Updated: Dec 31, 2020
By Ariel Kim
Disclaimer: The Incandescent Review is not associated with any political agenda; our purpose is to amplify youth voices and new insights.
"My name is Muhan Zhang... Most recently, I was the Chief Operating Officer for the Andrew Yang 2020 Presidential Campaign." - Muhan Zhang
A bit of context:
Muhan Zhang is the past COO of the Andrew Yang 2020 Presidential Campaign. He first met Andrew Yang through Venture For America, a nonprofit fellowship founded by Andrew Yang as a means of connecting recent college grads with startups to create economic opportunity across the U.S. As COO of the Yang 2020 Presidential Campaign, Zhang "helped scale a grassroots political campaign from 0 to $40 million raised from 400,000 donors in 2.5 years [and] lead national operations supporting 250+ teammates,” according to his Linkedin Profile.
I first met Muhan Zhang at a Yang 2020 supporter event back in 2018, after reading The War on Normal People by Andrew Yang for the purpose of researching UBI for my then-recent state debate tournament.
“In the next 12 years, 1 out of 3 American workers are at risk of losing their jobs to new technologies—and unlike with previous waves of automation, this time new jobs will not appear quickly enough in large enough numbers to make up for it.” - Andrew Yang
In The War on Normal People, Yang speaks on the mass displacement of American workers due to automation. He criticizes the current welfare state, its critical lack of emphasis on recipient autonomy, and the prevalent welfare cap which he believes disincentivizes work. In response to these problems, he proposes a solution: The Freedom Dividend.
Andrew Yang defines The Freedom Dividend as “a universal basic income for all American adults, no strings attached – a foundation on which a stable, prosperous, and just society can be built.” By giving every American a sustainable $1,000 a month, he aims to eliminate poverty in America and create an country with a “humanity-first” capitalistic system. The basis of the Universal Basic Income is that in the face of crises, the UBI will put the power back into the hands of the people.
Some common questions that are commonly raised in regards to this Freedom Dividend are: won't handouts cause massive inflation? won't this disincentivize people from working? how will we pay for such a large sum of money? Isn't that socialism? I encourage you to take a look at The Freedom Dividend FAQ, where Yang 2020 answers these questions and more.
When I had met Zhang back in 2018, we spoke mostly on the ideas mentioned throughout the book, including the automation of jobs, rising income inequality, and the solutions advocated by the Yang 2020 movement. That was before the Yang 2020 movement truly gained momentum— and recently, on August 12th, we reunited in an interview. In this conversation, Zhang discusses his Yang 2020 journey, insights in retrospect to the campaign, and advice for those going through this unprecedented time.
Thank you for taking the time to read thus far, and here is the interview below:
Interviewer's Note: I was much more excited than it seems when I greeted Muhan, we just had to cut out our original introduction because of some errors made on my part! I apologize for the possible misunderstanding.
00:30 - 1:46: Changes from the beginning of the Yang 2020 Campaign
2:00 - 10:06: Rewards and difficulties of the campaign
10:20 - 12:50: Comments on current issues
12:55 - 15:24: Current issues in our sphere of control
15:35 - 19:31: Comments on universal basic income (UBI)
20:02 - 21:22: Universal Basic Income and where you live.
21:44 - 23:43: 'Revisionary' or 'revolutionary' changes in the social welfare system
24:02 - 26:06: What attracts people to UBI
26:29 - 27:52: Prejudices throughout the campaign
28:10 - 35:45: Positive Takeaways