Editor’s Note: Andrew Yang is one of 10 presidential candidates taking part in a Democratic debate Wednesday, July 31, at 8:00 p.m. ET, on CNN. Ten others will debate on Tuesday evening. Yang is an entrepreneur, former ambassador for global entrepreneurship under the Obama administration and a 2020 presidential candidate. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
After getting a law degree, I spent five unhappy months as a corporate attorney. I left the job and worked at a few start-ups before becoming the CEO of an education company that focused on preparing college students for admissions tests. At that company, I saw firsthand the best and brightest all preparing for the same degrees and jobs. They’d get an MBA and then work for a management consulting firm, or a JD and then work at a law firm. With my own experience in the back of my mind, I knew that this wasn’t a good move.
So, in 2011, I started Venture for America, a nonprofit that placed recent graduates in cities such as Birmingham, New Orleans, Cleveland, and Detroit – giving them the chance to support local businesses and create jobs in these areas. I wanted to create a path for smart young people to go out and build things, not toil away on corporate mergers that just shifted money from one millionaire’s account to another.
We picked these towns because they were struggling by most obvious measurements. They had lost manufacturing jobs to automation and were facing high levels of economic insecurity, unemployment and drug overdoses. However, looking at these numbers on a spreadsheet was very different from stepping off of a plane and seeing these struggling communities in person. I thought, “I can’t believe I’m still in the same country.”
Many American lives and families are falling apart. Rampant financial stress is the new normal. We are in the third or fourth inning of the greatest economic shift in the history of mankind, and no one seems to be doing anything significant in response to it. In short, we’re leaving our children a country that’s worse than the one we inherited.
We must do much more to rebuild the parts of this country that have been adversely affected by job loss, automation and a lack of economic opportunity.
Here’s where you might expect me to go into my flagship proposal, the Freedom Dividend – $1,000 per month for every adult. And I will. It’s the single best way we can invest in our people, our families and our communities, to help them through this difficult time and build a “trickle up economy.” No doubt, I’ll discuss it at length in the upcoming debate. But I have over 100 policies on my website, and we need more than just one solution to combat this economic insecurity.
We should relocate federal agencies throughout the United States, to provide an economic boost to the surrounding areas and make them feel more connected to their government. Similarly, we need to prevent the richest cities and companies from benefiting from corporate relocation by taxing any incentive offered by those cities to those corporations.
We must help localities repair and revive their infrastructure, through a huge infrastructure bill that includes money to demolish or repurpose dying and derelict malls that are currently becoming drivers of crime and urban blight.
We need to provide all areas of the country with access to high-quality medical care. We also need to start listening to each other – my American Exchange Program would see all high school students visit and study in another area of the country.
And we need to invest in local journalism by creating a fund that provides grants to companies and nonprofits that support local newspapers and websites, so that all citizens can be informed of what’s going on in their communities.
I’m the parent of two young boys. I can’t sit by and do nothing as our country disintegrates. I can’t sit by while families across the country struggle to find a way forward.
Though we’re more polarized now as a country than we’ve ever been, it’s time to come together and rebuild our country. We need solutions that are not left, not right, but forward – and that is why I’m running for President.