Andrew Yang is an entrepreneur most Americans have never heard of, but he is hoping to change that quickly as he begins his run for the White House on the Democratic ticket.
And the staple of his platform? Universal basic income.
Yang, 43, who was born in upstate New York in 1975, will be running as a Democrat, according to his campaign website.
"People who think the antidote to Donald Trump is a boring generic Democrat missed the point. He is a sign of massive institutional failure. On both sides," Yang said on Reddit on April 2.
A universal basic income (UBI) payment, which Yang calls "the Freedom Dividend," is one of his major policies.
Yang says in one of his campaign videos that he will pay for the Freedom Dividend by taxing companies shifting toward automation in place of human workers.
By 2030, 75 million workers around the globe will need to change occupational category due to automation, according to a December 2017 study by McKinsey Global Institute, and 400 million jobs could be potentially displaced. These estimates are based on analysis of 46 countries that include 90 percent of global gross domestic product and a mid level pace of adoption of automation.
Yang believes his station in life has allowed him a unique perspective when it comes to the effects of automation on American industry and American workers.
"I'm usually highly exposed, where most people in my line of work have not spent six years marching around Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, like Missouri," Yang tells CNBC Make It. "Most people haven't spent six and a half years working in these regions with the businesses and entrepreneurs there. And most people probably do not directly know people in Silicon Valley who are working on automating away millions of jobs and know it."
How did Yang determine paychecks should be $1,000 per month?
Yang settled on the level of $1,000 a month for several reasons, he tells CNBC Make It: First, $1,000 a month was recommended by former Service Employees International Union president Andy Stern in his book, "Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream."
And $12,000 a year brings an individual close to the U.S. poverty line, says Yang, which is $12,752 per person per year for those under the age of 65, according to the United States Census Bureau.
Plus, a $1,000-a-month UBI has been studied and modeled by The Roosevelt Institute, says Yang. (It could grow the U.S. economy by 12.56 percent after eight years if paid for by increasing the debt, says the left-leaning institute's report released in August.)
Yang also believes while $1,000 per month is enough to greatly help people, it’s not enough to encourage most people to sit on the bench.
"It's virtually impossible to do more than just survive on a thousand dollars a month around the country," Yang tells CNBC Make It. "It would make a huge difference for families, but it's not a level that would lead one not to work."
Yang might be an unknown in political circles, but he is not alone in talking about UBI.
In March, UBI was adopted as part of the 2018 official party platform of the California Democratic Party at the 2018 California Democrats State Convention, which was published February 25. Silicon Valley start-up accelerator Y Combinator has already conducted a one-year "feasibility study" in Oakland, California, to prepare for a larger study of universal basic income. And in October, Stockton, California's 27-year-old mayor, Michael Tubbs, announced a universal basic income project for his city, which declared bankruptcy in 2013.
Will Yang make it to the ballot in 2020?
That remains to be seen. But the candidate feels compelled to help solve societal problems, and Yang sees this as the best way forward when it comes to automation.
"I'm an entrepreneur ... so you want to try and solve problems. The problem I saw was that we're going to automate away millions of jobs ... so then the question is how can you realistically solve for that?" Yang tells CNBC Make It. "There's a very limited range of things you can do if you're genuinely trying to solve that problem, and so that's how I arrived at running for president."