Andrew Yang

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Andrew Yang
Andrew Yang by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Yang in August 2019
Born (1975-01-13) January 13, 1975 (age 46)
EducationBrown University (BA)
Columbia University (JD)
Occupation
  • Entrepreneur
  • political candidate
  • political commentator
  • author
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
Evelyn Lu
(m. 2011)
Children2
Signature
Andrew Yang signature.svg

Andrew Yang[1] (born January 13, 1975) is an American businessman, politician, and author. Originally a lawyer, Yang began working in startups and early stage growth companies as a founder or executive from 2000 to 2009. In 2011, he founded Venture for America (VFA), a nonprofit organization focused on creating jobs in cities struggling to recover from the Great Recession. He ran in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries, and as a resident of Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan,[2] is running as a Democrat in the 2021 New York City mayoral election.

The son of immigrants from Taiwan, Yang was born and raised in New York State. He attended Brown University and Columbia Law School. On November 6, 2017, Yang filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to run for President of the United States in the 2020 election. Yang's campaign largely focused on responding to the rapid development of automation. His signature policy was the "Freedom Dividend," a universal basic income (UBI) of $1,000 a month to every American adult as a response to job displacement by automation. Yang has been credited with popularizing the idea of universal basic income through his candidacy and activism.[3] News outlets described Yang as the most surprising candidate of the 2020 election cycle, going from a relative unknown to a major competitor in the race.[4][5][6] Yang qualified for and participated in seven of the first eight Democratic debates. His supporters, informally known as the "Yang Gang", included several high-profile celebrities.[7][8][9] Yang suspended his campaign on February 11, 2020, shortly after the New Hampshire primary.[10]

After his campaign ended, Yang joined CNN as a political commentator, announced the creation of the political nonprofit organization Humanity Forward, and entered the race for the Democratic nomination in the 2021 New York City mayoral election.[11][12][13]

Early life and education[edit]

Yang was born on January 13, 1975, in Schenectady, New York.[14] His parents, Taiwanese Americans Kei-Hsiung Yang and Nancy L. Yang,[14] emigrated from Taiwan to the U.S. in the 1960s[15] and met in graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley.[16] Yang is of mixed Fujianese and Taiwanese descent.[17] His father graduated with a Ph.D. in physics and worked in the research labs of IBM and General Electric, generating over 50 patents in his career.[18][16] His mother graduated with a master's degree in statistics[19] before becoming a systems administrator at a university,[20][21] and later an artist.[22] Yang has an older brother, Lawrence,[20][23] who is a psychology professor at New York University.[21][22]

Yang grew up in Somers in Westchester County, New York.[15][22] He has described being bullied and called racial slurs by classmates while attending public school, in part because he was one of the smaller children in his class after skipping a grade.[22][18] He attended Phillips Exeter Academy, a boarding school in New Hampshire.[24][25] Yang was part of the 1992 U.S. national debate team, which competed at the world championships in London.[22] After graduating from Exeter in 1992, he enrolled at Brown University,[26] where he majored in economics and political science, graduating in 1996.[27] He then attended Columbia Law School, earning a Juris Doctor in 1999.[14]

Career[edit]

Early career[edit]

After graduating from law school, Yang began his career as a corporate attorney at Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York City. Yang later described the job as "a pie-eating contest, and if you won, your prize was more pie". He left the law firm after five months, which he has called "the five worst months of my life."[28]

In February 2000, Yang joined his office mate, Jonathan Philips, in launching Stargiving, a website for celebrity-affiliated philanthropic fundraising.[22][29][30] The startup had some initial success, but folded in 2002 as the dot-com bubble burst. Yang became involved in other ventures, including a party-organizing business.[22] From 2002 to 2005, he served as the vice president of a healthcare startup.[14]

Manhattan Prep[edit]

After working in the healthcare industry for four years, Yang left MMF Systems to join his friend Zeke Vanderhoek at a small test preparation company, Manhattan Prep.[31] In 2006, Vanderhoek asked Yang to take over as CEO. While Yang was CEO, the company primarily provided GMAT test preparation. It expanded from five to 69 locations and was acquired by Kaplan, Inc. in December 2009. Yang resigned as the company's president in early 2012.[32][33][34] Yang later said it was during his time at Manhattan Prep that he became a millionaire.[18]

In September 2019 testimony before the New York City Commission on Gender Equity, former employee Kimberly Watkins testified that Yang had fired her because he felt that she would not work as hard after getting married. Yang has denied the allegations.[35] In an appearance on The View, Yang said, "I've had so many phenomenal women leaders that have elevated me and my organizations at every phase of my career, and if I was that kind of person I would never have had any success."[36]

In November, a former employee of Yang's at Manhattan GMAT filed a lawsuit against him for allegedly paying her less than her male co-workers and subsequently firing her for asking for a raise. Yang and another female employee at the company disputed the anonymous woman's claim that she was in an equivalent position to the male co-workers she cited.[37]

Venture for America[edit]

Following Kaplan's acquisition of Manhattan Prep in late 2009, Yang began to work on creating a new nonprofit fellowship program, Venture for America (VFA), which he founded in 2011. The organization was intended to find and train entrepreneurs to start businesses in economically stressed cities.[26][38][39][40] VFA was launched with $200,000 and trained 40 graduates in 2012 and 69 in 2013. VFA added Columbus, Miami, San Antonio, and St. Louis in 2014, with a class of 106.[34][41]

Yang making a speech.
Yang speaks about urban entrepreneurship at the 2015 Techonomy Conference in Detroit, Michigan.

VFA quickly received national attention, including from the Obama administration. In 2011, Yang was recognized by "Champions of Change", a White House program that honored 500 people from every state for extraordinary work in their communities.[39] In 2015, Yang was named a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship.[42][43]

VFA has also been criticized for falling far short of its 100,000 job goal. An ABC News investigation found that VFA's own tally counted only 365 jobs created as of 2020 and of those The New York Times has found only 150 remain.[44][45][46] Startup, a documentary film co-directed by Cynthia Wade and Cheryl Miller Houser about six startups in Detroit launched through VFA, was released in 2016.[47] Yang stepped down from his position as CEO of VFA in March 2017 but continued to advise startups aligned with his signature policy of universal basic income during his presidential campaign.[38][48][49]

Humanity Forward[edit]

On March 5, 2020, following the suspension of his presidential campaign, Yang announced that he was creating the nonprofit organization Humanity Forward Foundation, dedicated to promoting the ideas he campaigned on during his run, such as UBI and data privacy. Yang also announced that the organization, together with The Spark of Hudson,[50] forming HudsonUP,[51] would give away $500,000 in UBI to the residents of Hudson, New York, to demonstrate UBI's benefits.[52] After the Trump administration said it was considering a form of basic income in response to the pandemic, Yang announced that he had been in touch with the White House and had offered his team's services.[53] On March 20, CNN reported that Humanity Forward would soon spend $1 million on $1,000 monthly payments to 500 low-income households in the Bronx during the crisis. Yang tweeted that the number of households was expected to double with additional funding.[54] On August 3, Yang announced that his organization was partnering with The $1K Project, an online network that helps identify families in need, who will be awarded three months of $1,000 payments. One of the network's founders describes the program as "a bridge to reemployment or other kinds of support."[55]

Humanity Forward acknowledged its split from Yang to the press after his announcement that he was running for mayor of New York City.[56]

Net worth[edit]

Media outlets have provided several estimates of Yang's net worth: $1 million according to Forbes,[57] between $834,000 and $2.4 million according to The Wall Street Journal,[58] and between $3 million and $4 million according to Newsweek.[59]

2020 presidential campaign[edit]

Yang is holding a microphone while gesturing and making a speech. His book, The War on Normal People, is displayed on a table in front of him.
Yang makes a speech in New Hampshire in January 2019. His book, The War on Normal People, is displayed.

On November 6, 2017, Yang filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to run for President of the United States in 2020.[60][61] The campaign began with a small initial staff working out of an apartment owned by Yang's mother.[18] He ran on multiple slogans, including "Humanity First", "Make America Think Harder (MATH)", and "Not Left, Not Right, Forward."[62][63] Initially considered a longshot, Yang's campaign gained significant momentum in February 2019 following an appearance on the popular podcast The Joe Rogan Experience.[64][65][18] He later appeared on other podcasts and shows, including The Breakfast Club,[66] The Ben Shapiro Show,[67] and Real Time with Bill Maher.[68] By March 2019, Yang had met the polling and fundraising thresholds to qualify for the first round of Democratic primary debates.[65][18] In August 2019, he met the higher thresholds to qualify for the second round of Democratic debates.[69] Later, he qualified for the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth Democratic debates but was unable to meet a polling threshold for the January 2020 debate.[70] He did qualify for the February 2020 debate.[71]

Yang's campaign focused largely on policy, in what Reuters described as a "technocratic approach."[72][73] Yang regularly called Donald Trump a symptom of a wider problem in the economy, rather than the problem itself.[74] According to The New York Times, Yang was known for doing interviews with conservative news outlets, and "although [Yang] tweets often, he almost never tweets about Mr. Trump."[75] This approach was exemplified by one of Yang's campaign slogans: "Not Left, Not Right, Forward."[72][73][75] According to a July 2019 YouGov poll, Yang was one of two 2020 Democratic candidates, along with Senator Bernie Sanders, with double-digit support among voters who voted for Trump in 2016.[76][77][78] Polling conducted by Business Insider in the fall of 2019 found that Yang had the highest net satisfaction rate among undecided 2020 general election voters,[79][80] and a November 2019 College Pulse poll found that Yang had the highest crossover support among college students of any candidate in the 2020 race, with 18% of Republican college students saying they would support Yang over Trump in the general election.[81]

Yang holding a microphone while making a speech.
Yang speaks with attendees at the 2019 Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Yang's campaign was known for its heavy reliance on Internet-based campaigning.[82][83][84] The campaign was also known for its popularity online, with The New York Times calling Yang "The Internet's Favorite Candidate."[85] His campaign supporters, known informally as the Yang Gang, brought attention to his campaign on Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms, through memes and viral campaigning.[86][87] Several news outlets called Yang the most surprising candidate of the election cycle, going from relative obscurity to a national contender who outlasted several well-known politicians.[4][5][6][88][89]

Yang is at least the third American of East Asian descent to run for President of the United States, after Hiram Fong and Patsy Mink.[90][91] According to BBC, he "is one of the first and most recognizable East Asian-Americans in history to run for president."[92] He has said that he hopes his "campaign can inspire Asian Americans to be engaged in [politics]."[93]

Yang dropped out of the presidential race on February 11, 2020.[94] On March 10, 2020, Yang endorsed Joe Biden.[95]

Endorsements[edit]

Media coverage[edit]

A crowd of Yang supporters, many of whom are holding signs and banners
Yang's supporters form a crowd at the Liberty and Justice Celebration in Des Moines, Iowa. Yang is visible in the background.

On multiple occasions, Yang's campaign and supporters have criticized media outlets, such as MSNBC and CNN, for their coverage of Yang.[96] Incidents include cases of news outlets excluding Yang from lists of 2020 Democratic candidates.[97][98][99][100][101] On August 29, 2019, Yang supporters prompted the hashtag #YangMediaBlackout to trend on Twitter after a CNN infographic displaying the results of a poll included candidate Beto O'Rourke but not Yang, even though the poll showed Yang polling three times higher than O'Rourke. Yang supporters also criticized media outlets for providing disproportionately low coverage of Yang, pointing out that according to The New York Times, Yang has received some of the least coverage in cable news among the candidates, even though he was polling better than most of the field.[102][103][104]

Post-campaign[edit]

Yang dropped out of the presidential race on February 11, 2020, after a disappointing result in the New Hampshire primary.[105] He announced to his supporters, "while we did not win this election, we are just getting started."[106] Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's counselor Howard Wolfson suggested that Yang "would make a very interesting candidate" for mayor of New York City; Yang said, "it's incredibly flattering to be thought of in that role.... We haven't ruled anything out at this point. I will say I'm more attracted to executive roles than legislative ones because I think you can get more done."[107] On March 3, Yang reiterated his interest in the mayoralty to BuzzFeed News.[108]

On February 19, Yang joined CNN as a political commentator.[109] On March 10, the night of the Michigan Democratic primary, he endorsed Joe Biden. He said he understood Sanders supporters' frustration, but that beating Trump was the most important objective.[110] Yang hosts a podcast, Yang Speaks, where he discusses national and global issues with guest commentators.[111][112]

On April 29, 2020, Yang announced that he was taking legal action against the New York State Board of Elections after the state election commission voted to cancel its presidential primary. The filing stated: "This unprecedented and unwarranted move infringes the rights of Plaintiffs and all New York State Democratic Party voters, of which there are estimated to be more than six million, as it fundamentally denies them the right to choose our next candidate for the office of President of the United States."[113] In early May, the judge ruled in Yang's favor.[114]

Initially left out of the list of confirmed speakers for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Yang expressed his dissatisfaction on Twitter stating that he "kind of expected to speak" at the event.[115] Yang spoke at the DNC on August 20, as the third speaker of the night.[116]

In August 2020, Yang revealed to The Carlos Watson Show that he had been in contact with Joe Biden's 2020 presidential campaign about a potential role in the Biden cabinet focusing on the issue of technology in society.[117] In September 2020, the Biden campaign hired Yang as a member of its small business advisory council.[118] In November 2020, Yang announced that he and his wife were moving to Atlanta to assist Raphael Warnock's and Jon Ossoff's campaigns in the January 2021 Georgia Senate runoff elections.[119]

2021 New York City mayoral campaign[edit]

Logo for Yang's 2021 mayoral campaign.

After the suspension of his presidential campaign in February 2020, Yang was considered a potential candidate in the 2021 New York City mayoral election to succeed incumbent Bill de Blasio,[120] with Yang himself expressing interest in seeking the office.[121] Yang had reportedly told city leaders that he intended to run for mayor[122] after polling obtained by the New York Post showed him leading the field, with 20% of New Yorkers saying they would support his candidacy.[123] Yang filed paperwork to raise money for his mayoral campaign on December 23, 2020.[124]

On January 8, 2021, Politico reported that Yang left New York City during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to stay at his second home in New Paltz, New York.[125] In an interview with The New York Times, he said, "Can you imagine trying to have two kids on virtual school in a two-bedroom apartment and then trying to do work yourself?"[126][127] Critics saw his comments as tone-deaf, as many Americans had to balance work and family during COVID-19 lockdowns.[127][128][129][130] In a statement made that same month, Yang said that during the pandemic, he had spent his "time just about evenly across NYC, where my kids and special needs son are enrolled in school, upstate, so my kids could spend more time outside in the depths of the first wave, and in Georgia, where I'm proud to have worked day and night to elect my friends Reverend Warnock and Jon Ossoff to the Senate."[131]

Yang formally announced his bid for mayor on January 13, 2021, on Twitter.[132] He himself had not voted in a municipal election since 2001 and justified this by saying, “I was a student and then I moved neighborhoods and I was just starting out my career. And so I think it took me time to even figure out, like, what the ins and outs of city politics were in many ways.”[133]

Yang has been endorsed by U.S. Representatives Grace Meng and Ritchie Torres, as well as a number of other New York state and city political figures.[134][135] He emerged as a front-runner after entering the race[136][137] and maintained a steady lead in polls, but starting in May 2021, Yang's lead shrank as Eric Adams emerged as another front-runner.[138][139]

Political positions[edit]

Yang is holding a microphone while making a speech.
Yang speaks with attendees at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum hosted by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa.

Many of Yang's political views are based on his idea of "Human-Centered Capitalism."[140] In April 2018, he published The War on Normal People, which focused largely on his domestic policies.[141][142] More than 160 policies were listed on Yang's 2020 campaign website.[143][144] Central to that campaign was the proposal of a monthly $1,000 "Freedom Dividend" to all U.S. citizens over the age of 18 (a form of universal basic income, or UBI) in response to worker displacement driven by technological automation.[145][146] According to Yang, the Freedom Dividend's benefits include "healthier people, less stressed-out people, better-educated people, stronger communities, more volunteerism, [and] more civic participation. There's zero bureaucracy associated with it [because there is no] need to verify whether [people's] circumstances change."[147] Citing forecasting by the Roosevelt Institute, Yang has said that the dividend "would create up to 2 million new jobs in [American] communities."[148] However, the policies the Roosevelt Institute studied differ from Yang's Freedom Dividend in some significant ways.[149] Yang has said that the dividend would be opt-in.[150] For those receiving welfare benefits, opting in to the dividend would replace some benefits while stacking with others.[151] Yang has said that he became a UBI advocate after reading American futurist Martin Ford's book Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, which deals with the impact of automation and artificial intelligence on the job market and economy.[152] He believes UBI is a more viable policy than job retraining programs, citing studies showing that job retraining of displaced manufacturing workers in the Midwest had success rates of 0–15%.[153]

Yang has proposed a value-added tax to finance the dividend and to combat tax avoidance by large American corporations.[154][155] He argues that automation-driven job displacement was the main reason Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, saying that based on data, "There's a straight line up between the adoption of industrial robots in a community and the movement towards Donald Trump."[156] Yang's campaign slogan "Humanity First" called attention to his belief that automation of many key industries is one of the biggest threats facing the American workforce.[157] On healthcare, he has said that while he supports "the spirit of Medicare for All", he "would keep the option of private insurance", with the ultimate goal to "demonstrate to the American people that private insurance is not what [they] need" and that Medicare for All is "superior to [their] current insurance."[158] His 2020 policy proposal did not commit to Medicare for All or contain a public option, focusing instead on reducing costs and eventually expanding coverage.[159][160][161][162]

Yang speaks with a media reporter. There are several people and camera crew around.
Yang speaking with the media at the 2019 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa

Yang supports the implementation of "democracy dollars": $100 every year, "use it or lose it", for citizens to give to candidates. The policy aims to drown out corporate money resulting from political lobbying and Citizens United v. FEC.[163][164] He supports ending partisan gerrymandering,[165] introducing ranked-choice voting,[166] and lowering the national voting age to 16.[167] Yang supports legalizing cannabis and decriminalizing opioids (including heroin) for personal use, but does not support legalizing or decriminalizing cocaine. He has cited Portugal's drug policy, which he believes to be similar, as evidence of the effectiveness of his policy.[168] Yang has also advocated that police officers be trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, at least to the rank of purple belt.[169] He supports a carbon tax and bringing the U.S. back into the Paris Climate Agreement,[170] as well as investing in thorium-based nuclear power.[144] He supports legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and has pledged to appoint pro-choice judges.[171] Yang has proposed creating a department focused on regulating the addictive nature of media, appointing a White House psychologist, making Election Day a national holiday, and, to stem corruption, increasing the salaries of federal regulators but limiting their private work after they leave public service.[172] He supports legalizing online poker in all 50 states, the "first legitimate candidate" to do so, according to Card Player.[173]

Yang is holding a microphone while gesturing and making a speech
Yang makes a speech at "Youth Voice: The Iowa Caucus", a presidential candidate forum hosted in September 2019 at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa.

Yang has said that Israel "is a very, very important ally."[174] In regard to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Yang wants a "two-state solution that allows both the Israeli and Palestinian people to have sovereign land and self-determination." In an op-ed, Yang condemned the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, saying it is "rooted in antisemitic thought and history, hearkening back to fascist boycotts of Jewish businesses".[175] During the 2021 Israel–Palestine crisis, Yang released a statement on Twitter stating that he stands with the people of Israel and condemns the Hamas terrorists.[176][177] A couple of days later, he released a statement on Twitter stating that his initial tweet was "overly simplistic" due to not taking into account the suffering of Palestinians and that he hopes the situation is resolved as quickly as possible.[178]

Yang has criticized China's treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority and its "more aggressive stance throughout the region, whether towards Hong Kong, Taiwan, or in the South China Sea."[179] He also voiced support for the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests.[180] At the same time, Yang has warned against entering a "New Cold War" with China, saying, "We're not going to be able to address global threats like climate change and even collaborate on artificial intelligence if we don't have a certain level of cooperation between the US and China."[181]

Yang has called Iran a "destabilizing force in the region",[182] and supported Obama's Iran nuclear deal.[183] He opposed U.S. military support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen[184] and backed a more aggressive policy toward Russia, saying, "Russia is our biggest geopolitical threat, because they've been hacking our democracy successfully."[185] Yang wrote to the Council on Foreign Relations: "Russian aggression is a destabilizing force, and we must work with our allies to project a strong and unified face against Russian expansionism. [...] we need to expand sanctions against Russia, and Putin and members of his government specifically through the Global Magnitsky Act, in order to pressure the country to play by international rules."[182] Yang has said that the U.S. has tampered with foreign elections—just like Russia has—and that Russian interference "has to stop, and if it does not stop we will take this as an act of hostility against the American people."[186]

Andrew-Yang-Obama-Champion-Change
Yang meeting with President Obama at the White House in 2012

Recognition[edit]

In 2012, Yang was named a "Champion of Change" by the Obama administration.[39] In 2015, he was selected as a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship.[43][187] In 2020, Yang received the 2021 Vilcek Prize for Excellence in Public Service, awarded by the Vilcek Foundation.[188]

Personal life[edit]

Yang's wife, Evelyn Yang, speaking at an event during his presidential campaign

Yang has been married to Evelyn Yang (née Lu) since 2011, and they have two sons.[14] He has spoken about his older son Christopher, who is autistic, saying, "I'm very proud of my son and anyone who has someone on the spectrum in their family feels the exact same way."[189]

The Yang family lives in a rental apartment in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan,[2] and also owns a home in New Paltz, New York, that they purchased in 2015.[190] This became the family's primary residence during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic,[125] and a focus of controversy during Yang's mayoral campaign.[126] In 2019, Yang reported on his tax return that he rented out this home for 58 days to friends or on Airbnb.[191]

Yang and his family attend the Reformed Church of New Paltz, which is near his home,[190] and has identified Mark E. Mast as their pastor.[192][193] He considers himself spiritual.[194] Speaking about his faith at an interfaith town hall at Wartburg College, Yang said he "wouldn't be the first to say that [his] own journey is still in progress."[195]

In an interview with The Hill, Yang said that Theodore Roosevelt is his favorite president and that he is the godfather of Roosevelt's great-granddaughter.[196]

On February 2, 2021, Yang tested positive for COVID-19 and reported having mild symptoms.[197] He fully recovered.

On February 26, 2021, Yang stopped a physical attack on a journalist on the Staten Island Ferry by placing himself between the attacker and the journalist. The attacker recognized Yang and stopped the assault.[198][199][200]

Publications[edit]

  • Smart People Should Build Things: How to Restore Our Culture of Achievement, Build a Path for Entrepreneurs, and Create New Jobs in America. HarperCollins. February 4, 2014. ISBN 978-0062292049.
  • The War on Normal People: The Truth About America's Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future. Hachette Books. April 3, 2018. ISBN 978-0316414241.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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