Capitol Alert

Who the heck is Andrew Yang? Five things Californians need to know as he runs for president

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang tells over 1,000 San Francisco supporters at a March 15 rally that he’s the man to defeat President Donald Trump.
Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang tells over 1,000 San Francisco supporters at a March 15 rally that he’s the man to defeat President Donald Trump.

You’ are listening to a Candidate Conversation from the California Nation podcast. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts to learn what’s happening in the world’s fifth-largest economy and how it’s shaping the national dialogue.

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, 44, is a venture capitalist who launched his bid for president in November 2017. He began gaining traction when he appeared on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast in February, prompting a boost in his Twitter followers and a flood of donations.

Here are five things you need to know about Andrew Yang as he campaigns in the Golden State:

1. He’s all about universal basic income

California is paving the way on the issue, as Stockton launched an experiment earlier this year to provide $500 a month over the next year and a half to 130 adults living in the city’s lower-income neighborhood.

Yang has pushed a proposal he calls “the freedom dividend.” Under his plan, all American adults over the age of 18 would get a $1,000 check from the federal government each month — a cost of about $3-4 trillion per year. Yang said his plan aims to end poverty and grow the economy.

He said a lot of the money would be pulled from welfare programs and a value-added tax on large corporations who don’t currently pay their far share in taxes. Yang said people who are currently on welfare or social programs would have the option of keeping their existing benefits or receiving $1,000 per month without restrictions.

2. Yang’s family has California ties

His parents were born in Taiwan and came to the United States for graduate school at UC Berkeley in the 1960s. Yang himself was born and raised in New York. According to his campaign, Yang still has close family living in California.

3. He’s ‘generally’ pro-immigrant

The Democratic presidential hopeful has mixed views on the issue of immigration. He wants to offer people a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants and said he is “pro-immigrant, generally.” He added that his parents would have been allowed to stay in the country under his presidency because they came to the country as students. He doesn’t thinking rounding up and deporting immigrants is an option, but he wants to reward people who enter the United States legally or come to the country for college.

“One of the things I would do is staple a green card to the diploma of any international student who graduates from one of our universities,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to educate someone and then send them away to compete against you.”

4. He has no shortage of ideas

On Yang’s campaign website, he outlines his positions on more than 75 issues, ranging from making Puerto Rico a state to providing everyone with access to free marriage counseling.

If elected, he said a top priority would be “forgiving a significant chunk of student loan debt because that is crippling the next generation.” He also plans to tackle the opioid crisis by decriminalizing certain drugs to encourage people to seek treatment.

His most interesting stance may be his personal opposition to circumcision.

5. Yang has a funny side

Both Yang and President Donald Trump are wealthy, have business backgrounds, went to Ivy League colleges and grew up in New York. So why are they different? “The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math,” Yang told supporters at a March 15 San Francisco rally.

He also may have already made an unrealistic campaign promise. In early March, he vowed to unify the country by offering to “give everyone an HBO GO password so we could all watch Game of Thrones.” It would cost nearly $5 billion a month for every American to gain access to the streaming service.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee