[THE THIRD WAY] Yang gang?

One of the lesser known “junior varsity”  2020 candidates is a Silicon Valley businessman named Andrew Yang. I think it’s important to analyze candidates like these because while they won’t win the nomination, the nominee might adopt parts of their platform in order to win support. Yang has a few unconventional views for the Democratic party that he wishes to popularize using his candidacy. First, he wants to put a sunset clause on all laws. A sunset clause is a function of a law that effectively deletes it after a certain period of time. This means that Congress would have to reauthorize any law years after its passage, which is never guaranteed to happen. Because of congressional gridlock and the filibuster, it’s almost impossible that laws passed could be reauthorized many times, leading to a very confusing and nonsensical legal system. Yang’s reasoning for supporting mandatory sunset clauses is that the US legal code is a mess. What he fails to understand, however, is that it’s not just messy and unnecessary laws that will expire, but any laws that are politically controversial.

His proposals, with the notable exception of UBI, haven’t been created with the intention of becoming law, only to start a conversation and impact the 2020 primary

Yang’s main idea as a candidate is a universal basic income (UBI), a form of welfare wherein the government gives twelve thousand dollars cash to each citizen (no strings attached). Unlike typical welfare, a direct cash transfer wouldn’t disappear when citizens find work, making it less likely that they would avoid employment to keep welfare benefits. Current welfare recipients would be given a choice between existing benefits and a UBI, which Yang says will lead to most choosing UBI. More money would be spent on citizens rather than distribution since a UBI requires much less work to implement than current welfare systems. To some degree, the plan makes sense; who wouldn’t want a grand every month? It’s not all good, though. The amount of money spent on a UBI could go to better Medicare and Medicaid, which would disproportionately help the poor and elderly rather than everyone equally. There is concern that a UBI would destroy the political will for better national healthcare since politicians can say that people will spend their UBI on insurance. It is a waste, moreover, to give 12k a month to the top 20% of American income earners — they’re doing just fine. Direct cash transfers are a rational idea, but in my opinion, a UBI is a wrong way to implement them. A better system would be one where welfare is streamlined via cash transfers, but it would still only go to the poor and working class.

Yang has some very unorthodox proposals. His policy platform states that he wants to use 10% of the military budget — approximately $60 billion per year —to a new domestic infrastructure force called the Legion of Builders and Destroyers. The Legion would be tasked with keeping our country strong by making sure our bridges, roads, power grid, levies, dams, and infrastructure are up-to-date, sound and secure.” Yes, that’s right, Yang wants to create a new military branch in charge of building roads. It’s hard to laugh too hard at this proposal given how bloated the US military budget actually is, but the solution should be reducing it, not reorganizing the military for a purpose it’s rarely used for. The legion would also have the power to override local regulations involving infrastructure, which means they would be able to demolish and build roads without the involvement of relevant cities.

Overall — Yang’s candidacy is kind of a joke. His proposals, with the notable exception of UBI, haven’t been created with the intention of becoming law, only to start a conversation and impact the 2020 primary. Like the military budget, our campaigns have become bloated; we have people running for office that never intend to reach that office, which seems like such a massive waste of both donor money and media attention. Yang has the opportunity to prove me wrong. If whoever the 2020 nominee is, wins and implements one of Yang’s proposals, I’ll finally understand the purpose of no-chance, single-issue campaigns.