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Andrew Yang Is A Mondo Doofus Who Should Not Be Mayor
Andrew Yang is running for Mayor of New York City. I had hoped that by this point in the race, I’d be able to refer to his candidacy in the past tense (if I referred to it at all), but no such luck: a recent poll shows him leading the Democratic field in name recognition (84%) and percentage of voters for whom he’s the top choice (28%). This is great news if you’re Andrew Yang or a member of his bafflingly large base, but for everyone who is not Andrew Yang — including his supporters — this is actually pretty bad news, because as it turns out, Andrew Yang is a big-time dumbass.
Yang’s presidential campaign slogan was “Make America Think Harder” (or MATH), a nod to people who call themselves nerds because they retweet “I Fucking Love Science” and think Elon Musk is a genius on par with Nikola Tesla. (Or, put more succinctly, people who don’t think.) His big policy proposal was the “Freedom Dividend,” a $1,000-per-month payment from the government to every American citizen with no strings attached, no means testing, no work requirements, and so on.
The policy itself is Universal Basic Income, an idea that has existed since at least the late 1700s when Thomas Paine proposed a version of it. Yang came up with the name (which sucks, by the way). To be clear, UBI is a good idea on paper: if implemented carefully and properly as part of a larger solution, it would significantly benefit millions of Americans. But Yang’s version treated UBI not as part of a broader solution, but as the solution in its entirety — an approach that would likely create more problems than it would solve.
For starters, $12,000 a year is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s nowhere near enough to deliver financial security to the millions of Americans living in poverty now. And it’s certainly not a sufficient replacement for existing social programs, many of which have income thresholds in order to qualify. By taking their Freedom Dividend payments, millions of people would lose access to those programs. Not to mention, every Republican and most Democrats would demand significant budget cuts to even consider footing the bill for a universal basic income system, and odds are those cuts would come from, you guessed it, social programs. Even if by some miracle Congress passed UBI without any cuts, millions of Americans would then be forced to choose between $1,000 a month and access to food stamps, disability benefits, housing vouchers, and other programs that collectively deliver well over $1,000 a month in value. If they take the thousand dollars, they’re effectively on their own. Yang and his supporters have argued that his proposal would give people the choice to take the money…which by definition means it’s not “universal” at all.
Some might argue that even if Yang’s proposals wouldn’t fix the underlying problems, at least he’s taking a novel approach to solving them. But there’s nothing novel about a politician coming up with half-cocked solutions to problems they don’t fully understand. That happens all the time.
I get why people like Andrew Yang. He seems genuinely passionate about solving these problems, and good for him. What I don’t like is his “disruptor” approach to policy, his apparent belief that as mayor of New York City, he can succeed where others have failed simply because he Thinks Different™. I don’t believe he understands the scope of the problems he’s setting out to fix, which means he can’t fix them.
Here, for example, is Yang’s plan to combat housing insecurity and homelessness in New York City:
Embracing co-living and allowing for single-room occupancy (SRO) living spaces will allow individuals to find housing that works for their lives and their budget.
I may be misreading this, but Yang seems to be under the impression that New Yorkers are not “embracing co-living.” Which is weird, since (MATH alert!) 40% of adults living in NYC have at least one roommate — a higher percentage than in any of America’s top 10 most expensive cities besides Miami (41%). Hell, I’m married and we still have a roommate; if that doesn’t qualify as “embracing co-living,” I don’t want to know what does.
For the first time, there are more empty rooms than there are homeless families.
At best, this is categorically untrue; at worst, it’s an intentional misrepresentation of shelter occupancy data. From Coalition for the Homeless: “In December 2020, there were 56,849 homeless people, including 18,099 homeless children, sleeping each night in the New York City municipal shelter system. An all-time record 20,811 single adults slept in shelters in December 2020.”
There is absolutely no data (MATH!) supporting Yang’s assertion that shelter occupancy has somehow gone down during COVID. In fact, I’d go a step further and say that the only way you could arrive at that conclusion is by specifically overlooking the fact that due to COVID, many shelters had to relocate residents to hotels in order to prevent or limit the spread of outbreaks.
Instead of overpaying for hotel rooms, we can take advantage of this to provide a short-term solution with an eye towards providing transitional services to help all New Yorkers keep a roof over their heads and the heads of their children.
It’s unclear what Yang means by “take advantage of this.” It could refer to A) filling up those “empty” shelter spaces and putting everyone at a significant health risk, or B) using those hotel rooms as transitional housing for individuals and families, which only works if he does the first one too.
Also, most of the hotels Yang refers to already have contracts with the city to use some of their rooms as temporary housing units. In fact, some hotels are built for the purpose of being partly used as temporary housing: doing so gives them a guaranteed source of revenue. And guess what? The city is not “overpaying for hotel rooms” — in fact, it costs the city less to house someone in a hotel room than in a shelter. (It’s honestly probably a good thing Yang doesn’t know that, otherwise he’d propose getting rid of shelters and putting up a bunch of boutique hotels instead.)
No matter how you slice it, there is a finite amount of space for the homeless in New York City, and the number of homeless people hasn’t somehow declined; in fact, homelessness will most likely skyrocket once the eviction moratorium ends. For someone who places such a premium on Thinking, Yang doesn’t seem to be doing much of it.
Plans for addressing homelessness, increasing affordable housing, improving NYCHA buildings, and making development more community-driven will be released in the coming weeks.
This section hasn’t been updated in over a month.
Considering the scope of homelessness in NYC (and how many other states rely on NYC to shelter their homeless, which is a topic I’ll talk about soon), Yang’s near-complete lack of understanding and apparent unwillingness to try to understand are disqualifying all on their own. Bill de Blasio is nobody’s idea of a great mayor, but his administration has done a lot of great work for the homeless, and it’s frighteningly easy to envision a Yang administration “disrupting” all these programs to implement “tech-driven solutions” that will inevitably fail.
There’s a lot more on Yang’s website if you want to brush up on his other half-assed ideas, but my guess is, you probably already know what they are, because we’ve seen it before. Not just in his own failed presidential campaign, but in the doomed presidential bid of another candidate.
Andrew Yang is a Silicon Valley version of Pete Buttigieg.
Take any Buttigieg speech and replace “factories” with “Big Tech” and “America’s promise” for “Pi equals 3.141592654!” and voila, you got a Yang speech. I do think Yang wants to find solutions to these problems, but just like Buttigieg, Yang’s primary objective is convincing voters that if anyone can find the solution, it’s him. It’s the same savior complex; the only difference is how it’s packaged: Buttigieg was the rosy-cheeked do-gooder who believes the values of this great nation are this country’s future that must be achieved by looking forward at the past. Yang is the Reguluh guy from Da Big Apple who’s good wit numbas too! Ayyy I’m walkin’ heah — to da calculator bodega, dat is!
“Move fast and break stuff” is the unofficial motto of Silicon Valley types, and it’s a great approach to, say, building an app to help people pick the right candle for their apartment. But for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, that “stuff” is all that’s keeping them from financial ruin or from homelessness; in some cases, that “stuff” is all that’s keeping them alive.
Andrew Yang doesn’t even understand what he wants to break. Why would you trust him to put it back together?