Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles - I'm Elise Labott and this is the 'US In The World' presidential candidate interview series. We're sponsored by a coalition of leading nonprofit organizations, and we're asking the candidates their views on the challenges and the opportunities facing the U.S. beyond our borders. I'm here with Andrew Yang. Mr. Yang, thanks for joining us. - It's great to be here. Thank you for having me, Elise. - Now, the United States is the richest and most powerful nation, what in your view is the responsibility for the U.S. in the world? - Well, we're the biggest beneficiary of a world order that we helped establish over the past number of decades after World War II. But unfortunately, that order is now disintegrating, in part because our current president is an erratic and unpredictable leader who is calling into question even some of our longest-standing commitments in treaties like NATO. So our role in the world is to help restore and maintain the world order that's been painfully built over the last number of decades and help bring more countries into the developed world as possible. Now, the presidential budget request is really a, you know, statement of principles of the United States and American values. How would your budget reflect American values, as far as the U.S. role in the world? - Well, you have to look at what we're spending money on right now. We're spending about $700 billion on our military, and a lot of that money is not truly making us safe. If you look at the biggest threats of the 21st century, they are not other countries. They are climate change, cybersecurity, infrastructure, and artificial intelligence, the proliferation of loose nuclear material. Like, these are some of the biggest threats of this era. And having another aircraft carrier floating around doesn't necessarily address climate change, as an example. So, to me, we have to try and reprioritize what we're spending the money on, shifting some of this $700 billion in the military-industrial complex over to domestic needs like infrastructure, but also to help mitigate climate change not just here in the U.S., but around the world. And I think this administration has made a mistake by cutting foreign aid, which, in the scheme of the federal budget, is minuscule. Yeah, it's just about 1%. It's about 1%, and there's a joke that this bank robber, Willie Sutton, told. He was like, 'Why did you rob the bank?' 'Because that's where the money was.' If you're looking to save money in the federal budget, you don't look at the 1% you're spending on foreign aid, you look at the hundreds of billions you're spending on the military-industrial complex. So you would increase foreign aid, then? I would because if you look at it, you get a lot of bang for your buck when you put resources to work in some of these environments where a little goes a long way. And so, if you can help maintain and strengthen societies in other parts of the world, that often will end up helping the U.S. national interest, as well. So you've talked about directing more of the federal budget from foreign pursuits to building infrastructure and other programs at home. How do you see the relationship between the U.S. role in the world and life here at home? Well, to me, they're very much tied together, Elise. And so, you could take it from the fact that if you don't have a sound society here at home, then you end up electing someone like Donald Trump, and then you have a very hard time projecting U.S. strength abroad. So, to me, step #1 is you have to have a society that's functioning at a high level here in the U.S. first. And we don't have that right now on a whole number of measurements and dimensions. We have record high levels of not just financial insecurity, and depression, and anxiety, but also even suicides and drug overdoses. It is gotten so bad that American life expectancy has declined for three years in a row, which is not something you ever see in a developed country. The last time that happened in the United States of America was the great, the flu pandemic of 1918, the Spanish flu. So think about that: You have to go back 100 years to find a time in American history where our life expectancy declined for three years in a row. You don't see that in a developed country traditionally. So step #1 is we have to make ourselves strong and functional- To project power. To be able to project power abroad. Because if you fall apart here, you wind up electing narcissist reality TV stars as your president, and then it's very, very hard to get everything done abroad. So you've pledged to be very judicious and restrained about intervening in other countries' affairs. Under what circumstances would you use military force? We have, at this point, been engaged in continuous armed conflict for the last 18 years. And that's not the way it's drawn up in the Constitution, and that's not the will of the American people. So I have a three-part test for sending our troops into harm's way. 1) There needs to be a clear American national interest or the ability to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. So it needs to be an important reason to go. 2) There needs to be a clearly defined time frame, where it's not open-ended. You can look the troops in the eyes and say, 'You're gonna be here for this long, and we can complete the mission and bring you home.' 3) We need to have partners and allies that are willing to join us in the mission. If these three things are in place, then I would actively consider military intervention. So, is it worth putting U.S. forces at risk when American values and the security of allies are on the line, but our direct security is not? We are only as good as our word. If we have entered into a treaty to defend another country or ally, and then that country is threatened, then that to me is a very clear American national interest because if people don't believe in our word and our commitment, then it's going to very, very hard to get anything done in any foreign theater. So what would a U.S. military footprint look like in a Yang administration? Well, to me, it's about getting smarter and not bigger. So, if you look at, again, the list of major threats- climate change, infrastructure, and artificial intelligence, loose nuclear material-that's not about having more military bases, that's about having more responsive 21st-century military footprint. So, I would invest in cybersecurity and a cyber corps. And, you know, what's funny is someone asked me yesterday, and they said, 'How would you feel about a cyber militia?' Because it turns out that a lot of the leading experts on internet security don't work for the U.S. government. So what does this cyber militia look like? Like 20-year-olds in a basement or something? Well, it's people like where you're crowdsourcing vulnerabilities, like if you put up a system and say, 'Hey, have at it, and let us know what the vulnerabilities are,' they'll actually be able to tell you. They'll have fun doing it. In a way that, frankly, would be superior to, like, if the government hired a consulting firm military contractor. Like, they just hire different pools of people. And for better or for worse, these loose hackers are much more analogous to the type of people you're worried about than the people in the giant corporate office. So we've talked about what you think are the most major threats. What are the biggest crises facing the U.S. right now? It begins with climate change, which is driving many of the problems around the world. Where what's happening is that you have crop yields dropping and then conflict breaking out in various societies that's kicking off migrant crises that have even destabilized various democracies. Where many societies are not able to properly welcome and acclimate large groups of refugees, and then there have been real issues politically as a result. So climate change, I mean, it's an existential threat to our way of life. I'm a parent and I used to think that we were messing up the world for our grandkids, but now it's clear that we're messing up the world for ourselves and our kids, and that's going to destabilize things, unfortunately, in poorer parts of the world first, where if you think about a flood or a natural disaster, who suffers the most? It's always the poor- Well, exactly. So a lot of these poor, they're not necessarily contributing to it- Oh, of course not. But they also have to adapt to it. How do you make sure that climate policies don't just, aren't beneficial to just the rich, who can afford these renewable energies, but you actually look at the world's poor, who are affected? I was just in New Hampshire, and they have buildings that I know are flooding regularly. They have a shrimping business that went to zero. And if you look around the world, you have Pacific islands that are literally going underwater. And did that Pacific island contribute to global warming? Essentially zero, you know? They didn't have a whole lot in the way of carbon emissions. But they're still affected. But they're still affected, and they're going underwater. So the goal has to be to have a Global Marshall Plan to address climate change. Because the tough truth of it, Elise, is that the United States of America only accounts for 15% of global emissions. So even if we were to go net-zero immediately, like magic, the world would continue to warm. So if we're going to help the people on that Pacific island and the people in other developing countries that are going to be in some cases literally underwater, we have to get our arms around climate change, but we cannot do it alone. It's one reason why international cooperation is so vital in this era because we can't solve the biggest problems alone. So how would you use U.S. foreign assistance, and you talk about climate diplomacy, to address these challenges? So if the rest of world accounts for 85% of carbon emissions, we have to be there at the table with them, trying to guide them toward more renewable sources of energy. And right now China is exporting coal-burning power plants to Africa and other developing countries. They're showing up and saying, 'You need power, I've got a coal-burning power plant for you.' And then what does the African country say? Thank you. Great, thank you, right. Right. They're just thrilled to have some power. So the climate diplomacy we have to engage in is to be there at the table with the African government and say, 'Hey, instead of the coal-burning power plant, how about these solar panels?' That's the kind of relationship we have to have with these developing countries to try and move them in the right direction.