In January of 2018, presidential candidate Andrew Yang wrote the Fassi family in New Hampshire their first of 12 $1,000 checks in an attempt to field test his universal basic income policy (UBI). One year later, the Fassi family spoke with New Hampshire Public Radio about the results of the experiment. To Yang’s credit, the results are encouraging.
For the entirety of his campaign to be the Democratic nominee for President, Yang has championed a universal basic income (UBI) program that would give every American over eighteen years old, $1,000 every month, no questions asked. Yang hopes that UBI, or the Freedom Dividend as he calls it, will help less skilled workers who are being let go from their jobs due to automation. This is exactly what happened to Chuck Fassi who was fired from his job at a chemical company in 2017.
“You got a daughter in college, you don’t have an income, you have bills coming in, no livelihood to pay them, and it does a lot to your psyche,” Chuck said. “It makes you feel less of a man, not even, a human being.”
The stress of not being able to find a job even caused Chuck to be hospitalized for a time. Though he managed to find another job, the significantly lower pay was not getting it done and despite cutting costs at every turn, the Fossi family could not make ends meet. After his daughter heard Yang speak at a rally, everything changed.
“I didn’t know who Andrew Yang was when Janelle came to us, saying, ‘Hey, there is this Asian guy running for president, and he wants to give everybody $1,000 a month, and he wants to start with you.’ I’m like, ‘okay,’ ” Chuck told NHPR.
Soon after, Yang interviewed the family and gave them their first check. According to receipts pulled by the family, about $10,000 went to their daughters education. They don’t have receipts for what they did with the other $2000, but according to Josie, knowing that they have the money is a huge weight off the family’s shoulders. Chuck has even been able to pursue his passions a bit more. “I actually started taking improv classes for my mental health, and that was $100 a month,” he said. “We noticed that we were doing things that we normally, if we weren’t receiving it, we weren’t going to do.”
The challenge for Yang has always been that his hallmark policy is questioned or written off for two reasons: it’s aggressively radical and it’s an untested idea. Radical isn’t a huge deal, massive change that comes out of left field and challenges our assumptions about the world can be good. But, even if you get people to accept an idea, that’s no guarantee that it can work.
Field testing UBI is the first step towards seeing if this can work. Now, all Yang has to do is try and win the election.