October’s democratic debate had no questions about the housing crisis, immigration, or climate change. It did end with one relating to Ellen DeGeneres and her friendship with George W. Bush. Trevor Noah summed up the last question perfectly: “who’s your shittiest friend and why?”
With reason, Twitter had a #demdebate tantrum, attacking America’s silver fox, Anderson Cooper. I’m honestly not so worried about the issues not covered in this debate, since we have several more to go. I think with so many candidates still on stage, we can’t cover all the hot topics and get duplicate answers. The debate was 80% a rephrase, sort of like when we copied each other’s homework in middle school. And audiences felt like the teacher grading the homework, where after you hear the same answer over and over again, you kind of want to move on.
The topic that made this debate a debate was Automation—which is the idea that technology will destroy jobs through replacement of workers. This was the topic that made Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang battle with their words, or, you know, debate. And that’s great because as mentioned before, a lot of the candidates agreed and rephrased. If we were to pretend that the Ellen DeGeneres question never happened, this moment would be the highlight.
So, Erin Burnett, CNN moderator, asked candidates what they would do to prevent job losses from automation. Senator Elizabeth Warren sort of downplayed the impact automation has on jobs by introducing a plan called accountable capitalism and saying the reason for lost jobs was because of bad trade policy. I didn’t really understand where her answer was going, and after some google searches, I still didn’t understand why she gave the answer she did.
By now you know Yang has his campaign wrapped around his UBI proposal called freedom dividend, which will give $1000 a month to everyone over 18.
Someone’s going to comment “where will that money come from?”’
He proposes consolidating some welfare programs and implementing a Value Added Tax of ten percent. Welfare and social program beneficiaries would be given a choice between their current benefits or $1000 cash. Keep in mind 160 out of 193 countries in the world already have a Value Added Tax or something similar. So according to his website, which I probably mentioned before but I am going to mention again, his UBI proposal will come from four sources:
1) Current spending: people already receiving benefits will have the choice to keep their benefits or receive $1000.
2) A VAT. His website mentions that a VAT at half the European level would generate $800 billion in new revenue.
3) New Revenue: putting money in the hands of American consumers would grow the economy and create 4.6 million jobs.
4) Taxes on top earners and pollution. Yang proposes to remove the social security cap, implement a financial transaction tax, and end favorable tax treatment. He also wants to add a carbon fee.
Going back to the debate, Yang was like: yo, Senator Warren, you’re wrong, and goes on explaining that stores are closing, driving trucks is the most common job in 29 states, and breaking down how her ‘wealth tax proposal’ won’t work.
Here’s the thing: you’re going to hear a lot of media outlets say that the whole argument on automation is overblown. I know VOX wrote up an article going back to when people freaked over subway ticket machines or concrete mixers causing mass unemployment. The thing is—that was a different time. We’re living in a post iPhone 12 era.
There’s also that coined phrase “fourth industrial revolution” being thrown around. In case you forgot, the first began with the steam engine, the second with electricity, the third was the rise of computing, and the fourth, economists Klaus Schwab describes as a “fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between physical, digital, and biological spheres.” Basically, AI and robotics.
Reason.com had a great article explaining how Warren had top-down solutions “where powerful bureaucrats ride on their white horse to smash big business and protect the little guy”, while Yang likes bottom up approaches that empower the little guy.
Anyone, including democratic candidates, who blow this concept off and call it Silicon Valley liberalism, isn’t progressive enough to be a democratic candidate.