You get $1,000! And you get $1,000! And you get $1,000!
"You get $1,000! And you get $1,000! And you get $1,000!" Alex Wong/Getty

Andrew Yang is coming to Seattle.

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The front runner for the Democratic nomination for president (at least according to Slog readers, perhaps the least prescient group in history) will be at Gas Works Park on May 3rd as part of his campaign tour, which he's calling the "Humanity First Tour."

So, who the fuck is Andrew Yang?

As Eli mentioned in his primer, Yang is a former lawyer and "modestly wealthy tech entrepreneur" with a degree in economics. His primary agenda is dealing with what he predicts is an impending financial crisis as an increasing number of jobs, from construction to white collar, disappear. And this could be a very serious problem: Economists predict that up to a third of working Americans could be out of work in the next 12 years—and not, as Trump would have you believe, because of immigrants taking American jobs but because of job automation.

Yang's solution to this is Universal Basic Income or UBI. Basically, he has proposed giving $1,000 a month to every adult between the ages 18 and 64 in America, which, he hopes, will keep us all from losing our shirts when robots take over our jobs. He's calling this the "Freedom Dividend."

UBI has some appeal across the political spectrum, which may be why Yang has captured a not-small amount of interest from the kind of voters who don't normally participate in Democratic primaries: libertarians. This, in part, is because Yang's UBI would replace some other forms of welfare that libertarians oppose, including food stamps, cash payments, and—perhaps more importantly—disability insurance. And that would impact a significant number of people. In 2017, for instance, over 10 million Americans, 86 percent of whom were workers, received some kind of disability payment, and this is directly correlated with job loss: A study from the Social Security Administration, for instance, found that after a job loss, workers had a 25 percent higher likelihood of receiving disability insurance. Those workers are also less likely to re-enter the workforce.

Yang recently talked about this on the libertarian podcast the Fifth Column. He told host Kmele Foster that UBI wouldn't just replace the welfare system and save the government and taxpayers money, it would also improve recipients lives. The current welfare system, Yang argues, discourages people from reentering the workforce after a job loss because benefits typically end when you reach a certain (incredibly low) income. This is a problem, because when people don't work—when they have too much time and too little purpose—drug and alcohol use spikes, overdose deaths spike, domestic violence spikes, and life expectancy goes down. UBI, Yang says, could help alleviate this social ill while growing the economy and, he says, increasing the labor force by millions. For libertarians, what's not to love about that?

Still, libertarians don't universally support UBI. Some are concerned that if you start offering people $1,000 a month, future political races will come down to who is willing to increase that amount by the most. And he's got other plans libertarians cannot get down with, too. His endorsement for Medicare for All is exactly the kind of big government agenda most libertarians want to flush down the toilet, and King County Libertarian Party Chair Nathan Deily told me in a phone interview that although he appreciates that Yang is bringing a little viewpoint diversity to the Democratic primary, he finds Yang's healthcare plan "troubling." And while he finds UBI's potential to reduce government spending appealing, he rejects Yang's plan to pay for it—which does sound more like an Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sander plank than one of Gary Johnson's, because Yang wants to pay for our $1,000 a month allowance by levying a value-added tax (or VAT) on Big Tech.

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week, Yang compared the UBI to Alaska's Permanent Fund. "Everyone in the state gets between $1,000 and $2,000 a year from oil money," he said, "and because it's oil money, there's no stigma attached. It's not a rich-to-poor transfer, and it's wildly popular in a conservative state. [...] So what we have to do is we make it a right of citizenship for all Americans and do what they are doing in Alaska with oil money, with technology money for everyone around the country." He's calling this, the "tech check."

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This is where he loses Nathan Deily. "Singling out a single industry for a confiscatory tax scheme is problematic in and of itself," Deily says. He also points out that VATs are regressive. And he does have a point. If tech companies are required to pay for UBI, they're probably going to increase prices on whatever they are selling, which means low-income households will be disproportionately impacted.

(Stilll, it's not like libertarians would prefer progressive taxes instead. In fact, they prefer no taxes at all, and while this was a little off topic, because I don't find myself in the company of libertarians that often, I took the opportunity when speaking to Deily to ask how he thinks we should pay for things that have to be funded—say, infrastructure. "The short answer is that anything government does, private industry can generally do better, and in a more voluntary way," Deily says. "Government roads, for example, are a pretty recent development in this country, and there are lots of examples in the U.S. and abroad where private industry or public-private partnerships can do as well as government—or better and cheaper. The longer answer has to do with perverse incentives for a corrupt monopoly, like the government, to raise taxes and fees and maintain a bloated bureaucracy around them. I'm not saying there is no role for government," he says, "but we should be deeply skeptical of the government as the answer to just about any problem.")

As for whether or not Deily will be voting for Yang in the primary, it's not likely. If Washington hadn't moved away from an open caucus system, in which unaffiliated voters could participate, to a closed primary, which requires voters to declare their party affiliation, he may have considered it, but at this point, he's not about to call himself a Democrat—for Andrew Yang or anyone else.