When Andrew Yang started thinking about a long-shot bid for the U.S. presidency, he asked Andy Stern, the former president of the Service Employees International Union, out for lunch in Greenwich Village.

Back in 2017, Stern was perhaps the most prominent advocate for the idea of giving every American $1,000 each month. The year before, he had written a book called “Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream.” It hadn’t made any bestseller lists, but it did help popularize the idea, known as universal basic income, or UBI, amongst a certain kind of politically-minded technologist. Yang, who was then running a nonprofit called Venture for America, fit right into that profile.

The lunch seemed to be developing into a classic if-only-the-universe-worked-this-way gripe session until Yang asked the question that he had clearly been gearing up for: Did Stern know anyone running for president on this platform? Stern remembers being surprised by the question, but he told Yang to go for it.

UBI has played a central role in Yang’s subsequent run for the presidency. Like Stern, he would give all American adults $1,000 a month. The Freedom Dividend, as Yang calls it, would put a family of four—two adults, two children, and no other form of income—$2,200 below the annual federal poverty line.

Yang has argued this money would be the solution to almost every ill. Unfair elections controlled by wealthy donors? People can use their “democracy dollars” to support whatever candidate they want. Worried that global warming will flood your coastline property? Use your government check to “adjust and adapt.” First and foremost, however, Yang sees UBI as an answer to job losses caused by automation.

Yang has outlasted many veteran politicians who were also vying for the Democratic nomination. After failing to qualify for the last debate, he got into the next one, scheduled for Feb. 7. This practically guarantees that at least one candidate on stage will be discussing UBI.

Yang spoke Wednesday morning at a Bloomberg News reporter roundtable in Des Moines, Iowa, ahead of the caucuses. “To me, job one is to get more money into the hands of the American people,” he told Bloomberg TV’s Joe Weisenthal. 

The chances that Yang becomes president remain minuscule. But even if UBI isn’t enough to land him in the White House, his campaign’s legacy may be how it contributed to the mainstreaming of UBI. Yang’s embrace of one of Silicon Valley’s pet causes hasn’t come without complications—people associated with some prominent UBI projects take issue with the specifics of Yang’s approach. Still, UBI seems more relevant to the American political debate than it has in decades. “Andrew Yang,” said Stern, “has done more to promote the idea of universal basic income than almost anybody in American history.” 

The concept of UBI has existed in one form or another for decades, but has mostly faded from the public discussion in the U.S. since the 1970s. Instead, other related ideas were implemented, like the earned income tax credit, which gives tax credits to low-wage workers based on their incomes and number of children.

UBI has been inching back into the public conversation in the U.S. for years, with an unusal appeal across ideological lines. The left sees UBI as a step towards socialism; the right sees cash assistance to create a more market-based approach to services currently provided by government-managed programs. 

The idea also proved to be a good fit for the odd politics of Silicon Valley, where tech leaders worried about the downsides of the economic disruptions they were creating. “I think automation will cause a lot of job change,” said Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI and the former president of Y Combinator, in a recent interview. Y Combinator has funded a UBI research project in Oakland, which is expected to continue for another three years. Elizabeth Rhodes, who is leading it, said in January she expected to share early analysis from the study in “next few months.”

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