2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang joined CBS's "Red and Blue" to discuss why he's making universal basic income a priority in his campaign platform and why he thinks he'll make the cut for the first debate in June.
ANDREW YANG: A universal basic income is a policy where every citizen in a country gets a certain amount of money free and clear to do whatever they want. So my plan, the Freedom Dividend, would give every American adult $1,000 per month, $12,000 per year, starting at age 18. This would create millions of jobs around the country and allow families and individuals to help manage this historic transition that we're in, in terms of technology transforming the labor force.
This idea is new to many Americans, but it is actually as old as the country itself. Thomas Paine was for it at the founding of the country, he called it the "Citizens' Dividend."
Martin Luther King was for it in the 1960s. Milton Freidman and 1,000 economists signed a study saying this would be great for our society, and one state has had a dividend for 37 years, where everyone in the state of Alaska gets between $1-2,000 per year, no questions asked.
And what they're doing in Alaska with oil money, we can do for the rest of the country with technology money...
CBS NEWS REPORTER: President Trump has been talking a lot lately about socialism and it is no doubt going to be something we'll hear a lot more about as we head into 2020. What do you say to Americans who hear this idea of universal basic income and think: Socialism. It sounds a lot like socialism to them.
YANG: I'm a CEO and businessperson, and I'll tell you, putting money into peoples' hands is good for business, it is good for the economy, it is good for markets. This is not socialism, this is capitalism where income doesn't start at zero. If you think about where Americans are going to spend this money, they're going to spend it at their local businesses, their main street economy. And this is a great way to help supercharge those businesses for the next number of years.
CBS NEWS REPORTER: For people who hear that, and say, ultimately it is still the government handing out money, you would say what?
YANG: You have to look at what has happened to our economic system over the last number of years. Where all the relationships that we've taken for granted with capitalism, where if your company grew rich and successful you'd have to hire lots of people, you'd have to treat them well and pay them well, you'd have to pay them at least as well so they can afford to buy your services, the way Henry Ford said, how do my workers buy my cars?
In today's economy, you can create a very rich and successful business that doesn't employ lots of people, if it does employ people it can employ them as a gig or temporary or contract workers, and it doesn't need to pay them well enough to buy the goods and services because you can sell globally. And so, all of the things we've taken for granted about capitalism are now changing, and we have to evolve with the times.