Stop the Knee-Jerk Liberalism, argues Nick Kristoff.  He could not be more right.

Likewise, Thomas Friedman’s widely circulated column (well worth reading in full):

. . . Dear Democrats: This is not complicated! Just nominate a decent, sane person, one committed to reunifying the country and creating more good jobs, a person who can gain the support of the independents, moderate Republicans and suburban women who abandoned Donald Trump in the midterms and thus swung the House of Representatives to the Democrats and could do the same for the presidency. And that candidate can win!

But please, spare me the revolution! It can wait. Win the presidency, hold the House and narrow the spread in the Senate, and a lot of good things still can be accomplished. “No,” you say, “the left wants a revolution now!” O.K., I’ll give the left a revolution now: four more years of Donald Trump. . . .

George Will makes the case that Senator Mike Bennet is such a candidate.

My own feeling is that whoever we nominate will win if we turn out our voters.

All our candidates are decent.  And I don’t think we’ll nominate anyone who promises to force people off their employer-provided health insurance.  Or who doesn’t support enforcing our borders.  (Obama, “the most ignorant president in our history,” according to Trump, actually did a better job on this front. And would have been able to do better still if the then-Republican House had not blocked the bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Senate 68-32.)

Clearly, we should choose the candidate most likely to win, because this time winning is everything.  And the only thing.  Our democracy and quite possibly our species survival depend on it.  (You don’t think a nuclear war could wipe us out? That climate change could not pass the point of no return and render the planet uninhabitable?)

One candidate who presumably won’t win the nomination (fine president though he would be) is Andrew Yang.

I did not sit down with Andrew recently, but — being a fan of his book — I imagine this is how the interview might have gone if I had:

A.T.: So what’s the deal with this signature plan of yours? 

YANG: I call it The Freedom Dividend — $1,000 a month for every adult citizen from 18-64 — based on an idea endorsed by everyone from conservative economist Milton Friedman to Martin Luther King, Jr.

I pay for it five ways:

First, by eliminating most of the 126 welfare programs — and their bureaucracy and fraud — that we wouldn’t need anymore.

Second, by taxing that $1,000 – so higher income people would be giving a good chunk of it back.

Third, by what I call The Climate Solution — the carbon tax most people agree is key to moving toward a sustainable planet. But for people without yachts or private planes, they’d still come out way ahead with the $1,000.

Fourth, by the growth in our economy that would come from greater consumer demand.

And finally, by a modest value added tax of the kind almost every country in Europe already has. But smaller.

Add all this up and most Americans would come out well ahead of where they are now.

A.T.: Would you give it to undocumented immigrants?

YANG:  No. Only to citizens. This wonderful country is enough of a magnet as it is.

But think of the challenges we face — it’s a wonderful problem, really, that our forefathers and mothers worked so hard to give us: we now have the technology and resources so that most things that really NEED doing — like growing food and getting it to our table — can be done by just a few of us. Leaving more and more of us free to do non-essential things. That’s the Freedom Dividend.

You don’t have to be a truck driver or an Uber driver — cars will drive themselves. You can be an artist or a Pokémon coach or teach rock climbing or spend more time with the kids as parents used to, before it became necessary for both parents to work, let alone two jobs.

A.T.: Why do you choose not to wear a tie?

YANG: Because we have to think differently. No one in the tech world I come from wears ties. Steve Jobs didn’t wear a tie when he changed the world. I’m no Steve Jobs, but I do want the freedom to concentrate on what’s important. Until I get my $1,000 a month, it’s my own little freedom dividend.

A.T.: Do you worry that $1,000 a month would make people lazy or be blown on booze and drugs?

YANG: No. Study after study, experiment after experiment, has shown this not to be true. No one can live well on $1,000 a month, so there will still be plenty of incentive to work and make more money. But think of the freedom and flexibility this dividend would give working families, how it would help them raise their kids. Before you dismiss this idea, imagine what it would mean to YOU and YOUR FAMILY.   The truth is, some form of this is coming. The futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts every country in Europe will have a universal basic income just a dozen or so years from now and we in America within 20. But why wait?

A.T.: What would you do about Iran?

YANG: I would have the smartest, most competent cabinet and advisors — vastly better than Trump’s — and I would LISTEN to them on everything from Iran to border security to all the other tough questions. I’d take the advice of our intelligence community over the word of Vladimir Putin. Tech people know how to solve problems. Just put your hand in your pocket: that little phone of yours can connect a video call to a friend canoeing in Montana — and give you directions so you never get lost — and play all the music in the world — and screen movies — and handle your email — and still be a flashlight.  Don’t you think we need young problem solvers — people who “believe in” science, not people who believe in the future of coal, to solve the challenges we face?  Do we really want to entrust our kids’ future to a multiply bankrupt, morally bankrupt, egomaniac?

A.T.: How would you tackle the opioid epidemic?

YANG: There would be so much less despair in this country, so much less stress, with the Freedom Dividend. Everyone would know they have a basic floor of resources — the product of their ancestors’ amazing hard work and ingenuity that brought us from elbow grease and mule power to technology that harvests limitless energy from the sun. Hey! We should be allowed to ENJOY the fruits of all that. And not feel the despair that drives us to opioids. I have much more to say about this, so if anyone is interested, read my book!

Andrew did not say any of that to me, but that’s how I imagine him answering.



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