyist cash by a factor of eight to one. That's how we actually get our government back in our hands responding to us instead of the money. In the interim, we have this corrupt, flawed system and we have to win so that we can actually make the changes that the American people want and deserve.

Josh Rogers:
You don't believe you could win while renouncing the super PAC? It's obviously not under your control, but others in the Democratic primary have denounced super PACs. Some have kind of waffled on that. But you think that you'll live with the system and then flush upon election, but until then, you'll hold your nose.

Andrew Yang:
I'm running my campaign and I'm very, very clear on what we need to clean up about our corrupt system. If other Americans look up and say they want to help. Like, I've no control over that. I genuinely don't know much about any of the organizations that are trying to help the campaign. But I'm looking at it saying, look, we have this messed up system right now. If someone wants to use that messed up system to help, I'm just hopeful that they are aligned with my vision.

Josh Rogers:
And as for other ways you hope to curb corruption, you've talked about bumping up the pay of government regulators, you've talked about making the presidency a job that pays four million dollars a year. How big a problem do you think the revolving door is in terms of the way it shapes our policies?

Andrew Yang:
We know it's a terrible problem where regulators just check a box, then go back to industry two years later and nothing ever changes. That's why we have to make being a regulator a one way street where you're not going to go back and work for industry afterwards.

Laura Knoy:
All right. Well, coming up, we'll talk about climate change, opioids and a lot more. Stay with us. This is The Exchange on New Hampshire Public Radio.

Laura Knoy:
This is The Exchange. I'm Laura Knoy. Today, it's the latest in our Primary 2020 Candidate Forum series and we're talking with Democrat Andrew Yang. NHPR senior political reporter, Josh Rogers is also with me. And Mr. Yang, let's turn to climate change. I know this is a big issue for you. I looked at your plan. It is long and detailed with ambitious goals to get the country to a totally green economy by 2049. What's the first step? Because there are a lot of steps in here.

Andrew Yang:
The first step is we have to put a price on pollution. One of the biggest problems in American life is there are these externalities that companies are essentially pushing on to us, the public, and then they take home the profits and we bear the costs. So the first thing we have to do is we have to actually put a price on carbon emissions. So if you pollute, then you pay back into the system that we can then invest in a green economy and provide an incentive for you to lower your emissions as quickly as possible. The second big move you make is you stop subsidizing fossil fuel companies to tens of billions of dollars that they've been enjoying for decades and move those subsidies and resources to wind and solar and renewable energy sources so that we can make progress in the right direction and start reducing our emissions to try and reach zero emissions by 2049.

Laura Knoy:
So step number one, carbon tax.

Andrew Yang:
Yes.

Laura Knoy:
And I understand again that the plan has a lot to it. If I could ask you, though, about the carbon tax, because that's become an important issue I think in this presidential primary. You start off with $40 a ton, eventually it gets up to $100 a ton. How are you going to explain to the American people that this won't hurt them? Because, as you know, most low income people spend more of their budgets on energy.

Andrew Yang:
Well, this would be essentially zero impact on the average consumer's energy bills. The $40 a ton is literally for people who are emitting thousands and thousands of tons every year unless the average American has a smokestack on their ...

Andrew Yang:
And those those costs will help make us greener over time. And because you can't have zero cost of pollution. And I was with Ned Reynolds, who's an entrepreneur here in New Hampshire and Portsmith, and they've been installing solar panels throughout the state and beyond. They have hundreds of employees. And that becomes a win win win for everyone, because it obviously lowers emissions, but it also saves you on your heating bills and makes the community stronger. So that's the kind of move that we can make, that will make it so people's costs are lower, not higher. The last thing we want to do is have it hit the middle class or people who are working every day.

Laura Knoy:
If the U.S. applied this pretty hefty carbon tax, how much do you think, Mr. Yang, polluting industries might say, forget the U.S., we're gonna build our factories overseas that don't have these taxes. So the planet's net carbon might not change even though it wouldn't be admitted here? Is that a concern or something you envision if you go up to 100 bucks a ton?

Andrew Yang:
Well, 100 bucks it takes a while to get to. But this is a massive issue because 85 percent of the carbon emissions are actually outside of our borders. So even if we were to get ourselves under control very, very quickly, the earth will continue to warm because the 85 percent will continue to increase. Right now, China is going to developing countries in Africa and saying, hey, I've got a power plant for you. It burns coal. What do you think? And then what does the African government say? Great. Because they just want energy. They don't care what it burns. And so if we want to combat climate change globally, we're going to have to be there at that table and say, why not pass on the coal burning power plant and instead take these solar panels, take these wind turbines and we will subsidize them enough so that this is actually a better way to go. That's the kind of conversation we need to be having, not just with our own industry, but with societies around the world if we're actually going to get our arms around this problem.

Laura Knoy:
So how do you convince that African nation to take American solar panels versus Chinese coal?

Andrew Yang:
You speak to them in terms of costs because frankly, they're not going to care about anything but which is cheaper. And so we in America subsidize things all the time on an export basis. We need to subsidize things that will actually help make the planet more sustainable and make it so that it's a no brainer for that African government to opt towards solar rather than coal.

Laura Knoy:
A couple of questions about nuclear power. You do say in your plan nuclear needs to be part of this equation, describing it as a stopgap on the way to more reliance on other alternatives like solar. And you call, Mr. Yang, for $50 billion in research and development for thorium based molten salt reactors and nuclear fusion reactors. So to me, this sounds like a major investment, not a stopgap.

Andrew Yang:
We consume a lot of energy in this country, and unless we want to have massive changes in our way of life during this time period, in my view, nuclear needs to be on the table and thorium based reactors have incredible benefits relative to the current technologies. Thorium is not intrinsically radioactive. It degrades much faster than uranium. You can't make weapons out of it. And so it has a wealth of potential to help make us more sustainable more quickly. To me, if you're in a crisis which we are in in terms of climate change, then you can't leave anything off the table. And that to me includes nuclear and next generation nuclear.

Laura Knoy:
Is that big investment though, 50 billion? Is that a stopgap? I guess I want you to explain a little bit more what you mean by stopgap. Is nuclear part of the long term Andrew Yang vision or the short term Andrew Yang Vision?

Andrew Yang:
It's part of the set of solutions that we need to consider And anyone who looks at what we need to do on climate change and energy consumption will say that we need to do more of what's working. And so if we successfully implement next generation nuclear power plants and they're working and they're not presenting a problem in terms of waste disposal, then we would keep them. If we have better alternatives like solar panels are actually meeting our society's needs, then that's the direction we would go. But anyone who looks at this, who says we know exactly what the makeup is going to be decades in the future, actually doesn't know. What we're all doing is pushing in this direction, and then we're going to adopt more and invest more in what works.

Josh Rogers:
We've already talked about a bunch of, you know, big ideas you have from UBI to your climate change plans to some of the reforms are on our political system. And, you know, I've been to a lot of your events and I've talked to a bunch of voters who have checked you out and a lot of them ... a lot of voters I've talked to have told me something along the lines of this: Andrew Young's got a lot of interesting ideas, you know, gives kind of a heck of a TED talk. But why should I believe he's capable of marshaling the kind of movement that one would need to put these ideas into place? What do you say to a person who has those feelings?

Andrew Yang:
Well, that's one reason why it's so tremendous being here in New Hampshire is that you all can again take a vision of the American people, and have that vision become a revolution very, very quickly. I want everyone to play out Andrew Yang, Inauguration 2021, where everyone will know that the reason I won is because I want to put more economic buying power into our hands, into the people's hands, and that that's the best way to improve our way of life. And when voters ask how we're going to get these ideas across the finish line in Congress. Democrats and progressives will be thrilled to put a dividend in our hands because it makes children and families stronger, improves our mental health, will improve our education and graduation rates very, very dramatically.

Andrew Yang:
But then Republicans and conservatives will look up and say, wait a minute. The only state that's done this is Alaska. And that was a deep red conservative state. And conservatives do not dislike buying power and economic freedom in Americans hands. What they dislike the most is a giant bureaucracy making everyone's decisions. So this is the kind of thing we can 100 percent get through Congress because this is historically bipartisan.

Andrew Yang:
This is the kind of realignment of our political ideas that we need to actually end the partisan gridlock in DC. And it's going to take someone like me who is coming at it from a new angle and approach that's not left or right, but forward.

Josh Rogers:
But so what about you, though, can catalyze this, I guess is my question. What about you? What in your experience would lead people to believe that you can be the person to make this happen?

Andrew Yang:
Well, right now, as we're sitting here, I'm either fourth or fifth or sixth in most national polls. And I would suggest to you all that it's probably more difficult to go from total anonymity to fourth, fifth or sixth in national polls, then from fourth, fifth or sixth to number one. The latter happens all of the time in politics, in sports, in any endeavor. And so we've already done the hard part. Now is the easy part, the easy part of letting people know that we can rewrite the rules of the 21st century economy to work for us, to work for you, to work for our families, to work for our kids. And that we actually don't have much of a choice, because if we keep going down this road, when artificial intelligence comes out of the lab and gets rid of the two and a half million call center workers who make 14 bucks an hour, when the robot trucks hit your highways here in New Hampshire, and that doesn't just hit the truckers that hits the truck stops and motels and diners that rely upon the truckers getting out and having a meal, like this is the future. This is the present. The people in New Hampshire are smart enough to see what is going on. It started with the manufacturing plants. It's now on the main streets and we're going to stop it before it hits your highways.

Josh Rogers:
I've never heard a candidate say the easy part is gonna be getting from the middle of the pack to the top. So this is this is new.

Andrew Yang:
It is the easy part because you haven't had many candidates who went from like a civilian to fourth, fifth or sixth. I mean, I've already outperformed, what, half a dozen sitting senators, governors, congresspeople. It's because I understand what the real problems are and I know how to solve them.

Josh Rogers:
Well, one thing that I've read your book, I thought it was interesting and you at one point describe your ideology as one of pragmatism. And, you know, one thing that the book seems a bit thin on is the pragmatic part about how to actually get these policies through. You know, Congress is a tough place to work. I mean have you ever tried to get people to sponsor bills based on your ideas, do it by referenda at the state level, even, you know, on a municipal level. Have you ever tried to get any of these policies in place beyond getting up on a stage and telling people how great they are?

Andrew Yang:
Well, I did start a multi-million dollar national nonprofit from scratch that then worked with various governments throughout the country. And I'm also realistic about what is going on in D.C.. I have been to D.C. and it is broken and it's going to take a lot to pull people together and start solving the problems that, frankly, got Donald Trump into office. I am the last person who would say that I'm going to go and run D.C. like a business, because D.C. is not a business. They're very, very different things. It's actually much more analogous to a non-profit, which, again, I founded and led for seven years, where you have thousands of constituents and you have to galvanize energy around a vision and have people see that it's in their own self-interest to head in the same direction. So as your president, I'm going to have a whole team of people that have very deep relationships and familiarity with Capitol Hill because we need to get things done and solve the problems. And that's not going to happen, as you suggest, through just one person. It's going to be a team of people that have a combination of both new ideas and approaches and the relationships and know-how on Capitol Hill to get them into law.

Josh Rogers:
When you launched Venture for America, I believe the goal was to create 100,000 jobs by 2025. And as far as I can tell, we're now at around, you know, maybe a little bit more than 3000 jobs created out of that. So how do you how do you account for that?

Andrew Yang:
Well, one, it's not 2025 yet.

Josh Rogers:
True. But was it ...were you expecting to be at 3400 jobs right now?

Andrew Yang:
But, two, one of the reasons I'm running for president is I realized that as proud as I am of all the work we are doing at Venture for America, that we were pouring water into a bathtub has a giant hole ripped in the bottom, that our economy is evolving in unprecedented ways that's making more and more of us economically extraneous. And so the fact that venture for America created several thousand jobs, again, I'm incredibly proud of it, but I realized that the macro changes in front of us were much more serious than even I'd realized in the beginning.

Laura Knoy:
Mr. Yang, if you were elected president, as you know, you'd be commander in chief. So let's talk about foreign policy. You said you favored diplomacy, working with allies. How would you deal with those quote from your Web site "hose who would work against us"? And by the way, who falls into that category?

Andrew Yang:
Well unfortunately right now, the global world order that America helped establish and has been benefiting from for decades, is now falling apart. And to me, the order of events was that we allowed our communities to fall apart. And then we got Donald Trump as our president. And then Donald Trump has become an erratic and unpredictable and unreliable actor in world affairs. And now other countries are are looking up saying, well, I guess at this point, we just have to start looking out for ourselves and we're not even sure America is going to live up to its commitments. So to reverse this, it's not going to be fast or easy. The first thing we have to do is actually become strong and whole at home because you cannot project a sustained and reliable foreign policy if you're falling apart and you don't have any kind of unity or vision at home. And then you have to go to your allies and say, look, we're in it for the long haul. We're sorry about that four year aberration that was the Trump presidency, but we turned it around in an awful hurry and we're going to be good to our commitments. We know that the more we invest in diplomacy, the less we have to invest in ammunition. And that's just not me speaking. That's James Mattis, the former secretary of defense. And so the vision is to let the rest of the world know that we are open for business if that business is solving problems through diplomacy, relationships and partnerships.

Laura Knoy:
So there's the allies part. But on your website, you do say, you know, there are those who would, quote, work against us. Who do you see as working against American interests and how would you manage them as president?

Andrew Yang:
We know we have a very, very tough, competitive 21st century economic environment. I'm not someone who has a zero sum game where if another country is getting richer, that's somehow bad for us. So the biggest threats I worry about in terms of working against us are non-state actors, loose nuclear material, climate change, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence. And one thing we don't talk enough about is the proliferation of drones for military use. There are now tens of thousands of military drones in the hands of dozens of both state and non-state actors. And these drones are much harder to defend against than to use offensively. If you can imagine a drone the size of a vacuum cleaner with explosives attached to it, or even radioactive material or chemical warfare. Can you imagine trying to make an international like, let's say, a military base fully protected from that kind of threat? It's very, very difficult. So these are the things that I believe are the greatest threats of the 21st century. And I believe you need a commander-in-chief that actually understands those threats and understands that there's going to be a great deal of innovation necessary to keep Americans safe in the days to come.

Laura Knoy:
Well, speaking of non-state actors, the terrorist group ISIS has already named a new leader since the death of its former leader in a raid by U.S. forces, as I'm sure you know, Mr. Yang. And there still reportedly thousands of ISIS fighters in Syria. And who knows where else? What would a Yang administration approach be toward this threat?

Andrew Yang:
Well, first, I would never abruptly pull our troops out in a way that left our allies in the lurch and allowed some of our enemies to get stronger. The goal is to work with the governments that we have relationships with in that region to contain, surpress, defeat, and destroy ISIS over time. Of course they're going to have a new leader because that's the way any organization works. You take one person out and then someone else will rise in their place. And so this is going to be an ongoing conflict. I don't have any silver bullets or easy answers except to continue to engage and defeat and destroy over time.

Laura Knoy:
Just broadly, Mr. Yang, how would you describe the bar that you would set as president for sending American troops into harm's way? This is a sort of an existential question that we've been discussing with all the candidates.

Andrew Yang:
I have a three part test for sending our men and women, the armed forces, into a foreign theater in harm's way. Number one, there has to be a vital American national interest at stake or the potential to avert a clear humanitarian catastrophe. So that needs to be one of those two things. Number two, there needs to be a clearly defined time frame where we can say very honestly, looking at our soldiers in the eyes and say this is how long you're going to be there and this is when you're going to be able to leave. Not one of these open ended commitments, not something amorphous. And the third is we need to have our allies engaged and willing to join us in this. If these three things are in place, then I would consider military intervention.

Laura Knoy:
Coming up, more of our conversation with Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. We'll talk about immigration, guns, criminal justice reform and a lot more. Stay with us. This is The Exchange on New Hampshire Public Radio.

Laura Knoy:
This is The Exchange, I'm Laura Knoy. Today, our series of Primary 2020 candidate forums continues with Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. NHPR's senior political reporter Josh Rogers is also with me asking questions of Mr. Yang. And Josh, I'll turn it back to you.

Josh Rogers:
Ok, let's move to opioids. Here's a multi-part question we receive from a listener. How are you going to address our addiction problem that's killing people every day? Are we finally ready to hold the pharmaceutical companies liable? How are you going to handle all the kids growing up with parents either dead, in jail or actively using, and the grandparents being their main caregiver? How do you deal with all those things?

Andrew Yang:
This makes me so angry because the opiate crisis is a disease of capitalism run amuck, Purdue Pharma made tens of billions of dollars off of OxyContin and then they paid a 2 percent fine. And meanwhile, families and communities have been destroyed around the country. That's blood money. We need to get that money back. Put it towards helping make our people well. But we have to acknowledge, too, that this is not solely a money problem. This is a human problem. If you put money to work, it lowers one of the barriers. But we know people will be struggling with addiction for years and many people will not recover. So if the government screwed up on such an epic level that we allowed this plague to take place among our people, then it's up to us to try and help people recover the right ways. So number one, claw back all the ill gotten blood money from the drug companies and put it to work in communities so that if you need treatment, you can access it. But number two, we should follow the example of other countries who've had these drug abuse and overdose epidemics and decriminalize opiates for personal use. So if you get caught with the drugs, we take the drugs and then we refer you to treatment or counselling and not to a prison cell. This would help people actually get the help that they need and not fear that their lives are going to be destroyed if they're caught with the drugs. If you're dealing, you go to jail. But if you're an addict, we get you help. And when other countries have done this, this has lowered overdose rates and abuse rates in those countries very, very quickly. We can do the same thing here. We have to say, look, this is not a personal failing. This was a structural systemic failing. And it's not your fault that you're struggling with addiction. We have to be able to help you.

Josh Rogers:
So what would be a threshold for the amount of opioids that would be legal?

Andrew Yang:
Well, there are clearly defined thresholds where you get entered into a drug trafficking statute. So anything below a level where you are in a dealing and trafficking statute and it's for personal use.

Josh Rogers:
And so this this would not include cocaine, this would just be opioids or this would also include cocaine?

Andrew Yang:
This would be opioids only because we all know what happened. The OxyContin addiction then metastasized into heroin and fentanyl because those drugs are cheaper and easier to get than oxy. And you're not going to believe this, well you will believe this, you'll believe anything about these drug companies. But Purdue Pharma said that OxyContin was not addictive until it actually helped them make money to say it was addictive. And so then they change their tune and said, actually, it's super addictive and they knew the truth the whole time. Those people should be in jail today.

Josh Rogers:
With thousands of people with suffering from drug issues, there's been a real spike in industry regarding addiction treatment. How would your administration go about regulating that end of it? Because there are big problems there as well.

Andrew Yang:
Well, we need to, again, invest in the things that work. And to the extent that there's a service provider that is somehow profiteering and not helping people, then we have to identify those actors and say, look, this is not where either the public's resources or family's resources should be heading. But one of the things I'm passionate about, as you can probably tell, is making our mental health and freedom from substance abuse a core measurement of what's going on in our communities. And if you had those measurements, then it would be much easier to identify what's working and what's not.

Josh Rogers:
I mean, among the things you talk about in criminal justice reform is legalizing marijuana, outlawing for-profit prisons, where does criminal justice form reform rank for you as a priority if you become president?

Andrew Yang:
It's very high because it's destroying lives. To me, marijuana should be legal all around the country. It's a much safer way to manage pain than many of the things that we're currently making available to people. But the criminal justice system is also an emblem of how we become overly punitive as a country and not just towards the people who unfortunately run afoul of our criminal justice system. We're throwing people in jail for not being able to make bail. We're essentially criminalizing poverty in many communities, but we're also punishing ourselves in various ways where we're falling prey again to this logic where it's like oh, if if you fall through the cracks, that's somehow your fault. And oftentimes there are these massive forces arrayed against those people that make getting ahead next to impossible. So we have to address what's going on in our criminal justice system, become more rehabilitative and forgiving, and focus on integrating people back into society in productive ways. I'm going to suggest that if you've got a thousand bucks a month when you come out of jail, you'd be like, wow, things have gotten better since I went in. But also, it'd be a very powerful incentive for you to stay out of jail, because if you're in jail, then we spend the money in your incarceration. You don't get it. And so now you come out of jail with a thousand bucks a month and people will actually be happy to see you when you get home.

Josh Rogers:
So I want to quickly touch on guns. Pretty much every Democratic calling for new limits on guns. What strikes you as reasonable in terms of efforts to curb guns in our country and what if any idea strike you as going too far?

Andrew Yang:
I'm a parent and got two young kids and one of our son's schools notified us that they'll be doing the first of four active shooter drills this week. Maybe it was this week. And those active shooter drills demonstrably make our kids more anxious, more stressed out, more confused and more uncertain. And they do not demonstrably make them any safer. So I would end active shooter drills or make them optional based upon the parents in a community, because saying that we're going to keep our kids safe through these drills like actually does not make any sense. In terms of guns and gun rights. I am for the common sense gun laws that most Americans agree on at this point. Universal background checks and red flag laws and making it harder for people to get their hands on weapons that can kill large numbers of Americans very quickly. But to me, the unspoken truth is that almost two thirds of gun deaths are suicides. And so we need to be working on trying to make our community stronger from the ground up, which includes what's going on in families and schools and the economy. All of these things contribute to people making tragic, irrevocable choices that destroy their own lives or the lives of our fellow Americans.

Laura Knoy:
Well, I ask you a couple quick questions about immigration, Mr. Yang. You've said sending the eleven to twelve million people already here illegally, sending them back is unreasonable. Unworkable. But you've also said these individuals tried to circumvent the legal immigration system into the U.S. and any pathway to citizenship for them must reflect this fact. What do you mean by that, exactly?

Andrew Yang:
We have over twelve million people who are undocumented here in this country and pretending we can somehow deport twelve million people is unrealistic on many levels, it's inhumane. It would destroy regional economies, it's unworkable and we shouldn't pretend that it is. So I'm for a long term path to citizenship, but that path to citizenship should be painstaking and involve a long enough time period where we can be assured that someone is going to be paying taxes and following rules and not generating a criminal record.

Laura Knoy:
18 years. So come out of the shadows. Register with us. We'll keep track of you. In the meantime, you get a job and pay taxes and be sort of an upstanding contributor to society. Is that what you're saying?

Andrew Yang:
Yeah. That is what I'm saying, that this was something that Marco Rubio and the Republicans were supportive of until they lost their conviction on it, where you only have three approaches to this. Number one, you pretend you can deport them, which is is not realistic. Number two, you try and integrate them into society over a long term period, which is what I'm advocating for. And the number three is you accept the status quo, which is that you pretend people aren't here and then they get into car accidents and then show up at hospitals and have problems in school and all of these things that end up making it hard on our society collectively and for the populations in question.

Laura Knoy:
When you talk about effective, secure, humane border security, what do you envision, Mr. Yang? What does your humane border look like?

Andrew Yang:
The tough truth is that we are doing a terrible job of enforcing our policies as are written on the books. We say, hey, you can apply for asylum, but then you have literally like a 15 month waiting period and we have no place to put you during that time. So then you your choices are to either detain people in inhumane conditions for 15 months or just let them walk free. And then when they walk free, many of them just don't show up fifteen months later, which is kind of what you'd expect if you looked at it. And so we're in a terrible bind right now where because we don't have the capacity to actually enforce our policies as they're written, we're not doing anything well. And so this is a government execution problem where we need to actually build up the resources on the border to a point where we can enforce the policies in a reasonable way. And I looked into this in depth. We have 5000 job openings on the border right now, and we paid Accenture millions of dollars to source people for those job openings. And they identified less than 20 people. Like we spent like a million dollars per person that they sourced. Because these jobs are in the middle of nowhere. They don't pay well. They're depressing. They have high turnover. And so when you try and hire people at the border, it turns out that they don't want to be there very long and they quit after six months. And so we have the mess that we have. So we need to to put real resources to work at every level, which can include staffing up in new facilities. It can also include what people are calling a smart wall, where you have sensors that identify when someone crosses over and then you can identify what that traffic looks like, where the people are going, and then help intercept them when they're a little bit further from the border.

Laura Knoy:
Okay, Josh, I'll throw it back to you. Go ahead.

Josh Rogers:
As your stump speech acknowledges there are still some voters out there, if they know anything about you, it's that you're Asian-American and you want to give everyone a thousand dollars a month.

Andrew Yang:
Those things are both true.

Josh Rogers:
Good to know. Good to know. Are there tell us a few other things that voters don't know and that you think they should...preferably not stuff, you know, pried right out of your stump speech.

Andrew Yang:
I went to high school here in New Hampshire and I definitely had no intention of ever running for president. You can tell by my fashion choices. Though I went out and lived many components of the American dream and I wound up starting this non-profit Venture for America that exposed me to what's happening in the Midwest, in the South, and explained to me that what we're dealing with is this historic economic and technological shift and not immigrants that are being scapegoated and not Russia and racism in the rest of the causes that get thrown around on cable TV. And so then you have a limited range of choices where you're like, OK, what do I do to help my country manage this time? Running for president is not anyone's first choice, honestly. Like I'm not running for president because I always fantasized about being president. I'm running for president because like many of you in this room, I'm a parent and I'm a patriot and I see the future coming down the pike. And it is not something I'm willing to accept for my children or yours. We can do better. We must do better then. And so to the extent that people don't know, don't know much about me, I think I'm a more normal person than you might imagine. Let's put it that way. Like I'm not some maniac who was like oh I'm going to like, go to high school in New Hampshire and that'll be great for my presidential run 30 years later. No, I'm just someone who saw what was going on in our country and said we need to do better. I thought I could help us do better. And I'm grateful for the opportunity.

Josh Rogers:
One thing in your book you've said is that if there is to be a revolution it's likely to be born of race and identity with automation-driven economics as the underlying force. Do you think Donald Trump's election and our current politics proves that that revolution may be in its nascence?

Andrew Yang:
I do. You know, if you spend time in these communities that have been devastated by the automation of their manufacturing jobs, those areas went towards Donald Trump very clearly and aggressively. And those trends are just going to accelerate where if you imagine all the truck stops in the Midwest closing, that's going to devastate so many towns and communities. And then you look up and say, OK, what's going to happen in those communities? Do we think that they will also see massive surges in drug overdoses and suicides if left to their own devices? Almost certainly, yes.

Andrew Yang:
I mean, it's happening around the country and we haven't even reached the real accelerant when AI starts hitting our organizations in earnest. I am friends with some of the foremost technologists in the country. And the more you know, the more concerned you are. It is not a situation where it's like I'm deep into this and it's gonna be fine. That's not the conversation. Like the more they know, the more they say, wow, this is going to be a buzzsaw. So if you thought what happened that led up to Trump has helped make us less reasonable, less rational, turned us against each other, which it has. Unfortunately, those trends are just going to get worse.

Laura Knoy:
Well, speaking of turning against each other, earlier this year, NHPR conducted a huge survey of Granite Staters. We got so many responses. We asked people to share the question you most want presidential candidates to address. And Mr. Yang, among the very top issues mentioned was civility. So here's a question from one listener. How will you bring civility back to our national political dialogue? And I wanna thank that person for the question. And Mr. Yang, what do you think? How will you do it?

Andrew Yang:
I love this question, because I think the way we can restore civility is by pulling people together and not focusing on what divides us from each other. And if you look at my campaign, I've come out as one of the only candidates who said, I think identity politics and cancel culture has gone overboard. That when a comedian actually used a racial slur against me, I came out and said I didn't think he should lose his job over it because he's a comedian and this did not strike me as evil and repugnant. It struck me as bad comedy. And last I checked, that's not a job-losing offense, especially for a comedian, I mean, you know, I guess you could turn the other way. It's like you're a bad comedian.... Anyway... the essence of my campaign is that we need a new way forward that includes our own humanity and that means fallibility as well and becomes more forgiving of ourselves and of our fellow Americans, that if someone makes a misstatement instead of saying this somehow reflects negatively on their true nature or their character, we can say, look, you know, someone flubbed a statement, you know, and instead of having this culture where we attack someone over that, well, you look up and say, no. Well, they. Probably could have chosen better words. And I think this is how we bring the country together and move us forward and start working together to solve the problems of the American people.

Laura Knoy:
Sounds like what another former president called kinder, gentler.

Andrew Yang:
You can use those words, sure, I'll take ideas from anyone. So even some from Republicans which kinder, gentler was.

Laura Knoy:
Mr. Yang, it's been really nice to talk to you. Could've talked to a lot longer. Really appreciate it. Appreciate you coming in, visiting us here in New Hampshire and coming to NHPR. Thank you. We really appreciate the audience that turned out this morning. Also, I want to thank my colleague, Josh Rogers. You've been listening to The Exchange on NHPR.