Andrew Yang, who’s seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, speaks Thursday at a campaign event in Piedmont Park in Atlanta. He offered a warning about automation’s potential impact as a threat to the workplace. He made a pitch for universal basic income as a remedy. The policy calls for giving $1,000 per month to each American over age 18.
Photo: ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/SPECIAL
Photo: ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/SPECIAL

Democrat Yang brings presidential campaign to Atlanta

Andrew Yang, an outsider running to be the Democratic nominee for president, joined the growing list of 2020 hopefuls visiting Atlanta as hundreds turned out Thursday for a rally at Piedmont Park.

The mostly younger crowd cheered as Yang discussed how he got into politics after the 2016 election. Yang, a New York-based entrepreneur, warned the crowd that artificial intelligence and new technology could take over many American jobs in the next several years, and he discussed his income plan to offset that.

“When Donald Trump won … I was like, ‘Wow, America is so hurting that we took a chance on a narcissist reality TV star as our president,’ ” he said.

While not a household name, Yang has built a large following on social media since announcing his candidacy last year.

Yang has a good chance of appearing onstage in the Democratic primary debates, since he says he has raised money from more than 100,000 individual donors — well past the benchmark to qualify for the debates.


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Yang, 44, chose Georgia as one of the 15 states on his “Humanity First Tour,” another symbol of the Democratic energy aimed at Georgia ahead of the 2020 election. Several Democratic hopefuls have visited the state since launching presidential bids this year, including U.S. Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.

Speaking with reporters after his speech, Yang addressed some hot-button local issues including voter rights and election security.

“We need to make sure more Americans have the right to vote, and one of the ways we can do that is by simplifying our voter registration and enrollment rules,” he said. He said his team has reached out to former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who is now leading an organization focused on voting rights.

“I would be thrilled to sit down with Stacey,” Yang said.

2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang takes a photo with supporters following a campaign event in Piedmont Park. ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/SPECIAL

When asked about Georgia’s controversial “heartbeat” abortion bill, which passed the Senate and House of Representatives this year, Yang said reproductive rights should be decided by women.

“As a man running for president, my opinion should not be that crucial or important  when it comes to women determining their own reproductive rights,” he said. “I literally think that male legislators should just walk out of the room and let women figure out what they’d like to do.”

The candidate’s resume includes being the founder of a failed tech startup, and then becoming CEO of a lucrative test preparation company that was acquired by Kaplan. He later started the nonprofit Venture for America.

Yang said automation — the possibility of technology taking over human jobs — is one of the biggest threats facing the workplace. He mentioned “robot trucks” and automated customer service call centers as examples of new technology.

2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang points to his "MATH" hat at a campaign event in Piedmont Park. ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/SPECIAL

“This is going to rip through our economy in a very dramatic way,” said Yang, wearing a blue ball cap that said “MATH.”

His answer to that, and his core campaign platform, is universal basic income, a policy that would give $1,000 per month to every American over the age of 18. Yang said that is “not some radical idea” and was discussed as mainstream ideology in the 1960s and ’70s.

“One-thousand bucks a month — what’s it going to do? It’s going to make it so we can actually breathe easier,” he said. “It’s going to make our community stronger.”

While critics say the idea is unrealistic and not financially possible, Yang said he would fund the program partly by taxing technology corporations more.

Earlier in the day, he met with community leaders at The Beautiful Restaurant on Cascade Road.

Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at www.ajc.com/politics.

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