The emergence of millionaire entrepreneur Andrew Yang as a political powerhouse was one of the most intriguing narratives from the Democratic Primary.
In an already record setting field of candidates, from the number of women running to the first openly gay contender, Yang found himself standing out from the crowd. He was the first Asian American to run for President as a Democrat and he displayed a keen understanding of economic principles without shying away from politically shocking policy ideas.
Yang’s proposed Universal Basic Income (UBI), where every American gets a base monthly income from the government regardless of social circumstance, was mostly disregarded by the electorate. However, with the spread of the coronavirus and subsequent economic fallout, Yang’s proposal is looking more prophetic than ridiculous.
Due to Yang’s forward thinking approach, many consider him a top candidate for a high ranking Cabinet position if Joe Biden is indeed elected as the 46th President of the United States in November.
Which one though? Given Yang’s background, education, experience, and grasp of the current problems facing Americans, he would be an excellent choice for a couple different appointments. There is one position though, that we have not considered yet, and it would be the perfect fit.
Given Yang’s passionate promotion of UBI, the Department of the Treasury seems like the obvious choice. Educated at Brown University, Yang majored in Economics and Political Science. He went on to Columbia Law School where he earned his Juris Doctor.
After a short-lived career as a lawyer, Yang jumped head long into startups. It was not all rainbows and sunshine for Yang though as his tech startup called Stargiving, which focused on celebrity-based fundraising, failed during the dot com bubble.
Bouncing back though, Yang had a string of successful ventures. In 2009, he sold his test prep company, Manhattan Prep, to Kaplan for an amount told to be in the tens of millions. These failures and successes resulted in a deep, healthy understanding of macro economic forces and how they effect business.
Yang’s grasp of economic policy and experience in the volatile world of technology-centric businesses would be an attractive perspective to head up the Treasury. The future of fiat currency is uncertain and more businesses are adopting technology to improve their bottom line. Fiscal policies guided by someone forward thinking like Yang is an attractive prospect.
It was a toss up between Labor and Commerce. Yang would be effective in either role. However, the reason Yang leans more Labor Secretary for me is his obsessive focus on the dangers of automation and how it is overhauling the very concept of work.
Yang sees the shift coming to every sector of the employment paradigm. He spoke at length about the dangers of automation at every debate. Most manufacturing jobs today can be completed by robots instead of people.
Robots do not require a salary, lunch breaks, or insurance benefits. And companies in capitalistic societies are turning more and more to robots and automation to reduce their payroll and labor costs. We see it at self-checkout kiosks in grocery stores and in auto-manufacturing plants around the world.
Old policies and old strategies will not be able to navigate this new world. Someone like Yang could bring a fresh, disruptive perspective to the Department of Labor, for the betterment of our society.
This position does not exist, I know. But it should. We should have had this Secretary in the mid-90s when the internet and dot com bubble began to grow. Better late than never; now would be the perfect time to create a 24th seat in the Cabinet.
UBI, automation, all the things that Yang talks about so passionately; they all stem from issues that technological advancements have created. After all, Yang’s UBI proposal is based on the premise that Americans will be paid for the use of their data by technology companies.
The U.S. Government has been hilariously behind when it comes to legislating in a way that is effective and productive in this digital age. Privacy, legislation, consumer protections, regulations; America and the rest of the world has been failing to catch up for more than three decades.
It does not help that Congress has an average age of 58 and the Senate has an average age of 62. Sadly, the leadership barely knows how to use their smart phones let alone knows how the dynamic technological society we live in now effects daily life, legislation, policy, and executive action.
How our country regulates and interacts with technology has been largely underwhelming with our current system. The government as a whole could use deft, masterful leadership to steer the impact technology has on our communities; someone who understand the current state of all things tech and can help guide the digital future of America.
There is no doubt that Andrew Yang has earned the right to be part of the political conversation for years to come; either as President, Congressman, Cabinet member, national advisor, or commentator. His potential contributions to the future of the United States are indeed limitless.
Yang is politically young at 45, smart as a whip, can see what the future could realistically look like, and is not afraid to propose big ideas that could alter American society to its benefit.
I compare him to a young Bernie Sanders. In the 1990s, Sanders was preaching about gay rights, universal health care, decriminalizing marijuana, and many more progressive policies. This was years before the public would consider such ‘radical ideas.’
At the time, few cared to listen to Sanders. The public would not be ready to hear him for another 20 years. Now he is considered a mainstream, popular politician whom the youth of the country see as “the one who gets it.”
Andrew Yang presents the same conundrum now for Americans. He is 20 years ahead compared to the rest of the country and he is desperately trying to show us the world he sees. I can only hope it does not take as long for the American public to catch up this time.
A man like that should be the leading voice in the conversation around technology and its impact on our lives; for the sake of our government, our country, and our future.