In the crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates, Andrew Yang stands out with a lengthy and eccentric list of policy proposals. Yang, a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur who has never run for a political office before, addresses more than 75 issues on his website for what he calls “A Campaign of Ideas.”
Yang is a New Yorker whose parents immigrated to the United States from Taiwan in the 1960s. In 2011, he launched the non-profit Venture for America. It encourages and trains young entrepreneurs to work for local start-ups across the country. After announcing his presidential bid in 2017, Yang has slowly gained attention and supporters (the #YangGang) by appearing on popular podcasts such as “The Joe Rogan Experience.”
The backbone of Yang’s platform is a Universal Basic Income, or what he calls the “Freedom Dividend.” Yang says he wants the government to give $1,000 every month to every American over the age of 18. He outlines the policy in his book, “The War on Normal People,” arguing UBI is the most “direct and concrete way” for the government to improve American lives. UBI is hardly a new policy idea, but Yang believes giving people money is especially needed now to combat the growing number of jobs lost to robots and automation.
“I’ve got a wife and two kids and I’m running for president to solve the problems of this era,” Yang told NBC News. “We have this sinking feeling that our government is way behind the curve, and I’m trying to catch us up. I’m a lot more of a normal American than I have a sense that most people believe just by looking at me from afar.”
Writing $12,000 checks to Americans every year is an unconventional platform for president, but it’s hardly Yang’s most unique policy proposal. While other candidates like Robert Francis O’Rourke have zero policy ideas fleshed out or even listed on their websites, Yang has something for everyone, from common Democratic positions on health care and education to geoengineering and paying college athletes.
It almost seems as if his campaign held brainstorming meeting and decided to publish everything they threw up on the white board. Here are some of the most unique issues Yang says he would address if elected president.
1. The American Mall Act
“We need to do all we can to find productive uses for the hundreds of American malls that are going to close in the next four years,” Yang writes on his website. He laments the death of American malls that were once hubs of economic activity, but are now closed, abandoned, and often vandalized or inhabited by homeless people. Yang proposes creating incentives and funds to entice developers to reinvent uses for these empty buildings.
2. Free Marriage Counseling For All
Yang acknowledges the effects families have on the health of American society, and calls for a policy that would encourage and support couples to stay together. Studies show that not only does divorce have numerous negative effects on adults and children, but children in two-parent households average better outcomes across most metrics of happiness and success. He suggests that “marriage counseling for interested couples should be free or heavily subsidized by the government.”
3. Making Tax Day a Federal Holiday
Arguably one of the most ambitious policy ideas listed on his website is “Making Taxes Fun.” Yang says, “Tax day is dreaded, not celebrated,” and he’s not wrong. Yang proposes making tax day a federal holiday, or “Revenue Day,” and, in an attempt to make it a celebration, Americans should “be able to direct 1% of their taxes to a specific project” to be highlighted and announced as part of the fun.
“If someone pays taxes, that’s great and we should make him or her feel like they contributed to important things that make people’s lives better,” he writes.
4. Monitor the Mental Health of White House Staff
“My brother is a psychology professor—I believe in the power and good that the discipline can do. We should be 100% confident that people in power don’t have severe psychological problems,” Yang writes.
It’s unclear what his brother’s occupation has to do with the president’s mental health. Nevertheless, Yang is convinced that there should be a “White House Psychologist group” responsible for monitoring the mental health of employees in the executive branch.
5. A Program For High Schoolers to Live in Different Parts of the Country
Yang is concerned about the growing divide between urban and rural Americans, and the resulting political polarization across the country. His solution? In what he calls the “American Exchange Program,” high school seniors would be able to travel to different parts of the United States “to make friends from different backgrounds and learn about American culture that they would otherwise lack exposure to.”
6. National Texting Line to Report Annoying Robo-calls
This has to be the most bipartisan issue ever addressed, and Yang apparently detests the out of control robo-calls as much as the rest of us do. He proposes a robo-calling text line, where you can report the phone number of any robo-call that you feel wasted your time. The Federal Communications Commission would then investigate and potentially fine any company that receives numerous complaints.
“Companies need to value our time the same way that we do. If you call me you’d better be human.”
7. A Government System to Monitor and Reward Volunteer Work
“We need to create a new way of both measuring and rewarding positive behaviors that spurs people to give to and ask more of their neighbors,” Yang writes. “We could create an entire parallel economy around social good that spurs incredible levels of activity and reconstitutes the fabric of our society.”
In what Yang calls “Modern Time Banking,” community engagement would be encouraged through an app that tracks and rewards your volunteer hours. You could also reward your neighbors or friends for things like “watering your plants or taking your mail in while you’re away.” Banked time could be redeemed for special experiences like “tickets to a local ball game or meeting with a government or civic leader.” Nope, that doesn’t sound like a dystopian disaster waiting to happen.
8. Ending Routine Infant Circumcision
Yang believes the practice of circumcising an infant is often pushed on parents without proper education about the practice. This is not one of the policy issues addressed on his website, but was reported by The Daily Beast after Yang was asked about the practice on Twitter last week.
Against the practice.
— Andrew Yang (@AndrewYang) March 13, 2019
Yang said that, if elected, he would would push for “initiatives meant to inform parents that they don’t need to have their infants circumcised for health reasons.”
Yang’s creative approach to solving these problems could be attractive to voters looking for someone with out-of-the-box ideas. But for most the part, his wild proposals seem like more government involvement and increased government-run fixes for things that would be best addressed by either market forces or community members themselves.