Slavitt and Yang Make a Plan, with Andrew Yang
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Listen in as Andy and former Presidential candidate Andrew Yang have a candid conversation about how to support Americans in the short term with the pandemic and, in the long term, through the fall-out. With more societal changes than we’ve seen in our lifetime piling up every day, Andrew’s signature policy of a universal basic income has never been more relevant, nor has Andy’s signature commitment to universal health care. This is one of those conversations where you get to eavesdrop on how policies, movements, and political efforts are formulated.
Check out these resources from today’s episode:
- Learn more about Andrew’s organization Humanity Forward: https://movehumanityforward.com/
- As heard in this week’s Zach Fact: a JAMA article on COVID-19 and heart damage: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamacardiology/fullarticle/2768915
- Check out this opinion piece in The Washington Post based on Andy’s “kitchen sink approach:” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-it-would-take-to-get-back-to-normal-by-october/2020/07/27/a8886854-d02d-11ea-8c55-61e7fa5e82ab_story.html
- Here is more information about Andrew’s Freedom Dividend, aka universal basic income, idea: https://www.yang2020.com/what-is-freedom-dividend-faq/
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[00:01] Nancy Pelosi: Ten weeks ago, we passed this legislation. At that time, Mr. McConnell said, we need a pause. We need a pause. Ten weeks, tens of thousands of people have died in that period of time. Many people have lost their jobs, gone onto unemployment. Many, many people have been infected by this virus. That time has taken a toll.
[00:34] Andy Slavitt: Welcome to In the Bubble. This is Andy Slavitt. So we’re here in August and we have just heard from Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, talking about the sorry state of affairs in the Congress, where they’ve actually let unemployment insurance expire and a whole bunch of the benefits that are leaving Americans in the lurch. Now, I think that’s going to get remedied, but it is really a sign of how low a priority the Senate — who has had this for several months on their plate — has placed on providing the kind of relief that Americans need. With 30 million people out of work. Five million people that have lost their insurance. Many people not sure if they’re going to make rent or have food. And that is the notion that we are going to talk about on our show today, which is the notion of economic support, and how we support Americans through both this tough time and times ahead with Andrew Yang. I think you’re going to really enjoy this conversation because I think Andrew and I forgot we were recording a podcast and just started like shooting the breeze in a way that was cool. It was fun. And you got to hear us problem-solve. I think that’s kind of what the initial attempt of our show when we started In the Bubble was to say, hey, come into my bubble, listen to me talk to people. And, you know, my goal always is to try to get a guest to kind of forget their talking points and just kind of talk. So we could kind of hear what’s really going on. And it wasn’t hard with him because I found him to be a really warm, open, thoughtful person. Hey there, Zach. Ready to share a fact?
[02:31] Zach Slavitt: So when I look at this new JAMA study from the 29th. And they explored heart damage in the near-term and long-term of contracting COVID-19. And what they found was, out of the patients they tested. 78 percent had heart damage while they were infected, even if they showed no symptoms of having it. And 60 percent continued to have them even after they were no longer infected. But their big takeaway from this is we need to continue the investigation into the long-term cardiovascular effects of COVID-19. And obviously, nothing is certain here. It’s just adding to some concerns of potential long-term effects, even for asymptomatic COVID patients.
[03:23] Andy Slavitt: So, Zach, you’re suggesting that people without symptoms, or who don’t feel sick, may, in fact, end up suffering medium and longer term consequences from COVID?
[03:36] Zach Slavitt: Yes, in this study, which, granted, was not the biggest sample size, there was heart damage in the long term for the majority of patients. However, the long term impacts of this heart damage is unknown.
[03:50] Andy Slavitt: Wow. So I think we first heard a little bit about this on our episode with Larry Brilliant, where Larry talked about some of the mysteries of why this really isn’t a respiratory disease alone, but why it has other impacts. This is one of, I’m sure, many studies that we’re going to find that’s going to help us unravel these mysteries. Look, every time you hear something like this, it feels a little scary. It feels like bad news. But in many respects, learning about this disease earlier is good news because everything we learn becomes another problem that our scientists have to solve and have to address. It would lead one to the view that this is not a virus that we want to get. I’m curious, Zach, as an 18-year-old — and I know you’ve said before, you have friends that have maybe the view that if they got COVID-19, it wouldn’t be the worst thing because then they’d have it and then they could get past it and they wouldn’t feel sick. Do you think this kind of information is going to change that view?
[04:57] Andy Slavitt: Yeah, I think the important thing to realize is this isn’t telling you will have long-term heart problems, but people have to realize just because it might not be the case does not mean you should act like there won’t be any problems. So I think people need to take it into account, add it to their cost-benefit analysis of whether or not they can be in certain scenarios, certain activities they can participate in. Just with that added risk of potentially having some long-term effects that we don’t know about yet.
[05:34] Andy Slavitt: So I think you’re saying be careful. Couple of other quick things before we get to Andrew. A big question mark in a lot of people’s minds, particularly families, is what to do about school. I’ve been asking lots and lots of people this question, and even had some conversations in the White House with folks. I would say the general tenor is people are more uncertain and worried about the potential for schools to create hotspots than they were even a week or two ago. And I think some recent studies, which show that even younger kids have equivalent viral loads, and some studies which have shown kids can be pretty efficient spreaders, no one’s clear. We’re still a little of the mystery. And it’s a very challenging time to think about sending your kids to school. I think it’s fair to say that, by and large, it seems unlikely that there’s an impact that will happen to the kids. But the impact to the community and to the family upon the spread is something that’s still very much up in the air. So we hope to have more in an upcoming episode about this. That would be a toolkit episode around sending your kids to school. Finally, I’ve written something that got a bit of attention around what people are calling the Slavitt kitchen sink approach. There is an interview on Amanpour, on CNN, on MSNBC. I linked to a thread that alludes to what the kitchen sink approach is, effectively trying to challenge the country to make fighting coronavirus the number one priority. And that until we make fighting coronavirus the number one priority, we will have a tough time defeating it. That only countries around the world that have decided to make this the most important thing have done it. And the good news is, once they have, they’ve been able to do it in a matter of weeks, not months or years. But it takes extraordinary commitment from all of us. And I don’t think that that’s just there yet.
[07:34] Andy Slavitt: Let’s get to Andrew Yang.
[07:44] Andrew Yang: Hey, Andy, how are you?
[07:47] I’m good, thanks. You know, the thing that I’m most wondering about, and I’m sure you’re thinking about, is how we support the American public through a crisis like this. A crisis where, of course, jobs have gone away. There’s income insecurity. So as you look at how we are doing and how we are doing this, tell us how you’re thinking about it.
[08:07] Andrew Yang: I’m a numbers guy, Andy. First, congratulations to you for everything you’ve done for the country, helping make healthcare and our government work and then running Medicare and Medicaid, impacting the lives of tens of millions of Americans. And then going door to door selling the Affordable Care Act to various town halls around the country. It’s really inspirational. We had more folks like you doing what you do would be much, much stronger and healthier for it. So, you know, it’s a pleasure to be able to meet you. I was deeply concerned about the evolving nature of our economy. One thing that frustrates the heck out of me still is that just no one seemed to care. And then even when I came with facts and figures, just no one really engaged on the factual level. The most common job categories in the United States are clerical and administrative work, including call centers, retail and sales, food service and food preparation, truck driving and transportation and manufacturing. Those five categories comprise about half of American jobs. Only about a third of Americans graduate from college. So if you think about the workforce, you’re thinking about majority high school grads. And those jobs I just described were all shrinking pre-pandemic. But then post-pandemic, you’re seeing hundreds of thousands of retail workers that will never to have another job in that industry again. Bartenders, hospitality, security, a lot of the administrative work that was being done is now getting done by software and machines and AI. We’re replacing workers and meatpacking factories and plants because it’s safer. So the trends I was concerned about on the campaign trail are here right now and they just sped up. I’ve been saying we’re seeing 10 years worth of change in 10 weeks, because of the forces on firms. And half of firms said that they’re going to invest more in automation. No one’s investing less in automation right now. Everything is just heading, unfortunately, into the extreme.
[10:18] Andy Slavitt: The stock market’s up in part because it looks like many of these major companies can do just fine with lower labor. And, of course, the stock market likes that. Do you see these jobs coming back or do you think we’re at some stage of a restructuring?
[10:34] Andrew Yang: Economists project that 42 percent of the jobs that we are losing are gone forever. So if you take a rough ballpark estimate, 40 million jobs lost, 42 percent would be about 17 million jobs. And the Great Recession cost us 8.8 million jobs at the peak or trough, depending upon what graph you’re looking at. So we’re looking at two times the job losses of the Great Recession in perpetuity. And we have to face facts that that’s real. That’s actually optimistic because that would assume that 58 percent of the jobs come back, and even that may not happen. So this is the brutal new reality and we have to start adjusting to the reality as quickly as possible instead of pretending that we will to “go back to normal” at a certain point in time.
[11:23] Andy Slavitt: So let’s compare that to the political reality. As we sit here today, it’s a Monday. And Mitch McConnell let the unemployment insurance that millions of Americans were counting on to just get through the last few months expire. And he waited several months in order to consider renewing it, in order to put pressure on the Democrats to accept a deal. He couldn’t get his own caucus in order. The moratorium on evictions are disappearing. Paychecks are disappearing. We heard from a friend last night who is going to be, unfortunately, having to sell their home because of what’s been happening over the last few weeks. And I know it’s a more and more common story. We’re not necessarily seeing all of the numbers just yet. How do you square that political reality where you have — and look, this purpose of the show isn’t to get political, one side versus the other, but where you have at least a part of our elected officials that don’t appear to place a priority on helping Americans even through the emergency times, let alone all of the structural changes you’re talking about.
[12:27] Andrew Yang: Seventy four percent of Americans, including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans, support cash relief during the pandemic/ And it’s deplorable, disgusting to me that the Senate has been dilly-dallying to this extent, the Heroes Act got passed back in May, I mean what the heck happened to June and July for the Senate where you know you’re going to make a deal. Just sit down and make the deal before benefits expire, before eviction moratoriums expire. So right now, there are millions of Americans who are cut adrift, where they’re not sure where their next meal is going to come from. grocery bill payment is going to come from, much less rent checks. I mean, 30 percent of Americans struggled to cover housing costs in June. And that was with ramped-up benefits. So you’re right that we’re not even sure of the carnage, really, because for many of us, it’s just unfolding. And it’s unfolding in corners of society that frankly don’t have a lot of visibility, where people just don’t care that much about the food line and that particular neighborhood being around the block. To me, cash relief is a bare minimum we should be doing, particularly when you have to say our government has failed us miserably in trying to stem this pandemic. And then they’re failing miserably in getting enough resources into our hands that we can actually make it through this crisis period, much less do something more dramatic, like adhere to our public health guidelines or stay in. And that’s something that I’d love to talk to you about — I love that you just called it out recently, said, look, we know what we have to do to get this under control. We just have to go into more genuine full-on lockdown the way other countries have. And part of that is economic relief, because if you’re going to tell people to stay the heck home and not travel between states, not leave for really any reason at all, then they need to know that they’re going to be safe and secure in their homes for a period of weeks.
[14:28] Andy Slavitt: Right. If there’s ever a time for a country to communicate to its people that we’ve got your backs, that we’re going to get you through this, there’s no better time. And you’re exactly right. With that assurance, having one less thing to worry about — I’m not going to lose my home. I’m going to be able to put food on the table. And then, oh, by the way, now I can see a light at the end of the tunnel because there’s an actual strategy. And it may not be my first choice, but it’s measured in weeks and months, it’s not measured in years like the Great Depression. It’s not measured in decades, like many of the wars we fought and many of the sacrifices we’ve had to make. But we have to ask for the sacrifice. And as part of asking for that sacrifice, there has to be that compact. And I worry that we confuse spending money during this pandemic for investing in ways that support the public. And we’ve done one and not the other. And so I’ve been fascinated by what you’ve been saying and how much it resonates. And from my perspective, you could make an argument that what you’re talking about is actually quite a conservative premise. That we give people the choice and options and how to support themselves and spend the money that they make, that we allow people to think entrepreneurially and creatively by not having to spend so much of their energy and their time worrying about whether or not they’re going to pay for healthcare, pay for a meal, put something on track. And I’m familiar with the phenomenon of something that tests favorably with the public but doesn’t go anywhere in Congress. You know, the ACA is similar to that. I think gun safety is in that camp. For a long, long time, marriage equality was in that camp. And usually something has to happen. Usually it’s a lot of work to convert something from being where we are with universal basic income — you want to give a two minute definition of that — to a place where we have a political infrastructure that embraces it. Do you have a sense of what that path looks like?
[16:24] Andrew Yang: We’re trying to build that path right now. Thank you for asking. So my campaign, I believe, helped introduce universal basic income as an idea to many Americans. And if you’ve never heard of it before, that’s on me. So sorry. But it’s a policy where everyone in our country gets a certain amount of money to meet your basic needs. So I ran $1,000 a month. The current relief bills that are being put out there are $2,000 a month for many families, $1,200 stimulus payment. So that’s like the order of magnitude of what you’re looking at. And the political infrastructure to build it is a fascinating project, because again, right now a majority of Americans support cash relief. And universal basic income is nonpartisan in the sense that liberals love it because it’s going to improve education outcomes and help feed families and make us mentally stronger. And then conservatives like it because it’s pro-business. It helps support the middle-class. It’s pro-entrepreneurship. And it doesn’t have a giant bureaucracy attending to every step of it, because if you put money into people’s hands, then they can make their own determinations. It’s based in large part on the petroleum dividend that’s been in effect in Alaska for decades. And that was passed by a Republican governor who said, look, a lot of oil money, what should we do with it? Should we give it to the government or give it to you? And the people of Alaska said, us please. And then now it’s been in effect for a long time. So it’s nonpartisan, bipartisan. Right now, it’s incredibly popular.
[18:02] Andy Slavitt: What does the evidence say, looking at Alaska, which was one of the things that was going to ask you about. What does the evidence say happens in a society when that form of payment happens? What are some of the other things that start to happen?
[18:16] Andrew Yang: Alaska’s petroleum dividend is approximately $1,000 to $2,000 per person per year in a one time payment. So if you’re a family of four, you might get $6,000 in one chunk. And researchers have found that the petroleum dividend in Alaska decreases poverty, which makes sense. It decreases income inequality and we actually have lower levels of income inequality in Alaska than most any other part of the country. It creates hundreds and even thousands of new jobs. It improves child nutrition and health. It’s unifying, wildly popular, where if you poll Alaskans, they say it’s like the best thing that is going on in Alaska. So there are many very positive aspects of it. Alaska, of course, has, you know, issues and concerns writ large. but the dividend seems to improve people’s quality of life significantly. And it has stood the test of time through now, at this point, numerous different administrations, because everyone loves it so much.
[22:00] Andy Slavitt: If Joe Biden wins for president —
[22:03] Andrew Yang: Which I expect him to, by the way.
[22:04] Which as we sit here today, is a good possibility. And he asked you to be part of his cabinet, you are working on restructuring kind of our benefits and entitlements and support structure for the next decades and generations using some of the principles that you did introduced to the public. And I think I fully expect that whether it happens this year, this decade or whenever it happens, your name will be attached to it in some form.
[22:31] Andrew Yang: Oh, that’s so kind. I mean, obviously, I don’t care if my name’s on it, I just want to freakin’ do it. Thank you.
[22:39] Andy Slavitt: So as you think about this, I’ve got a very good friend, Abby Power, who is obsessed with UBI ever since she heard you talking about it. She reads everything about it. She sent me a number of thoughts and questions about how you think about, you know, is there a right amount of money? Is it in fact, $2,000 a month. For that and with that, are there benefits that go away? Are you expected to pay for healthcare on top of that or out of that? What does the country need to provide there? What are some of the other components as you think about, boy, we can’t let this crisis go to waste. I want to structure something that is a vision that we could begin to pursue. What are the components of that and how does that work?
[23:24] Andrew Yang: I think this is the time for universal basic income for sure. Millions of Americans got that $1,200 dollars stimulus check in April. And they thought, wow, this is pretty awesome. To all of a sudden turn them into lazy wastrels and then turn their neighbors into, like, you know, different people. So I think we need to capitalize on this time. I’m supporting a whole series of candidates in congressional races who are pro-universal basic income. And the challenge we have to make right now — because there’s no political infrastructure built around it, as you say. And so we have to make it cool for politicians to be pro-UBI. And the way to do that is by making them see that when they say they’re pro-universal basic income, people love it and it helps them win elections and it gets more people excited about them. And so the way I can demonstrate that, hopefully, is by helping some people win races on universal basic income around the country. So I’ve been working hard on that through my organization, Humanity Forward. We’ve also distributed seven million in direct economic relief ourselves to struggling families because it’s hard to talk about giving people money unless you give people money, in my opinion. And I also love giving people money because it’s awesome and fun. And if you were listening to this and you have money and you haven’t given anyone any money lately, you should do it.
[24:45] Andy Slavitt: I think you started in one of the boroughs in New York with Humanity Forward, the cash assistance program. What have you learned so far?
[24:52] Andrew Yang: We’ve learned that people are desperate and struggling and that as little as $250 can be a lifesaver or a game changer for them. And we moved fast, so frankly, we’re not that concerned about sociological studies or follow-up data in lot of these cases, we’re just very confident that if you’re a struggling single parent or a struggling family in the Bronx and lost your job, that giving you $1,000 was a good thing, particularly when it came to people following stay at home orders during that time. Because, you know, it’s easier to stay home if you actually know you can eat. And your question about how this fits in or how we build into the future, that’s one reason I was excited to talk to you, Andy, because to me there are, let’s say, three major things that are making Americans miserable right now. Number one is healthcare. Number two is housing. Number three is education. And the costs for each of those things has gone up and up and up even as people’s incomes have stagnated. And often when I was running for president, I said, hey, we should give everyone $1,000 a month. Then people made it seem like that’s all I think we should do, which is not the case, because to me, if you give some $1,000 a month and then they have to spend $800 a month on their health care plan, then that’s not very good.
[26:09] Andrew Yang: And so one of the other things that’s pandemic makes clear, hopefully to everyone, is that we cannot have healthcare tied to your employment, and that we need to have some sort of public option, Medicare for All program that folks can access without breaking the bank. Or optimally, not even without breaking the bank, like nearly cost-free would be the best way to go. You know, maybe you have to pay some tiny co-pay, just kind of like a little bit of that sort of friction. But that to me is like a very, very big necessary step. And one reason I was excited to talk to you is that you’ve had so much experience with these systems. And I’d be very interested as to how you think we can best reform this whole crazy tangle healthcare bureaucracy that you presided over not so long ago.
[27:07] Andy Slavitt: Well, the thing about healthcare — and you pointed out one of the really important pieces — is if you actually really deeply poll people, you know, you don’t just look for you like this, you like that, but you really deeply try to understand people. Healthcare turns out to be a bigger economic issue than their tax rate, than virtually anything else, because for, you know, for just about half of Americans, a single medical expense and they are in bankruptcy. The number one phone call to the American Cancer Society hotline, when people are newly diagnosed with cancer, is I cannot afford to have cancer. It’s not what are the treatments? It’s not where should I go? People’s first thought is I can’t afford this in this country. Forty percent of people don’t fulfill a prescription in a given year. They get the prescriptions from their doctor. They go to the pharmacy, they find out the costs and they slink out, and they do without. So we’re not almost at the stage of not being able to support our citizens’ healthcare, we’re past the stage. And healthcare has become so political, unlike UBI, which I think I would advise you to figure out how to keep that as a safe zone. But people forget that there is a fundamental value that people have, which I state the following way: everybody wants to be able to afford to take care of their family if someone gets sick and keep them healthy. People aren’t this looking for handouts, and they don’t really care how it happens. People have some political preferences and so forth. But the idea of being in a situation where you can’t afford to care for your family is an existential feeling, much like what you’re talking about where people are not able to deal with housing or put their kids in school or the kinds of things that so many of us have taken for granted here.
[28:55] Andrew Yang: And kudos to you for talking to real Americans of different political backgrounds and affiliations about these issues. Because I saw you say it’s like, look, I can connect with just about anyone over their experience in the healthcare system because, like, everyone has a terrible experience or fear.
[29:12] Andy Slavitt: Right. Start micro. Right. Your point is you gotta get up to the data and you got to fly over and see the numbers, but you got to fly low enough to the ground that you hear about someone’s sister who couldn’t afford something.
[29:23] Andrew Yang: Everyone’s got that story now. When I was running, everyone had it.
[29:28] Andy Slavitt: We all have those horrible stories. And it’s a complex system. But I think if I were going to point to a few things that I think fit in with where you’re headed, one is exactly what you said, which is we have wedged our ability to access healthcare to our jobs. There’s no reason for that. And particularly if I listened to you for a few minutes talk about where the economy is going, where new types of jobs are being created, what Zach — who you’ll hear from a second — is going to be doing with his life, we would say it’s going to look a lot different than going and working at IBM for 50 years. That doesn’t exist anymore today. It’s certainly not going to exist in the future. The second is, you know, we’ve established too powerful a role for the middle-man insurance company. And one of the things that happened during this crisis is all of us paid a bunch of premiums to insurance companies, and then we didn’t go to the doctor. And so what happened? The doctors and hospitals ran out of money and the insurance companies made billions and billions of excess profits for doing nothing, because they sat in the middle and collected all this money. And that’s not the way it’s supposed to work. There are functions that insurance companies do that are valuable. They pay claims, they do some of those things. But those are things that should be in the background, not in the middle. And the core of the relationship, I believe, should be you establish your relationship with a medical team, a care team, a doctor.
[30:50] Andy Slavitt: And then the third thing, the one that’s probably the most challenging and in some respects parallels our country as much as anything, is the inequity in the healthcare system. We can fix those first two things gradually over time with legislation, with reforms. But our healthcare system is designed to deliver worse outcomes for people whose lives aren’t simple, people who don’t have access to daycare, who may not speak English as a first language, who live in a rural community. Any variety of circumstance which would put them a little bit on the margin, our healthcare system is complicated enough if you know what you’re doing. But if the system is designed for you to come to it. And so there’s an extraordinary opportunity there to make the healthcare system both more equitable and more innovative by getting people where they live, by getting people at home, by using some technology. Now, I tell people — and we had Bernie Sanders on two weeks ago — that there’s not one bill, there’s not one stroke of a pen that fixes the healthcare system. There have been hundreds and hundreds of follow-on bills to Medicare and Medicaid. And it makes sense, because the healthcare system is constantly changing. So the Affordable Care Act, you know, 10 years ago, if it did its job right, it would get it about 75 percent or 80 percent right. Because it can’t possibly foresee every circumstance. And the job of Congress is to put follow-on legislation together, which is, oh, this piece worked. This little piece didn’t. And let’s keep adjusting along the way. And of course, the Republican Congress decided that it was going to exploit that 20 to 30 percent that wasn’t working rather than fix it. And of course, over time, that’s just going to grow if you don’t change legislation. So you need a committed political infrastructure that’s committed to the public, to the public good. And if you don’t have that, if people are going to play politics with healthcare and, you know, in this current crisis, I just can’t help but be where you are on where the Senate and the White House is on providing benefits for people in the face of that larger crisis as we are.
[32:49] Andrew Yang: We’re so far behind the rest of the developed world on this. You look around the world, governments saw this pandemic and said, OK, what should we do? And they put thousands of dollars in the hands of their citizens and families. And here we can’t even get that done. It’s very, very infuriating to me. But it’s just another in a whole cascade of failures. Such a heartbreaking time to be an American. We’re like a basket-case compared to the rest of the developed world.
[33:20] Andy Slavitt: Well, I want to come back and ask you the question of if we’re going to get better and how we’re getting better. But would you be willing to take a question from Zach in the meantime?
[33:29] Zach Slavitt: Yeah, I want to shift a little bit to the pandemic response. I’m wondering, what do you think the government could be doing differently right now to better help small businesses and restaurants as opposed to the stock market?
[33:42] Andrew Yang: So to return to a point your dad made before, stock market prices are at record highs because investors are looking up and saying, ooh, these companies are going to do fine no matter what. Whereas hundreds of thousands of small businesses are shutting their doors for good and forever. And that’s devastating for so many communities. Small businesses employ more people than big businesses if you look around. So one of the ideas that Mark Cuban had, which I loved, was that they should put money into our hands that essentially use it or lose it. It can only be used at various types of businesses, like small business or locally owned businesses. He actually was a fan of the use it or lose it. I was a fan of just for locally owned businesses. And if people think that’s too far out, the UK is literally paying half of your dining out bill if you were to go eat out because they said, you know what, we need to help the restaurant sector. So if we believe in small businesses, our government could easily give us all and credits that can only be used at local small businesses. It’s going to take that kind of measure to help these businesses make it. Because the fact is, a lot of mom and pop, Main Street businesses were struggling even in normal times. You have Amazon just hoovering up 20 billion dollars in business with its trillion dollar market cap, and it doesn’t even need to make money. And so if you’re a normal mainstream business, you had a hard time competing even pre-pandemic. And post-pandemic, now it’s impossible. So we have to take massive, massive steps if we want small businesses to have a chance at reopening in the days and weeks to come. And I’m very disappointed that we’re not doing more.
[35:23] Zach Slavitt: Do you think UBI effectively trickles down into small businesses?
[35:29] Andrew Yang: A ton of basic income would go into small businesses. And just anyone listening to this, just reflect. If you had an extra $1,500 or $2,000 a month, is that going to go to your local grocery store, car repair shop, babysitting, tutoring. So a lot of our money would go straight into those businesses because that’s just the way we consume. Some of it would go to big businesses, but a lot of it will go to small businesses. So universal basic income is to me the first most effective thing we could do that would help small businesses survive. But I would be willing to go much, much further than that, and have funds specifically directed towards locally owned businesses, because I think they’re so important.
[39:09] Andy Slavitt: Let’s talk about how we get for where we are to a better place. I mean, I can tell from talking to you that you, like me, are first and foremost thinking about the person listening who is feeling financially insecure today, and wondering how they’re going to get from here to there, and wondering if the government could support them. So maybe start with just how you think this will work out. What will the Congress do? Do you see them getting to a bill? What does support look like to get out of the crisis?
[39:39] Andrew Yang: It seems like everyone is settled on some form of direct-cash relief, $1,200, let’s say. Unemployment benefits are up in the air, but I believe that something is going to get done on that front as well, $400, sounds like. I mean, that’s where they’re negotiating right now. And there’s some political sensitivities around “paying people not to work,” which is utter bullsh*t. That is just not borne out in the vast majority of situations. And of course, for me, I would prefer just to give people money unconditionally, like the stimulus payments. And then you can get away from the entire discussion of whether or not you are “paying people not to work” or whatnot. There is a CARES Act that dozens of members of Congress have supported, and in the Senate, Bernie and Kamala and Ed Markey have supported in the Senate. So there are different versions of ramped-up cash relief bills that I think go hand-in-hand with your suggestion around having a genuine lockdown in response to the pandemic. Because I look forward just like you and like I see this thing just continuing to rage and make it impossible for many schools to reopen and for many industries to ever really get back on their feet. It’s a little bit like medicine, you’d rather just take the medicine and then come out and actually have a shot of being healthy, rather than essentially just trying labor and limp along for months on end, which unfortunately seems to be the way we’re heading. So I think cash relief would be a big part of that. I wish that we could bring them all together. So I think we’re going to end up with something like the first stimulus package where we get something much less than what we should be getting.
[41:20] Andy Slavitt: But if you’re listening, you’re confident, and I am as well, that there will be something coming out of Congress. Just to be blunt about it, there’s no political world under which the Republican Senate or Trump survive not doing something.
[41:34] Andrew Yang: It’s like a lot of things. We’ll get something but less than you deserve. That’s like a state of affairs in America. You’ll get something but less than what you should.
[41:44] Andy Slavitt: Yeah. And late. It will make us sweat about it. As if people don’t have enough to worry about. As you think about guiding the country through these things, the steps that we need to have, I want to start by complimenting you on one thing, which is people have had good ideas throughout the ages, and this is one that you wouldn’t claim to have invented. But what people I find always miss, and I’ve learned this the hard way through healthcare, is you have to continually talk to people and explain it to them and sell them on these ideas, or they’re just textbook ideas. Maybe give us a little of a bit of a preview of where you take this journey next. Make sure people understand about Humanity Forward. We’re gonna have a link to for people to be able to contribute. And then if you’d mind closing off with a little bit about you, what feels next for you? What are your priorities?
[42:41] Andrew Yang: Hats off to you, because you’ve learned what I’ve learned. And it’s that people need a person to hang an idea on. I almost called my campaign UBI in 2020 because I was like, it’s so obvious, as soon as people see it, they’re going to love universal basic income. Come on, MLK was for it, all sorts of people were for it. Let’s do it. But people need to have a human being that is fighting for it at any moment in time. So it’s been you with the United States of Care and the Affordable Care Act and trying to improve our healthcare system. For me, it’s disentangling human value and economic value, letting us know that we all have intrinsic value, regardless of what the market says, regardless of whether technology is coming to try and replace you. And then we need to evolve. We have this winner-take-all capitalism system that is grinding us up. Our healthcare system is a symptom of that, or a function of that. It’s also grinding us up. And we need to redefine our economic measurements to revolve around how we’re doing, how healthy we are, mentally healthy we are, how our kids are doing, whether our environment is going to actually be able to sustain human life. Things like that that would actually tell us how we’re doing. Instead of having these stock market prices being the end-all-be-all. Because how these companies are doing and how we’re doing have less and less relationship. And the quicker we figure that out, the quicker we actually have 21st century measurements for a human-centered economy, the better off we’ll be. That’s a vision I’m fighting for. My organization’s supporting various candidates who want to make that vision a reality. It’s going to happen quickly because at this point, it’s clear to anyone that our current measurements are leading us off a cliff. That what’s good for Amazon is not good for you. And so we need to start reorienting our economy, our human beings as quickly as possible. And the movement is growing all the time. The frustration I have is you have the people — 74 percent of Americans are for it. And then we’ll need to convince our political class that listening to the vast majority of Americans is good for their job security. If we do that, then we can get this done and eradicate poverty in our time. And start treating ourselves like the owners and shareholders and stakeholders and the richest country in the history of the world.
[45:06] Andy Slavitt: It’s a beautiful vision. You’ve got to promise us all you’re going to keep active no matter how hard it gets it pushing that forward because it’s so important.
[45:15] Andrew Yang: You’ve got it. My kids aren’t going anywhere. And plus, I’ve got to follow your example. You’ve been fighting the good fight for years. And, you know, I just got here. So don’t worry. Yang Gang’s here to stay!
[45:29] Andy Slavitt: We’ll be more powerful together. Last closing thought, anything on you personally. What’s next? What do you want to be doing next?
[45:36] Andrew Yang: For me personally, you know, I’m just trying to enjoy having some quality time with my kids because I’ve been on the road so much last couple of years. I know you spent a lot of time on the road, too. You know, unlike you, I’m already sort of openly helping support Joe. Saying, like, we need to get Trump out, and Joe in. Helping people during this pandemic. On a personal level, though, to be honest, I still am not truly reflected on everything that happened to me over the last two years on the campaign trail, because I’m kind of a results-oriented builder/entrepreneur, or so it’s like I’m not really reflecting, I’m just trying to get the next thing done. So at some point, I’m going to try and reflect and unpack what has happened over the last couple of years. So I’ll probably do some writing on that.
[46:23] Andy Slavitt: You’re spectacular. I think you’re here to stay. I think there’s no question about it. And I’m so grateful to get a chance to chat. And it sounds like we’ve got some notes we can compare to help each other along the way.
[46:32] Andrew Yang: Yeah. I get to learn from you. Jeez. And anything I can do to help push your very correct idea that we need to just take our medicine, just let me know because I agree with it. I mean, I wish we’d just done it in the first place.
[46:47] Andy Slavitt: Great. It may take leadership we don’t quite have, but, you know, we can’t give up. I mean, there’s 70,000 people projected to die between now and Election Day. And people tell me, hey, you know, President Trump’s not going to listen to you. I’m just not willing to write off 70,000 people. Hey, we’re going to find a cheerful note to end on. We got more work to do. And I can tell you’re not quitting, I’m not quitting, and Zach’s just getting started.
[47:22] Andrew Yang: Yes. Thank you so much. And, Zach, congrats to you on getting started on the next stage, your education and career.
[47:37] Andy Slavitt: That was a nice conversation with Andrew. I really like him. I do think he’s right. There’s a lot of synergy in the ideas he has and ideas we talk about on the show. So that was fun. Let’s see now. It is Wednesday, which means this is the last show of the week. Go back and listen to some of these old episodes. There’s some good ones out there. On Monday, we have a change of plans. We are going to do a show focused on the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, with Tom Frieden, who used to run the CDC. This was a very popular request from lots of folks, given that the CDC is in the middle of trying to get us out of this, but also some controversy and performance issues on its own. And then on Wednesday, we have Connie Schultz and Sherrod Brown. They are in Ohio. They live in the same house. They know each other. They’re married to each other. One’s a senator. One’s a journalist. It’ll be kind of cool talking to both of them. And then the following week, we’re going to be having the convention start, and we’re going to do some episodes on the conventions. Until then, have a great rest of the week. Things will be good. Over and Out.
[49:11] Andy Slavitt: Thanks for listening In the Bubble. Hope you rate us highly. We are a production of Lemonada Media. Kryssy Pease is our producer. Ivan Kuraev is our editor. Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs executive produce the show and run our lives. My son Zach Slavitt is my cool co-host and onsite producer. Music is by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill. You can find out more about our show on social media @LemonadaMedia. And you can find me at a @ASlavitt on Twitter or @AndySlavitt on Instagram. If you liked what you heard today, please, please, please tell your friends to come listen, but from a distance. And for now, stay safe. Share some joy. And we will get through this together. And #StayHome.