May 19, 2022

Andrew Yang Proposes a Local Currency, Sees Growing Support for Universal Basic Income


In March Andrew Yang’s nonprofit gave $1,000 one-time grants to a thousand residents in the Bronx. This week a new article in the New Yorker asks one of those grant recipients how they feel about Yang’s newest proposal as he runs to be New York’s mayor: to give the city’s public-housing residents billions of dollars in a “Borough Bucks” currency that would hopefully recirculate in the community:

“I was like, you know, am I the only person here that would love to live in a society where we can actually barter our talents and skills, instead of depending on this economy that’s not working for us?”

Yang made a similar point when I asked him about the origins of the Borough Bucks proposal. “If you’re going to invest resources in a community, your preference is that the resources circulate within the community, particularly if you can serve multiple goals,” he said. “They’re just imaginative ways for communities to unlock resources.”
The article also notes that in an earlier run for the U.S. presidency, “his pitch was that the economy needed to be modernized to account for automation and other technological advances. In his mayoral run, his pitch is that New York City should become the ‘anti-poverty’ city.” But they explored the larger question of whether Yang sees a growing acceptance for universal basic incomes:

I asked Yang about the debate, now happening in Congress, about whether Biden should push for fourteen-hundred-dollar stimulus checks in the next bailout package, or two-thousand-dollar checks, or two thousand dollars a month until the economy rebounds. Yang said that he favored the last proposal.

I asked him how he felt about the fact that even as other candidates in the race were attacking him, several — Eric Adams, the former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales, and the City Council member Carlos Menchaca — had expressed interest in the U.B.I. policies he had championed. “I would love to check out their plans,” Yang said. “It’s an idea whose time has come. I’m certainly very proud to have contributed to the idea’s popularity, but anyone who wants to adapt a version of it, like, fantastic.”