Andrew Yang, 2020 Presidential candidate, speaks to groups about the impact of AI and other technologies on the American workforce.

Andrew Yang’s AI, Income Focus May Be ‘Nerdiest’ Campaign

One Democratic presidential candidate thinks the road to the White House could be paved with Amazon’s and Google’s tax dollars. U.S. presidential candidate Andrew Yang, a Taiwanese American tech entrepreneur from New York who focuses on tech issues, sees them as both the cause and solution of many major American problems.

According to a story in The Washington Post today, Yang has been attracting some of the largest crowds in the field of 24 candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination, at least when he appears on the tech-savvy West Coast. He also appears to have the most comprehensive policy proposals, with 80 listed on his website.

Yang called out Jeff Bezos and his Amazon contributions to the IRS at a campaign stop in Seattle. He says Big Tech must help build the future economic engines that will drive all of our economies. Yang plans to use 3D hologram campaign stops, in which he appears with an image of dead rapper Tupac Shakur, starting in June as a way of using “political tech.” He called his campaign, “the nerdiest” in political history.

A story, written by Todd Bishop and Taylor Soper, said Yang has focused heavily on AI and internet technology in his stump speech. He often mentions Amazon for its role in reshaping the economy through technology and automation while paying no federal income tax in the last two years. Amazon is playing by the rules, he acknowledged, but the system needs an overhaul.

Yang has some unusual ideas, but many of them make sense. Some could be considered accurate predictions of what is to come and what would be possible if tech companies and government, including the tax system, took advantage of tech tools to the fullest. His language while addressing issues seems loosely put together and a little a juvenile in places.

“We must’ve messed up if we’ve designed a system where a trillion-dollar tech company can pay less in federal taxes than everyone here in this park tonight,” he said. “All the Amazon employees are like, ‘Oh shit, is Jeff watching me right now? Should I cheer for this?’ ” he said, referring to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “It’s cool. It’s cool. Jeff is looking at some rocket to Mars right now. He’s not paying attention to this park. He’ll pay attention later when I’m in the White House.”

Yang said he supports the idea of preventing platform providers such as Amazon from selling their own brands on those platforms, one part of the proposal from another Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren. However, he said he doesn’t support breaking up big tech companies or reversing past acquisitions, calling it a “20th Century approach to 21st Century problems.”

Amazon Responds

Amazon answered Yang, pointing out it employs a quarter of a million people in the U.S. alone and has invested in almost half a million other jobs in construction, logistics and other professions. It claims that since 2011, Amazon has invested more than $200 billion in the U.S.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos addressed the issue of Amazon’s third-party marketplace in his annual letter to shareholders,

“Amazon is getting trounced by third-party sellers on its platform, has weathered some spectacular failures in the process of building its business…Amazon today remains a small player in global retail. We represent a low single-digit percentage of the retail market, and there are much larger retailers in every country where we operate,” Bezos said.

Yang’s sticking point is automation is boosting businesses bottom line while eliminating human jobs in the process. He has focused on displaced workers in his campaign platform.

Yang has proposed to fund the Freedom Dividend, a universal basic income, with a Value-Added Tax on big companies, like Amazon. Yang is proposing to address the issue with a program of universal basic income, a “Freedom Dividend” that would provide $1,000 a month to every adult over 18 in the country. He is using Alaska’s Annual Oil Dividend to its residents as the model for this proposal. And as a  popular saying goes, “Technology is the New Oil.”

He’s the only candidate in the race for the White House with a plan to solve the problem of how automation is eliminating jobs and lessen its increasing impact in the years ahead.

The universal basic income is a government guarantee that each citizen receives a minimum income, as a way to offset job losses caused by technology.  A basic income was experimented with by Finland from January of 2017. through December of 2018. 2,000 unemployed citizens were assisted with monthly checks. It was rolled back and Finland plans to release a final report in 2020.