Guy Kawasaki: As recently as 2016, few people had heard of Andrew Yang. He had achieved success as a tech entrepreneur, but he wasn’t in the billionaire club like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates. But then he decided to run for president of the United States. Everyone needs goals, right? And even back then, he had just s good credentials as other candidates and even some presidents.
In my honest opinion, he is the Macintosh of presidential candidates. Everyone knows he may be the best, but he still has only 6% market share. I love his laugh so much that we made a ringtone out of it. We call it a Yang Tone. Download it HERE YangTone iOS and YangTone for Android. Need help? Here's a how-to guide.
I’m Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. And now coming to you from a bus somewhere in Iowa, is Andrew Yang, the MacIntosh of presidential candidates and crazy smart Asian.
Guy Kawasaki: So first of all, it seems to me that it’s a shame to waste a good crisis. So what are the multiple causes that cause the economic imbalance, what could have been avoided by better political leadership?
Andrew Yang: Well, we’re in the midst of the greatest winner take all economy in the history of our country, and productivity and wages have not been lined up for decades. It’s really since the 70s and early eighties that they’ve diverged. So if you were paying attention, you would have looked to find ways to put more of the earning power and the rise in productivity into people’s hands. One way to do that would be corporate policies.
My way is obviously just put money into people’s hands. I think that at this point is going to be the best route. Some would have favored higher worker bargaining power and unionization. So we’ve had a real policy disconnect for a series of decades now, and that’s going to become more extreme with technology and capital combining in unprecedented ways.
Guy Kawasaki: So this leads to the next question, which is why did Trump win?
Andrew Yang: There were a number of reasons, but to me, the primary reason is that we automated away 4 million manufacturing jobs that were primarily based in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa, all the swing States he needed to win. And when you spend time in these environments, you see that many Americans do not feel like there is a path forward for them and their families.
We’re down to 50% of Americans that are going to do better than their parents if you’re born in the 90s, and that’s declining fast; back in the forties, it was 93%, so that feeling is palpable when you’re out in many of these swing States and things are getting worse, not better.
Guy Kawasaki: I’m going to come back to UBI later. The flip side of this question is, why did Hillary lose?
Andrew Yang: There are a number of reasons but I think a lot of people saw Hillary as a maintenance of the status quo and there were many Americans who were hungry for some sort of change even to the point they were willing to take a bet on the narcissist reality TV star.
The fact is we’ve been looking for change for a while. You can see it with both Trump and Bernie’s success in the last cycle, but also Barack Obama’s victory in 08. On some level, Americans have a sense that we are decades behind in addressing the challenges in our communities, and we are trying to figure out a way to speed up.
Guy Kawasaki: By the way, Andrew, if I ask you a question you want not to answer, just tell me okay. This is not confrontational, so I’ll just ... no problem.
Andrew Yang: No, I answer most questions Guy. It’s something that, I think it’s generally a positive thing. I think the human response is, to answer the question you’re asked.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay, so twenty years from now, will we see this Trump regime as proof that democracy and checks and balances failed or succeeded?
Andrew Yang: Well, I certainly hope it’s that we’ve reinvested in our democracy and made it work for us and our people rather than right now, frankly, there are companies that are advantaged at every level.
And so that’s why I’m running for president, to try and make it so that we can look back on this period twenty years from now and say that democracy has endured because we reinvigorated it and revitalized it.
Guy Kawasaki: Switching gears a little, I have a theory that behind every successful man is an amazing woman. So can you tell us about Evelyn?
Andrew Yang: Well, certainly it’s true in my case. I am a very, very fortunate man where my partner Evelyn has been the rock of our family certainly while I’ve been running for president. And we joke in a house that she’s like Batman, because when the kids have an issue, she just quickly goes into detective mode and figures it all out.
Our older son is autistic and frankly, if you’d left it to me, I’d never would’ve figured it out, where she, meeting with various professionals who know about kids and development and neurological wiring. She figured out what our son needed and then how to get him the intervention that’s benefited him greatly.
So I’m certainly incredibly lucky and am an example of your rule being correct.
Guy Kawasaki: I have a corollary to this theory, which is behind every successful man is also an amazed as opposed to amazing woman. So is Evelyn amazed by your recent success?
Andrew Yang: I would say that she is surprised and so maybe you could call it amazement. One thing she’s definitely been amazed by Guy, is the warmth and love that she’s received on the trail, and in the last number of days, after her story of being sexually assaulted by a doctor became public. Just the outpouring of gratitude and warmth has been overwhelming.
Guy Kawasaki: That’s great. So while we’re on that topic, so for the men who are listening to this podcast, what have you learned about supporting a wife, a daughter, a woman after a sexual assault?
Andrew Yang: Well, it was really difficult Guy because in my case I didn’t know for months and then I found out months after the fact. And then that was in some ways a real-time of healing, and that was very positive. But then no one else knew for months and years. And then when it went public, and there was this additional healing process. So I certainly would not consider myself an expert in how to help someone through sexual assault. I do think it’s a profoundly personal experience and that you should treat it with the utmost seriousness in terms of what the person’s been through.
Guy Kawasaki: You also brought up the topic of the autism spectrum, so what have you and your wife learned about raising a child? How to do that effectively? Who’s on the autism spectrum?
Andrew Yang: Well, I think one of the things I’ve been saying on the campaign trail is that autism and special needs and being neurologically A-typical are the new normal in that so many American families now have it as part of their lives and I can’t imagine any other way to be. No, Evelyn and I have been very fortunate in that we have some resources that we can put to work to help Christopher, but most families are really struggling.
We have to do much, much more for people who have kids who need more in a way of intervention and support. To the extent I have some lesson or guidance, it is on the fact that investing in our kids can really change their trajectory and to not see people as fixed or static.
Guy Kawasaki: What’s your reaction when you hear people say that vaccination causes autism?
Andrew Yang: I think it’s part of a wave of institutional mistrust in our society where at this point if you look around, we don’t have a lot of faith in a lot of things, and so that to me is a burden that we all bear. If you were like a member of our representative institution, it’d be like, why the heck don’t Americans believe that certain things are healthy, positive, good for them? So it’s just a need of having to make your case and rebuild a degree of public trust that’s unfortunately been lost over the last number of years.
Guy Kawasaki: Switching back to politics a bit here, so you know my background, so when I tell you this, it is the highest form of phrase, but I think you’re basically the MacIntosh of presidential candidates in that it’s widely accepted you may be the best one, but you only have 6% market share.
Andrew Yang: That’s really funny.
Guy Kawasaki: Which is something I’ve been dealing with since 1984. So some questions here. Hypothetically, if you ran as an independent, do you think you’d hurt Trump or the democratic candidate more?
Andrew Yang: I would not run as an independent because I think it would increase the odds of Trump winning.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay.
Andrew Yang: So that’s my read on the situation. You know, it is math. You can’t get yourself lost in like a world of ideology. I mean the fact is I think I would increase the odds of his re-election.
Guy Kawasaki: In a presidential debate with Trump, what would be your strategy?
Andrew Yang: I think I can eviscerate Trump in the debate stage in part because I would make him seem ridiculous. I can poke fun at him in a way that other candidates can’t. And most of his most potent attacks present the other person as some sort of corrupt DC politician, which is very difficult in my case. So I think humor and logic to his bluster, and it would be a very, very effective contrast.
Guy Kawasaki: I would love to see it. Now that you’re a quote “seasoned politician,” what do you think is more important to get elected? Likeability or policy?
Andrew Yang: No, the tough truth Guy is that many, many Americans are not engaged with politics because they don’t think it’s relevant to them. They are exhausted by political coverage today in particular. And so I think that we need to try and make it relevant and interesting to people in new ways. And that’s less about policy discussions to some extent because the fact is most voters don’t actually read their policy papers, and it’s more about trying to include people and get them excited about what their future can be.
And I’m not sure I’d call it likeability. I know it’s like, I don’t think it’s a battle between who’s more likable. I think at this point it’s going to be about someone who speaks to something that Americans find actually speaks to them. And it’s one reason why I think my candidacy is surprising people is that I speak what I call English and it doesn’t seem like politic speak. And it seems like so many politicians, when you push the button, they have guard rails up and talking points to refer to and it’s very hard to shake them off of it.
Guy Kawasaki: As I watch politicians being interviewed, I’m constantly amazed that you have to thread every needle, and so what’s more important, making people happy or not pissing people off?
Andrew Yang: I think it depends on the context. There are certainly some exchanges where you’re just trying to not piss people off; in another context you’re trying to get them excited.
Guy Kawasaki: Do you think that poll’s shape policy or policy shapes polls?
Andrew Yang: I think it depends upon who you are, and this goes back to our tech examples. You know the very famous Steve Jobs, like you have to tell the people what they want. Most politicians put their finger in the wind and support things that they see a critical mass of support for, but I’m actually experiencing the opposite Guy, and I’ll give you an example, and we haven’t talked about it in depth yet.
When we started this campaign, we told people in Iowa about what they thought about giving everyone 1000 bucks a month by Universal Basic Income, and the polls were not good. It came back with something like, let’s call it in the 25% range which was pretty bad. And then we took a poll more recently, and it’s up to 61%, and that’s because we’ve told them that Universal Basic Income is awesome. It’s going to be great for your family and the economy and it’s going to help us manage this transition.
Andrew Yang: And what’s interesting Guy is that that is not what convinced them because people, it turns out, don’t really listen to ideas so much as they listen to other people. So what our data found is that they grew familiar with this guy, Andrew Yang, who’s been now roaming around their state for the better part of two years, and now was on their TV set thanks to the Yang Gang.
Thank you Yang Gang.
And now what they’re saying is, well, this Andrew Yang guy who seems like a good guy and seems to have my family’s interests at heart, says that Universal Basic Income is awesome. And so now I’m for it. And so this is an example of policies driving polls because it’s something that no one knew they wanted until you came and said, “”Hey, you really would love this.” And then they got on board.
Guy Kawasaki: So let’s go down to the UBI trail now. So first question is, why should people with high net worth or high income get it?
Andrew Yang: Well, if you look at our country, the most prominent example of this kind of dividend for citizens is Alaska, the Petroleum Dividend, and it’s wildly popular there, it’s stood the test of time, almost 40 years, and everyone gets it from the richest Alaskan to the poorest Alaskan.
There are major benefits to that because there’s no stigma attached to it. There’s no, “I get it. You don’t.” There’s no need to play games or have some reporting requirement. No one’s getting a fake divorce to try and make it, so someone qualifies. So these benefits are very, very powerful, and the way I would pay for it would be through a value-added tax that would fall most heavily on people that are winning the most in our economy anyway. So if you try and send someone 1000 bucks a month, who’s at the very high end of our income spectrum, that’s fine, but they’re likely paying more into the system, and we’d rather treat it as universal right then as like a right only for people who are in certain circumstances.
Andrew Yang: That to me is the Alaskan lesson, is that you can get something that everyone loves if it seems fair.
Guy Kawasaki: But isn’t there a dark side to Alaska in that when oil prices went down, they had to consider cuts to other things and then somebody else ran and said, “instead of giving you X, I’m going to give you three X, and that person got elected on that platform and now can’t deliver. Isn’t there a Alaska might not be the shiny, beautiful thing, right?
Andrew Yang: Certainly there are lessons to be drawn from the Alaskan experience, but writ large, it’s been in place for almost 40 years and has been wildly popular. It’s improved children’s health, has created hundreds of jobs. A majority of Alaskans said they would accept higher taxes to fund the dividend because they love it so much. I mean, in this day and age, there are very few things that you can get that kind of consensus around.
To me, if there’s a problem with the Alaskan example, it’s a problem that doesn’t apply to the federal government, which is that if we make this happen at the federal level, then you can actually build it into spending in a way that’s more predictable and reliable than having something vacillate based upon oil revenues.
Guy Kawasaki: But what if there’s a general recession? All these people bought Tesla stock on margin. You might not have people to tax. No?
Andrew Yang: Well, the great thing about the Freedom Dividend is that it ends up really shielding us from some of the worst effects of a recession because buying power in people’s hands will stabilize the economy. And you know, if you have poor, poorer Americans, which is frankly, unfortunately the majority of Americans at this point where 78% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, this kind of money in their hands will help keep the consumer economy afloat because it would flow back through the economy over and over again.
Guy Kawasaki: Well, what, what about a possible unintended consequence? So we’re in a recession, times are more difficult. Management owners now they have the attitude, well I know you’re making twelve grand, I need to reduce your salary in order to survive. Can it not have that unintended consequence?
Andrew Yang: You know what’s great Guy is that it improves worker positions across the board. So you can actually even see it another way where if someone’s doing a crummy job for eight bucks an hour and then they say, “you know what, I’ve got this thousand bucks a month like maybe you need to give me a raise to keep me doing this.” I mean there, there are different effects depending upon the kind of job and the sort of desire that people have. I think most Americans agree that workers being able to bargain harder against employers that may in some cases be looking to take advantage of the fact that you can’t survive, is a positive thing. There might be some circumstances where certain jobs might pay a bit less because more people want to do them, but I don’t think that would be a bad thing.
Guy Kawasaki: In this Yangian future of robots and automation and AI, people are working less or at least doing different kinds of work. How do you see this evolving? What do people do all day?
Andrew Yang: This is then something that we’ve been projecting for a long time. It was Keynes who said that by now we’d be working 15 hour work weeks because we’d be so rich, and of course, we’re not working 15 hour work weeks, we’re working longer than ever.
So the human-centered economy that we have to aspire to consists of more people doing the kind of work that we both naturally want to do and also that would make our people stronger and healthier. So look at the things that are right now, yet zero value in our market economy, so that’s stay at home moms, caregivers taking care of ailing loved ones, volunteers and activists, coaches and mentors, the vast majority of artists, and I’m going to throw a lot of journalism into this category too, because we’re putting hundreds and hundreds of local newspapers out of business in communities around the country.
Andrew Yang: These are things that we value the most in our lives in many, many respects that we’re doing less and less of now that we can ideally be doing more of if we were actually sharing the genes from this unprecedented innovation and wealth that we’re now generating.
Guy Kawasaki: So knowing what you know now and foresee in the future, what subject would you study in high school, trade school, community college, or college?
Andrew Yang: Well, more Americans need to be in trade school. Right now, only 6% of high school students are in trade and apprenticeship programs. In Germany, that’s 59% and we have millions of unfilled jobs that are going to be with us for a long time.
You and I know Guy, it’d be very hard to have a robot plumber or HVAC repair person. Those are going to be humans for a long time. And there’s a real shortage of those kinds of workers right now. So for many Americans, and as President, I will invest in these programs because they’re going to result in really solid, stable, satisfying jobs. At the college level, they can run the gamut.
Most everyone now would say STEM or steam fields, which I see as being very, very valuable. But to me we have to try and push our kids to become more resilient, adaptable, able to adjust.
Andrew Yang: And you can get kids to get to that point in different ways, in different realms of study. So I wouldn’t go overboard on saying you must study science, engineering and the rest of it, though if you like that, then fantastic. But the reality is that 8% of Americans work in STEM fields right now. And it’s not useful to go to the other 92% and say, “Hey, try and become the 8%.” If you’re naturally wired to be someone who does that work, great. But if you’re not, you shouldn’t try and force that. You should try and find something that you are equally excited about.
Guy Kawasaki: So are you preparing or do you intend to prepare your children differently than how your parents prepared you?
Andrew Yang: You have kids yourself, right? You must.
Guy Kawasaki: I have four.
Andrew Yang: Figured. So you seem like such a productive fellow.
Guy Kawasaki: I guess.
Andrew Yang: So you know, and I know that our kids are growing up very, very differently than we did unavoidably. Inevitably. I’m sure you look at your kids and think to yourself, wow, is your life so different than mine was when I was your age? I think that all the time. It’s just a different time they’re growing up in. Technology certainly transformed many, many things. Our culture has changed in many ways. I remember when I was a kid, anytime I saw an Asian American on TV, I would jump up and down and try and get my family. And it was always Connie Chung.
But, but now, like we have a different culture. Certainly I’m very proud to be showing people in every community that Asian Americans can run for president. So our kids are growing up differently than we did no matter what. You know, you can’t go back in time. I’m trying to lean into the virtues of raising kids in this era to the extent that we can and not frankly be a curmudgeon where I’m like, “Oh, like it was different when I was a kid.”
Guy Kawasaki: Let’s talk about your slogan, Math. So I have to say there’s a part of me that just loves it. It’s a brilliant way to position away from Trump and you know, play to your base and your potential base. Another part of me thinks it’s divisive in the sense that you’re saying to some people, the problem is that you’re lazy or that you’re not working hard enough. Have you ever had that kind of pushback on that?
Andrew Yang: I certainly don’t see any of that in terms of people being lazy or any of that. I mean that’s not the message of Math. It’s more like we have to solve the real problems of this era that got a Trump elected. We have to make this economy work for all of us and not just a smaller and smaller fraction of us. And I’m happy to say that many people wear Math hats that hate Math, so yeah, we see it as very much a unifying, saying we’re all human.
Guy Kawasaki: I think as a math geek that you are, I think you should go math cubed or math to the fourth power so that the other H’s would be harder, holistically, humanely and honestly. So make it math to the fourth.
Andrew Yang: Well, there are a lot of good h’s there Guy.
Yeah, we’ve gotten requests to do a bunch of things, including the new acronyms with other subject lines. But I like it. I mean I approve of those ideas you’re trying to embody with the new acronym.
Guy Kawasaki: You know, I’m just an evangelist. I cannot rest. What is your reaction when you see Tim Cook sitting there smiling next to Trump at lunch, taking him on a tour of the quote new factory and the not correcting Trump when he claims that the factory is new and he brought it back.
Andrew Yang: It’s just an illustration of the fact that CEOs of companies have jobs to do and shareholders to answer to. It’s not Tim’s job to correct Trump or put him in his place. It’s his job to try and do what’s best for Apple and Apple shareholders and to make a determination that being cordial in that circumstance with the president was a better fit for his job description, and that’s just the nature of the role he’s playing and the nature of the society we live in.
One of the things Guy that I find people misunderstand, and this is something that, this is one reason I’m running for president, is that some people look up and say, Hey, there are these rich and powerful people that are like pulling all the strings, and they’re like shafting us. And there is some of that happening for sure.
Andrew Yang: But the fact is a lot of the people that you regard as very, very rich and powerful are very, very constrained in what they can do. Are very, very constrained in their roles.
And we have to make system wide changes that actually free more people up, because right now we’re all sort of kind of plugged into this giant machine, and the giant machine threatens to destroy our environment and automate away more and more of our jobs. Leave fewer and fewer of us with a leg to stand on. And so you look up and say, well, like it’s someone doing something dirty and nasty. It’s like, well actually that’s just the way the software is written at this point.
Andrew Yang: You know, like I say to people, I spoke to a group of CEOs in New York, and I asked how many of them are looking at replacing back-office clerical workers with AI and software. And every single hand goes up. And so you could say like, Oh well they’re bad people. It’s like, actually that’s just what their incentive structure is. Like if they do not have their hand up, they would not be CEOs of their businesses for much longer.
So if you want to fix it, you have to fix the framework and the structure and the incentives and the software and not try and castigate individuals for making decisions that are completely consistent with the rules there.
Guy Kawasaki: Do you think that Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, Jim Jordan, and Mitch McConnell believed the shit that they say?
Andrew Yang: No, I’m getting increasingly confident Guy that a lot of politicians do not believe the shit that they say.
Guy Kawasaki: And why are you getting confident?
Andrew Yang: Well, because I’m now seeing how the incentive framework works for politicians and they home in on certain things that they think are going to be advantageous to them. And then they try not to ever, ever breathe a word about the things they think are not going to be advantages. And so you start actually losing track of what the person’s genuine belief is and what they think is going to be good for them. And at a certain point there’s actually no difference.
Guy Kawasaki: Well, if I ever asked you, do you believe the shit that you say, I guess we’ll know what happened.
Andrew Yang: Yeah, the day I don’t believe the shit that I say is the day I frankly find something else to do because I have a relatively low interest in perpetuating some of the dynamics that are wrecking our country and tearing our communities apart.
I have said unpleasant things, I believe to people that I knew disapprove of them. I actually said it, said it yesterday. Like someone came up to me here in Iowa, shook my hand, and then said to me, “when do you think life begins?” And it was clear to me that he was pro-life and wanted me to say something early on.
And then I just said, I was like, “look, I think that’s in the hands of the mom.” And I knew that’s not what that person wanted to hear, but I’m not going to bullshit you.
Guy Kawasaki: Yep, exactly. Exactly. I have an out of the box idea for you. So it seems that Mark Benioff bought Time, Jeff Bezos bought The Post, so why wouldn’t Bill Gates or Jeff or Mark or George Soros or Michael Bloomberg just buy Fox, put Rachel Maddow in charge, problem solved.
Andrew Yang: Oh, what are they buying in this example?
Guy Kawasaki: Fox.
Andrew Yang: Fox.
Guy Kawasaki: Fox. They buy Fox. Put Rachel Maddow in charge. Wouldn’t our problems be solved?
Andrew Yang: It’s an interesting question. I mean, I’m sure there’s some [inaudible 00:30:00] that which Fox shareholders would have to consider it because they would be bound by their fiduciary duty. But yeah, I mean though, if you were to somehow convert Fox into something different, there’d be a new Fox very, very quickly afterwards because you know, these markets [inaudible 00:30:14] a vacuum. But that said, it’s a very interesting thought. We should whisper in the ear of somebody who has those resources.
Guy Kawasaki: Well, I don’t know him personally, so I can’t do it. I have two more questions for you because I know I’m five minutes and 36 seconds beyond what I was allotted. Why would you do to make Russia regret interfering again?
Andrew Yang: I would make it very clear that interfering with our democracy is an act of aggression and hostility, and we will react very, very unkindly in a way that will hurt. Most Americans would agree with me on that. If you had credible evidence and that you were able to demonstrate the American people, this is what we have, Russia, we told you this is what would happen, and now it’s going to happen.
Guy Kawasaki: How do, how do you define unkindly? Andrew Yang: Oh, they have active imaginations. I’m sure they can figure out.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay, now, my last question. This is just a speed round. I’ll give you two things, you pick one.
Andrew Yang: Sure.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay. Mac or windows?
Andrew Yang: Mac.
Guy Kawasaki: IOS or Android?
Andrew Yang: IOS.
Guy Kawasaki: Barbecue or sushi?
Andrew Yang: Barbecue. That’s tough one though, I love sushi.
Guy Kawasaki: Cappuccino or flat white?
Andrew Yang: Cappuccino, but I don’t really drink coffee very much. Guy Kawasaki: Lululemon or Levi Strauss?
Andrew Yang: Levi Strauss. I know those guys.
Guy Kawasaki: Sean Connery or Daniel Craig?
Andrew Yang: Daniel Craig.
Guy Kawasaki: Michelle or Barack?
Andrew Yang: That’s a tough one. You know, I’ll say Michelle.
Guy Kawasaki: And the last and most important question, Switch or X-Box?
Andrew Yang: Switch, switch.
Guy Kawasaki: I hope this episode has made you think harder, honestly, holistically, and humanely because the world and the United States, in particular, can use some hard, honest, holistic, and humane thinking right now.
Don’t forget that we made a Yang tone out of Andrew’s laugh.
Download it HERE YangTone iOS and YangTone for Android. Need help? Here's a how-to guide.
I’m Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People.
Thanks to Sam Kwok and Shelby Summerfield for making this interview possible. Mahalo to my universal basic podcasting team of Jeff Sieh and Peg Fitzpatrick. They did an awesome job finishing this episode so fast.
Guy Kawasaki: This is Remarkable people.