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- 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.
Would you condition foreign aid on sound climate policies?
Well, I think we have to try and provide carrots
to move people in the right direction.
And so, if you're going to put aid into people's hands,
then you want to align their interests with ours.
So you've talked about, you know, using military assistance
for determining what needs to be done
in terms of the climate.
Tell us a little bit more about that.
Well, what we said before is that the poor are the people
that suffer the most with the advent of climate change.
And so, to me, it's the military, yes,
but it's also the aid policies, putting more money
into people's hands actually will help
strengthen communities and make it so they can develop
in the right direction.
On the military front, the tough part is that
we've gotten really bad at building through our military.
And we've seen it in multiple theaters at this point.
And so what we have to do is try and refashion
our military expertise so that it would be better able
to mitigate some of the worst effects of climate change.
Amp up the Army Corps of Engineers and our ability
to literally build bridges, roads,
help update infrastructure so that in the case of,
let's say higher water levels, that people
don't feel the need to relocate.
So what are the one or two foreign policy changes
you'd make on day one as president?
Well, the first thing is I would let our allies
know that we're open for business.
That we need to renew our partnerships and relationships
that are fraying now, disintegrating
because of Donald Trump.
And our allies are looking up and saying,
'Who do we talk to?'
There's been a massive level of tension
between Korea and Japan, and traditionally,
we would have been there to mediate that.
But we are not there because the current administration
doesn't have an interest, so now they're meeting in China.
And I'm going to suggest that is not the way it should be
because we've historically been allies
with both South Korea and Japan.
So #1 is let everyone know,
look, we are back, our word is good,
we're interested in helping. Rebuild our relationships
for the long term, that's the big move #1.
So you talked a lot about AI and the automation challenges,
but how do you think AI will affect diplomacy and warfare?
You know, former Secretary of State [Henry] Kissinger
talks a lot about AI will be used to make decisions
on diplomacy and warfare. How do you see it applying?
I see it a little bit differently.
Where right now the main applications of AI
are in the commercial realm, so people are taking
massive levels of data and then refining
how they're putting resources to work.
And a leader in this is China because they have
more access to more data than we do
and their government is supplying billions
of dollars in infrastructure.
So what Kissinger is suggesting is that you'll have
an AI sort of doing game theory and figuring out
what kind of decision you're gonna make.
Yeah, making decisions on warfare
based on this AI data.
I am more concerned that you're gonna use AI
to be able to hack vulnerable systems and infrastructure.
Where AI actually is much easier to use
offensively than defensively, and so it's going to make
different systems very vulnerable.
Imagine it's 2030, what does the world look like
in terms of AI, and how has your administration
helped us get there?
In an ideal world, we don't have this arms race
with China in particular. We start a world data
organization, where we set up standards and protocols
analogous to the WTO for trade, where we've created
international norms that China felt like it had
to bend to in order to join and participate
in the benefits.
If we do the same thing for data
and artificial intelligence, then the U.S., the EU,
and Japan can start setting international norms
and standards, and then China will look up and say,
'Are we content to just have our own silo
in terms of how we're using this data,
or do we wanna join the world community?'
That's the best way to bring them to the table
and prevent what could be a new cold war in data and AI
between the U.S. and China.
So we've discussed multiple threats that don't respond
to traditional security policies like climate change.
I wanna talk about some of the others
like nuclear proliferation, rising authoritarianism,
and the misuse of this technology.
How would you reduce those risks to Americans
and people everywhere?
Well, this is where foreign aid comes in.
Because the less stable a society is,
then the more you have to worry about extremist groups
and non-state actors that are trying to get their hands
on loose nuclear material and other things
that will help destabilize world security.
So if you have, for example, I mean, closest to home,
you have various groups in Latin America.
Unfortunately, there are several states
right here in our backyard that are starting to become
unstable and are sending migrants heading north to us.
This is one reason why various candidates, including me,
have been saying, look, if we send aid to these countries,
it's going to help keep them whole.
And then if those societies are whole,
then you have to worry less about extremist groups
who are trying to do us harm and get ahold of things
like loose nuclear material.
So it sounds like you're saying, prioritize aid
as preventionary, and that's how you build
sustainable peace and conflict.
Yeah, it's a little bit like preventative care.
You know what I mean? Like, right now, what you don't
wanna do is you don't wanna wait until the patients sick
and ready for the hospital because it's very, very hard
to get them back on their feet at that point.
What you wanna do is you wanna have them
be healthy the whole time.
And that's the way I see foreign aid
to various societies, that it's much easier to maintain
a healthy society or maintain a healthy world order
than it is to rebuild it after it has
collapsed or fallen ill.
What about those in extreme poverty?
I mean, you've talked very eloquently about, you know,
entrepreneur and helping build, you know,
create growth in society.
How do you kind of do the balance between
creating dynamic societies and still lifting up
those 1 in 10 that live in extreme poverty?
I think the answer to extreme poverty
is really straightforward, Elise.
Give them money, truly.
And this is something that I feel is the future
of a lot of foreign aid,
where if you look at different aid programs,
when you put money into people's hands,
it benefits women most of all.
Women go to school at higher levels.
Women start businesses at higher levels.
Whereas if you funnel the aid to something concrete,
like books, or nutrition, or mosquito nets, or wells,
or toys, or computers, or any of these things,
a lot of them end up being less useful
to these communities than straight cash,
which they'll use to then to start cottage businesses
in their own home.
And the reason I'd love aid to places
that are very, very poor is that it doesn't even
take that much money to be transformative
in many of these communities.
There's an organization called GiveDirectly
that's demonstrated this very powerfully,
where they put relatively small amounts of money
into people's hands, and then all of a sudden,
you see women's health and nutrition go up,
rates of business formation go up,
kids and girls going to school go up.
It's very, very powerful.
So you've talked about the need to prevent companies
from working with authoritarian regimes
or repressive regimes and giving them technology to do so.
And you have talked about criminal and civil penalties
for U.S. companies, tell us about that.
Well, unfortunately, we're at a point now
where everything revolves around the almighty dollar
in our society.
And if there's a company that feels like it can profit
to the tune of hundreds of millions or billions
of dollars and then pay a fine, they'll do it, you know?
And we saw that very clearly with the opiate crisis,
the opiate epidemic, where Purdue Pharma
paid a fine of $600 million, which sounds like a lot,
until you realize they made $30 billion.
And now eight Americans are dying
of drug overdoses every hour.
So the only way you can try and keep these companies
from not profiting at the expense of our people
is to say, look, they're going to be beyond
just these fines, where you're doing a cost-benefit
calculation and saying, it's worth it.
Like, I can pay that fine. We'll still be rich.
Instead you have to say, look, there is personal
culpability for this, that if you're the CEO
or primary shareholder of a company that's done something
unconscionable, then you're going to pay a price personally.
You've spoken very passionately about the need
to bring high skilled immigrants here to the U.S.
or, you know, keep students that are learning valuable
skills, but what about the idea that America was founded
on the premise that you could come here with nothing
and you could still build something of yourself?
I mean, how do you square that?
I don't think it's an either-or, truly.
I think that-
'Cause your father was an immigrant, lived on a peanut farm,
and came here and really made something of himself.
Yeah, I'm certainly very proud of my dad and my mom.
My dad did grow up on a peanut farm in Asia with no floor.
I saw it as a teenager, and I was like,
'This is where you grew up?' Like, looking around.
I must have seemed so American.
'Cause I was, like, walking around. I was like 18 or 19
years old in whatever American teenagers were wearing then.
But I saw the peanut farm, and I was like, 'No way.'
So he grew up on that peanut farm in Taiwan,
and then he got his physics degree in Taiwan initially,
but then he came over to the States for his graduate degree.
He got his doctorate, and there he met my mom.
So you're right that I'm very passionate about the fact
that we need to be trying to attract talented immigrants
from around the world to try and create lives
for themselves here because that's what happened
with my brother and me.
But you don't think there should be a litmus test, do you?
But I also believe that there's a place
in this country for people at every, like, educational
level, and that people who are coming here to create
a better life-you know one story I like to tell?
One of the founders of Google came here on a family visa.
It was not, like, a-
you know, it's, like, a family reunification.
So, you don't need to just serve one goal,
you can serve multiple goals with
a moderate immigration policy.
What about our responsibility to refugees?
You know, what is our responsibility?
The Obama administration had about 110,000 as an average.
Now the presidential determination
under Trump administration is like 30,000.
What do you think is about the right number?
I think restoring it to the Obama-era levels
is the right move.
And even that level, and you know this, Elise,
is relatively low compared to the rest of the world.
Like, as, you know, a proportion of our own population-
we're a country of, you know, 320 million plus, like,
being able to acclimate 110,000 refugees a year
is very reasonable.
Let's talk about LGBTQ issues.
As president, how would you help protect
those populations internationally?
You've talked a lot about putting them in your Cabinet
and programs here, but abroad.
Well, this is one reason why it's so important
for us to maintain an international world order
where if a country adheres to values that we
hold very dear, then they feel like they're
going to win through that.
Where we can put soft pressure on other countries
through a combination of both carrots, primarily,
but then a few sticks, too, where if they are abusive
of ethnic minorities or LGBTQ community members,
then they feel like,
oh, there's a price to be paid for that.
Right now, it's unclear what that price would be
in many contexts, and it's making us less able
to push our values to other parts of the world.
And what about women, how do you see promoting
the rights and status of women and girls,
including economic empowerment?
One, again, is trying to maintain international norms.
That helps women, it helps journalists, as another
example, and you've been in foreign theater,
so you have this sense.
But, to me, the best way you can empower women
is by trying to lift them out of poverty,
getting them in a position where they
can control their own future, go to school,
get educated, start businesses,
and they have economic independence
from the men in their societies.
It's one reason why I'm so passionate
about a universal basic income,
not just here in the U.S., but internationally.
There was a joke someone said to me where they were like,
I would be even more for universal basic income
if only women got it.
Me, too.
Because the fact is when you think about the use
of these proceeds, you instinctively think that women
in a developing country would do great things with it.
Which is correct, they do do great things with it.
And that if you're worried about someone doing
something not so great, it's, like, the guys.
But I'm happy to say, even the guys don't do anything
bad with it. Like, you don't see any increases
in substance abuse or a decrease
in work level, the rest of it.
But we know that the women do awesome things with it.
[Elise] Women, right.
Ok, I have one more question, and then we're
gonna get to a couple fun questions.
So you've said that Russia is the biggest
geopolitical threat, particularly because
of the hacking- Because of their current
hacking of our elections. Election interference.
But why not China?
I mean, you've talked about that being
the #1 relationship to reset, but U.S. intelligence
agencies have identified China as the #1 threat.
If you look at who our biggest rival is going to be
over time, it's definitely China, not Russia.
I would identify Russia as the most immediate threat
because they're literally hacking our democracy
from underneath our feet. We're about to vote again
next year, and Americans are not even sure
if their votes will be counted
and if our democracy is secure.
It's very hard to solve big problems
if you can't get that right.
So, to me, Russia's the most immediate problem and threat,
and it's actively working to undermine us.
But bigger picture, it's China on artificial intelligence,
it's China economically and militarily.
But you think working with them, rather than
kind of being an adversary, is the way to go.
Well, you need, again, a combination of carrots and sticks,
but I would suggest that it's gonna be very, very hard
to make progress on climate change,
or artificial intelligence, or North Korea,
or a lot of other things if we have
purely adversarial relationships with China.
Ok, lightning round of a couple questions,
and then we'll wrap it up.
As president, which world leader
would you welcome to the White House first and why?
I would say [Justin] Trudeau in Canada because
they're our closest neighbor and ally
and it just seems neighborly.
Which country would you visit first and why?
Again, the first thing that came to mind for me
is Canada or Mexico because, again, I feel like
we have the tightest trade relationships with them.
But after that, it would be one of our historic
allies in the UK.
What's your favorite band?
The Cure.
Hope that's cool for everyone.
It's cool for me.
If it's cool for you, Elise, then it must be cool.
Kids, if you don't know who The Cure-
The Cure is very cool.
They're very, very cool. They sang 'Just Like Heaven,'
which you like.
Might sing a few bars after.
What's the first concert you went to?
Oh my gosh, I love it so much.
I went to Depeche Mode in 1989, so.
Long hair? The 'Violator' tour.
My hair wasn't that long.
What's your favorite food to cook?
Well, it's not a very long list 'cause I'm a terrible cook,
so it would be spaghetti, like pasta, and meat sauce.
Pretty boring. Sorry, ladies. No, I'm kidding.
My wife definitely did not marry me for my cooking.
If she had, she just would have jogged the other direction.
What are you reading right now?
I do a lot of non-fiction reading and policy briefs.
The last book on my shelf was 'AI Superpowers,'
very apropos, by Kai-Fu Lee, about China's advantages
in artificial intelligence.
Pretty exciting stuff, huh, that's what you read.
It's on Amazon.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that nobody knows.
My brother and I can speak in unison.
So, as kids, we used to do really stupid skits together.
It'd be like, what, there's only one of us,
are you sure you're not seeing double?
It was so dumb.
If you could meet anyone in the world,
live or deceased, who would it be?
Alive or deceased?
You'd definitely have to choose someone dead then
because, you know, alive you could get-
[Elise] There's still a chance.
Yeah, alive, you can get in real life.
Abraham Lincoln, because I feel like
he brought the country together
in the most dramatic way possible.
Well, Andrew Yang, thank you so much for joining us
for the 'US In The World' presidential interview series.
Good luck and thank you very much for joining us.
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Andrew Yang on US in the World Presidential Candidate Interview Series | NowThis

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王惟惟 published on March 2, 2020
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