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Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press
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You can’t mistake me for one of the so-called “Yang Gang.” I’m not, overall a voter for Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
My biggest concern is that he has never served before in elected office. And Yang’s heart may be entirely different than that of the current occupant of the Oval Office. But after our experience with Donald Trump, I think the basic lesson we can learn is that the presidency of the United States should never again be an entry level position.
Despite that, Yang was the only one on stage Tuesday evening at the CNN/New York Times Democratic presidential debate from Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, to lay out some important economic truths.
Known mostly for his proposals to provide all adult Americans with a universal basic income (UBI) of $1,000 per month, Yang has spoken before about the dangers of “automation” to the American workforce.
But to most folks, automation brings to mind things like robots taking over on a manufacturing assembly line.
But Tuesday evening, Yang described automation which is much more insidious, and going right now, all around us. This includes things like that the computerized kiosks at fast food restaurants which are slowly but surely supplanting the number of cashiers available behind the counter.
Or, as Yang explained, the beginnings of the testing of self-driving trucks in California. Not only would this eliminate the jobs of the existing truck drivers, but as Yang pointed out, would also kill those of which who operate truck stops and other aspects of the infrastructure which support them.
Yang’s rivals onstage offered proposals for job guarantees and strengthened labor unions. But if the jobs just aren’t there anymore, thanks to computers, it’s not clear what these guarantees and boosts to organized labor would do to help.
By contrast, the sort of automation and job loss now and into the near future that Yang describes would seem to not only bolster the argument for his UBI, but indeed, $1,000 a month would hardly seem like enough to help Americans get by in this brave new world.
Perhaps we not only should we be giving UBI a longer look, but more consideration of just what an equitable sum might be in a world where the jobs just aren’t to be had anymore.
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