The Tough Swallow of Yang’s Panacea

Graphic of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.

Sometimes mocked for taking hard stances on such irregular issues as circumcision, making taxes fun, and the relocation of federal agencies (rents too high in DC,) democratic black horse Andrew Yang seems to have thought of it all. That is, until confronted with problems that actually affect people, that don’t have an easy answer.

During Yang’s town hall, broadcasted on CNN this past Sunday evening, Justine Ravel, a student at Howard University, asked if he had a solution to gentrification.

She said:

Many of America’s biggest cities have undergone demographic and economic shifts under the wave of gentrification. The overflow of new grocery stores restaurants bars and resources in general brings life and excitement to previously underserved communities. However as these shifts occur many longtime residents are forced out of their homes and in the worst of cases on to the streets. What policies would you promote for affordable housing.”

Yang replied:

“I would suggest that putting $1,000 a month into Americans hands of portable income would make it so that people are much better able to find housing that works for them. You could even live with four or five of your friends or relatives pool that income and hopefully even maybe invest in a fixer-upper.”

What’s striking to me about this statement is not that Yang is wrong. But the tacit understanding that the American dream – the dream of moving to the big Westchester in the sky – is so far gone, that a genuine presidential candidate is suggesting, on national TV, that four or five people pool their dream-bucks to buy and share a fixer-upper.

This is not something any voter wants to hear, but it’s been said.

Time and again throughout the evening, Yang deflected to his Freedom Dividend to rejoin to the concerns and travails of the ordinary citizens present. How should we care for veterans? How do we revitalize unions and worker rights?

$1,000/month, was the refrain.

The town hall was a moment of lucidity not just for Yang’s platform, but also for America. I really don’t think Yang believes that a Freedom Dividend can fix all of America’s ills… but at this point, there’s so much going wrong, so quickly, that even our dreams of solutions to political problems are getting priced out.