Andrew Yang's Run for MayorThe Prof G Show with Scott Galloway
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- 21 Feb 2021
Andrew Yang, a Democratic candidate for New York City mayor, joins Scott to discuss his campaign.
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Welcome to a special episode of the Prop G Show. Today, we're speaking with Andrew Yang to hear about his run for New York City mayor and how he plans to transform the city disclosure. I am supporting Andrew Yang. I got to know him a little bit during the presidential campaign. I think he is an innovative thinker and a decent man, and I'm supporting him. And I also want to send out an invitation to any other candidate. I think we have some great candidates running for mayor of New York City.
But we are going to speak to Andrew and I'm hoping to check in on Andrew. I think running for mayor is an interesting thing in New York. I find him interesting. So we'll probably do this several times. I'd like to think I think New York of being kind of the capital of the world. And it's going to face some big challenges specifically around our eroding tax base as there's this giant sucking sound from New York to Florida. And I think there's some difficult issues that New York and its leadership are going to have to face when we ask Andrew about some of those some of those things.
Anyways, with that, here's our conversation with New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Young. Andrew, let's bust right into it.
So let's start off with everyone's favorite A&E biography question. You've had covid. Tell us about it.
So I was diagnosed and I had mild symptoms, and then I was optimistic for a while that I would not experience the worst of it, but it just got worse and worse. And eventually it feels like a very, very nasty flu. At least it did in my case, with some added wrinkles of like a loss of taste. I had one practical piece of advice I'd have is I had an oximeter, which is you just stick it on your finger and find out how your blood oxygen level is.
And I got to say, that thing is crucial. Everyone should just go out and buy one. Right now, it's like 20 bucks on Amazon because when I was miserable, I would just take that thing off my finger and then find I was in a safe oxygen zone and then feel better and relax.
So you're running for mayor. The terrible thing about crises is they always happen. The wonderful thing is they always go away. But assuming this at some point does go away, but at some point we will have another pandemic or at least we need to be prepared or better prepared next time. If you were the mayor of New York, what concrete steps would you take such that New York City was better positioned should this happen again? Well, one of the things that we're working on right now is having a vaccination passport so that you can quickly signal that you've been either tested negatively recently or you've been vaccinated ideally.
And so if you can imagine another pandemic rolling through New York, if you had that kind of infrastructure set up where people would be able to signal what their status was in a way that people trusted, I think it would be very powerful to help us manage the next one, particularly if the next one. We had our act together and actually had legitimate contact tracing early on so that we didn't go straight to social distancing and community mitigation efforts. That was the massive lost opportunity in the beginning of twenty twenty where when the virus wasn't widespread, we weren't tracking it meaningfully.
So the goal would be to have the infrastructure in place so that we actually could isolate patients and contact, trace and use technology to do so.
And how do we ensure that communities that aren't don't have as much access to technology might be intimidated by the idea of being on a list? How do we ensure that this doesn't unwittingly end up being another form of segregation where wealthy people and people comfortable with technology get the passport, but people who for whatever reason, aren't comfortable with technology and decide not to get it, don't end up being excluded from basically what is life in New York?
Well, you could have Manuell. Versions of it, any time you get vaccinated, you end up with a card that signals that you've been vaccinated. The app has utility in that you can verify against a database that you've been vaccinated. And right now, about 90 percent of vaccinations are going to be available in a publicly aggregated database, not publicly available in the sense that, like you or I can't get to it, know if your credentials compliant or whatever, some form of that.
So you can have manual workarounds. I'm happy to say that at this point, even folks with limited means tend to have smartphones as their primary means of communication. But you do want to exert yourself to try to have access for folks who are older, for folks who are in communities of color that may just have lower levels of access and trust. Right now, as an example, in New York City. Twenty nine percent of New Yorkers don't have residential broadband.
So if you can imagine, it's trying to learn in that context very, very difficult. So one of my major commitments as mayor is going to be to get that twenty nine percent down significantly. And it's going to require resources, because what's happened is that the telcos have done the math and they've determined that they don't think they can make money by connecting those households based upon what those households are willing to pay. Now, it turns out that ninety nine percent of New York City buildings are wired for broadband, which probably is not that surprising to people.
So really, it's about trying to connect that last mile and putting resources to work. So I've got a plan to put up money on the part of the city to subsidize this partially, but then also ask the cable companies and Internet providers to match those subsidies. And then I believe I can get some philanthropic commitments as well, because there are a lot of techies that are horrified at the fact that twenty nine percent of New Yorkers don't have High-Speed Internet and would be very willing to help change it.
Yeah, it's it's kind of become the new order. So a crisis is a terrible thing to waste some ara's post a crisis and some of the most productive in our society, but it requires bold leadership. Give us two or three things that you feel would be really bold, big changes that would foot to the opportunity or hopefully the opportunities coming out of this crisis. What is what what are the big ideas for New York that you're going to bring to the mayor's office?
I think one of the ideas and you actually incepted me with this one, Scott, so you're going to you are so good, my brother. You are so good anyway. So go ahead.
So you said to me if New York City were a country, it would be the 11th biggest economy in the world. And when you said that to me, I was like, wow, that's enormous. And you're right. It turns out we'd be right after Canada. So if you have a nation scale economy and you're suffering from, let's say, ten thousand plus failed small businesses and growing, which is where we are right now, what we need to do is we need to have new localized currencies that help flow through small businesses and get them back on their feet.
And it's based upon something that's already happening right here in New York. So in New York, there are yeshiva schools that go to the parents and say you need to buy two thousand dollars worth of vouchers to locally owned small businesses. And then they use those vouchers at the small businesses, the small businesses turn them into the schools and then the schools give them the money minus 15 percent or whatever it is. So there is a massive fundraising element for the school, but this is a huge way to channel buying power to locally owned small businesses.
And it's happening right now in communities throughout New York. So we should be taking that principle and applying it to other neighborhoods. I'm calling this borough bucks and put money into people's hands that will flow where we would like it to flow, which is through these locally owned small businesses that right now are struggling to stay open as as advertised.
I love this. The notion of creating cooperatives, buying power. I have an aunt who lives on a moshav and Israel and they do something similar.
So I'd love your thoughts on. Go ahead.
Sorry, Andrew, but if you look at the situation we're in, Scott, I'm an operator. Over twenty seven thousand of our friends and neighbors and family members dead from Koban. Over half a million infected, 60 million missing tourists. Seven hundred thousand missing jobs. Three hundred thousand New Yorkers have relocated out of the city. Subway ridership is down 70 percent. Midtown Manhattan is eighty two percent unoccupied as of a month and a half ago. So you're looking at a very, very deep, dark crisis and the direct path out is the vaccine.
So what you want to do is you want to focus on your liver out right now. One of the things I'm very excited about is that my campaign for mayor has over three thousand five hundred volunteers who have signed up. We are going to be activating them this week toward get out the vaccine efforts for New York. So imagine thousands of people phone banking and text banking and even going in person to various folks and letting them know who's eligible in the neighborhood, how they get vaccinated, talking to them in Spanish or Mandarin if those are native languages.
This is where we need to be focusing our attention, because all of the horrifying numbers I just laid out are part of the devastation wrought by covid. There is not going to be a meaningful recovery if we don't get the vaccine out broadly and efficiently and then again have a means to signal that people are vaccinated.
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So let's talk about post-Katrina, you have what I would describe, simply put, is one of the US's great migration taking place and it's a migration of capital or specifically high net worth individuals from California and the northeast to states that have two things, low taxes and sunshine. So you can practically hear the sucking sound from New York City right now, specifically Manhattan or Greenwich down to Miami and Florida. It is it is striking, Andrew, and the tax, the destruction and the tax base, I think is going to be staggering.
What what do you do one to fill that hole?
Because there's going to be I think unless I'm wrong, there's going to be a budget crisis.
And to what you do long term to ensure that we maintain or that New York, quite frankly, is worth it, because the swing between living in Manhattan and Florida right now is, I believe, around 13 percent. And if people start doing the math, it really it's very, very meaningful.
So filling the budget hole and to what can you do to make New York more competitive against places like Florida and Texas?
The budget hole will likely be significant. You're looking at approximately four to five billion dollars in the city budget that's going to be in the red each year for the next number of years as an estimate out of a total budget of around eighty eight billion dollars. So you have to try to do several things at once. First, you have to try and identify inefficiencies. And I will say I'm 100 percent sure there are very significant inefficiencies in the city budget.
I've already heard of a number and I don't get the sense that our current mayor is hyper disciplined operator. And so if you have eight years under there, not very disciplined operator in a growth period, you're going to have a lot of things that you can cut without a lot of pain. But there are going to be a lot of things that are much tougher choices. So then you have to be able to distinguish between that flesh and bone. Start with the fat and then you try and find the flesh that no one's going to miss as much as you're trying to rock the boat.
So the second direction you have to take is try and look for revenue opportunities. And I've identified at least two that I think are significant. Number one is that there are very big landowners in New York City that are exempt from property taxes and still enjoy city services of various kinds. Let's call them police and fire. So you can go to some of these institutions and say, hey, guys, when Columbia University buys that dorm or buys that apartment building, all of a sudden it becomes tax exempt and you're still enjoying various city services.
Maybe you should be paying what the previous landowner paid or something close to it because it's a drain on the city as these tax exempt organizations acquire more properties.
But, Andrew, come on, they only have a 12 billion dollar endowment. They only have the endowment or the cushion of a small Central American nation. We shouldn't ask them to pay their fair share. I'm glad you look that up.
That's 12 billion dollar endowment. And when they buy property and stick their elbows out, those taxes get cleared from from the the scrolls and then and then basically, which increases the taxes on residents, small business renters. So an organization with a 12 billion dollar endowment that charges kids sixty eight thousand dollars a year in tuition, I mean, that just feels pretty.
What's the term fucked up to me anyways? The the statement I want to put to you is European summarizes politics perfect for me, and that is some member of parliament in Europe said, we all know what needs to be done. What we don't know is how to get re-elected, doing what needs to be done.
I know you're an operator. I know you see the statistics that a mile of subway in Manhattan costs 11 times what it costs in France. It isn't exactly famous for its efficiency. You have unions, you have municipal employees gaming the system and just garnering such extraordinary compensation. And I believe and I think most people don't even mind that if some people make it into the middle class, the upper middle class, but the costs are so out of control in the city, it is so expensive to run the city.
And everyone's waiting for a mayor to come in and make the hard decisions and it doesn't happen. So I want to press you specifically what hard decisions other than I think that's a really innovative one of the university. But what hard decisions and discussions would you have with various special interest groups and say, look, we have just got to figure out a way to bring the cost down? No, New York City is not that different from a lot of the rest of the country, where if you look at what's breaking the backs of various budgets and are built into the union contracts you're talking about, it's got its health care costs.
So the health benefits guarantee to pensioners or retired employees is that I was talking about.
That's a huge chunk of it. The benefits for city employees. If you have a union contract, a lot of what they're negotiating for is health care benefits. And then the cost of those benefits just goes up and up over time, just like it has the rest of the country even more so. New York's actually a little bit worse. So to the extent you have to tackle something and there is one union here that has done something I think is pretty awesome and I'm going to see if we can make it happen in New York because this could change the dynamic.
So there is a hotel and trade union that represents hotel workers. They're hurting right now, obviously, because there aren't many tourists here, but they notice that all of their negotiations were going towards health care costs. And so they said, well, what can we do to try and bring those costs down? So then an enterprising union leader over there opened a clinic for hotel employees and said, hey, instead of, like going to the hospital system, just go to the clinic.
And then it was a hit. The hotel workers loved the clinic. It brought their costs down significantly and improved their negotiating power immensely, because all of a sudden, instead of just paying whatever the heck the insurance company, the health care providers were charging, they actually were like, wait a minute. Like we actually have a clinic that's doing this and it's a lot cheaper than what you are charging. And so that was a game changer for that union.
And they ended up then being able to have more money to go to their workers, which made the workers happy. And even for the business owners who are negotiating with the unions like they were in different, they're like, look like I just want to pay a certain amount. So I'm not going to go to health care and it's going to go to your workers like fine by us. So that to me is one of the major cost drivers in New York City is that when you look at the costs for workers, a lot of it ends up just going to health care.
And so one of the things I'd like to do as mayor is start a clinic for city employees and try and emulate what this union did, because if you can demonstrate that you can deliver some of these services cheaper than you're getting charged, then it can actually meaningfully change the cost structure in negotiation. But I will say that right now, Scott, you talk very passionately and correctly about the fact that universities feel like they'll just jack up their prices every year and people don't have a choice but to pay.
It's the same in health care, maybe worse the to the to core services that have grown faster than anything, growing faster than housing, energy, our number one health care and number two, education. The things that, you know, one is you have to have and the other is the we're used to be the upper lubricant anyway. So give us, in your view, the state of play in the race. You've run for president now you're running for mayor.
What do you think the state of play is? How is it different? What is that? How is the strategy, the media and the retail politics of running for mayor so far different than when you ran for president?
It is very different. Scott is so different. So the campaign is going very well. The last poll had me up by something like 11 points by 11 points now.
OK, I'm going to just throw this out there. How much of that is name or is it just because we have name recognition and you're going to suck the oxygen out of the air for everybody up by 11 points?
What's going on?
How is that happening, Andrew?
A lot of it, Scott, is that I have higher name I.D. and favorability than my opponents because the average New Yorker knows me and likes you. Yeah, they just like. Yeah, like like I'm with you. I get a selfie like that. That is the vibe I get every day on the street. And so if you ask an average registered Democrat in New York City, hey, have you heard of Andrew Gang? Do you like him?
The odds are they will say yes according to the numbers. Like, I think I've got something like 80 percent name I.D. and sixty five percent favorability, which is very high. So that's the baseline. And that's why I'm up by 11 points where if you poll a random registered Democrat, they'll be like yeng like him. I think that I represent something that a lot of New Yorkers crave right now, which is a pragmatic, solutions oriented problem solver who's also a cheerleader for the city, who got what I would call it, innovation.
You have that association with your brand that everyone wants to heard around. And that is I think you're seen as an innovator who's willing to take a different look at a problem through a different lens as I as I slobber all over you, Andrew.
But let me let me let me just say and I think there's a lesson to anyone, younger men and women, you ran a campaign and you ran in in a race where, quite frankly, every algorithm, every media story is pushing you into the middle of the high school clode and saying, fight, fight. Fight, and it's unfortunately, as a tribal species, we have an easier time believing negative things about opponents than we do believe in positive things about somebody when they say, I want to do this, you really acquitted yourself.
Well, you did not. I never saw you get personal. I never saw you make passive aggressive comments. I never saw you in any way disparage anyone personally in the campaign. And it probably cost you, I think Kamala Harris, Senator Harris is is vice president because she's an incredibly impressive person. I think she deserves to be vice president. I think it's overdue. But the moment for her in the campaign was effectively when she called Vice President Biden a racist.
And you never went there. And I think it's paying off for you know, I think people not only know you, but they like you and you're not divisive anyways. I don't know where I was going with that, but I think being a good guy does does pay off.
Tell us before we go, how are you handling how do you run a campaign? And yours feels endless, quite frankly, having started running for president, I remember hearing from you on Twitter what feels like two, three years ago. How do you manage your relationship with your wife and your kids in a time when relationships are just so difficult to begin with because of the pandemic? How do you what are your hacks? You're just not going to be president.
You're not going to win professionally? I don't think they're economically unless you have a solid base at home. What are your hacks? What are your observations?
Well, first, I want to return to an idea you put out earlier, which I think was very, very key. You said that folks look up and say, well, I don't know how to do the right thing and get re-elected. I am going to do the right thing by New York City every day of my term as mayor. And if I don't get re-elected, but I can look at myself in the mirror and say, I did really, really great work and I helped us transition through the deepest, most painful crisis in generations.
I will be thrilled. I'm running for mayor for one reason and one reason only. And that's because I think I can help the world's greatest city get back on its feet, save lives, save tens, hundreds of billions of dollars in economic value, retain the crucible for so many organizations and individuals and families that have led to incredible opportunities.
I think you resemble this guy. I sure as hell resemble this. I was at twenty one year old punk kid when I showed up in New York City for law school. I didn't know shit about shit. I've been here twenty five years and I have had an incredible career that twenty one year old me could never have dreamt of. I have a wife and two kids and a family that came about because of New York City. Me, my wife grew up here.
Like this place is the engine of human potential and I'm going to be damned if I let this place not continue that. Transform transformative legacy, if I can do something about it. So if I get voted out after four years, but like people I respect, like you, Scott, look at me and say, hey, I think Andrew made a lot of difficult decisions and a lot of people were mad. But like, it's like I think he did some good stuff.
Like that is fine with me. Now, when you ask about my relationships and how I stay balanced, it's really just a lot of freaking good fortune marrying the right person because she is such a rock and a champ puts up with so much certainty over the last couple of years. I would like not exactly date of the year material, you know what I mean? Like, the pandemic has been terrible on so many levels. But I will say I got a lot of family time.
Like after I came off the trail, I bonded with my my kids, who I had not seen as much as I wanted to the previous number of months. And I'm happy to say the family is really strong and healthy and whole and happy.
It makes me able to do what I do at a very high level, because when things are tough in terms of your foundation and the rest of it, it's hard. It's very hard to operate. And certainly, you know, I've had those experiences, too, at various times when our first son was born. It was a very difficult child. Turns out that he's autistic, but we did not know that as first time parents. And so when he was, let's call it two and a half or three, he would melt down when he stepped on a different texture ground, like, you know, if he was transitioning from concrete to grass or something like that.
And your first time parent. So you're like, do all two year olds melt down when they step on a different picture? And so it was a very, very difficult time. So we've we've had challenges. We've come through them as a family in a way that's really beautiful. And it makes me want to do more, I'll tell you from one dad to another.
And you just can't communicate this to other dads and moms until it happens. The term I would use a singularity, and that is you never really feel the singularity you feel when one of your kids isn't doing well. It's like you have your world of work. You have your world of your relationships, your friendships, you have your world of hobbies. And then something comes off the tracks and one of your kids and literally everything just goes away. But that it's really the I mean, it was the first time I really understood what I call singular perspective is when something we've had similar issues and I mean everything becomes not even a distant second.
Everything's tied for a millionth after that. It really it really rattles you. And I'm glad your son is doing better. Do you have any messages or so you're on the trail. Give us give us a couple surprising moments or moments that stand out in the last seven or ten days on the trail with Andrew Young.
Well, the last ten days have been a lot of quarantining. So I'll go back a little bit first. Oh, you're not you're not testing negative.
Yes, negative. I'm fine now. But like, it's a recent development. But there's one experience I had that I want to go back to this place.
It was so freaking cool, Scott. So I visited Brownsville, which is a very tough neighborhood. There are public housing developments kind of bookending this neighborhood in Brownsville. And then some young people brought me to an urban farm that they created in a warehouse. And it was fucking incredible. It's called Universe City. And I almost couldn't believe what I was seeing. They had like like a fish farm. They had several small businesses in this warehouse that had been repurposed very inexpensively, I might add.
And I asked them, I was like, how much do you need to create how many jobs of this thing? Because it was like you could tell, like you and I have been in environments where you knew that stuff was working, where there was like an entrepreneurial venture and culture that was capable of growth. And they gave me some numbers in the low millions and believe they could create hundreds of jobs. And I believed them. And I want to go back to this freaking urban farm in Brownsville with a camera crew and show everyone what I saw, because you literally are going through a very tough neighborhood.
It's struggling in various ways. There's been some violence, and then you almost step into a whole nother universe when you go down a couple of relatively empty warehouse blocks. And it was the kind of thing you had to see to believe. It made me feel really optimistic about amazing things being possible in New York City, like I'm a hard nosed operator. But sometimes, you know, like I've been a part of incredible growth stories. And so when you see them, they excite you because you.
You know, they're going to transform lives, so that's something that you can keep an eye out for because I'm going to go back there and hopefully show hundreds of thousands of people. And one thing I do want to mention to your audience, Scott, is that we just passed a matching threshold for New York City donations. So anyone in New York City, if you donate at Young for NY dot com, the city will match your donation to one.
You give us 20 bucks, they give us one hundred sixty. You give us 50 bucks. They give us four hundred dollars.
I can't even believe like that.
That's the Getty. You're getting to one. That's a pretty good match. So bonus question I can't resist. So, Andrew Yang, what do you think of the GameStop Reddit movement? What are your observations?
I formulated a bunch of thoughts, Scott, that that had to be like, oh, maybe that's too far. Maybe that's too far. But like my basic gist was, it's very, very hard to complain about a game being rigged when you've been rigging the game and profiting from it in the other direction for years and years and years like that.
That that was my general take. Yeah, they didn't do it.
They didn't do anything that hasn't been done, just not as well. They just use different methods and mediums. Right. It was an honest pump, but there's been honest pumps for a long time and it was just a different group of people.
That's right. It's like there's something in American life right now where if an institution does something, it is somehow acceptable. But if an individual does something, then it's problematic. And this is a group of individuals doing things that various institutions had already figured out and made a lot of money from for a long time. And frankly, if you give me a choice between people getting money and institutions getting money, I'll take the people.
Let me let me just first one hundred percent agree with you, but do you think it was really a transfer of wealth from institutions to people? My understanding it was a transfer from one hedge fund to another, and then some retail investors made money. But probably I think we're going to find a lot more lost money.
I'd certainly love to see those numbers got because that would change the tenor significantly. I had the sense that there were individuals and I talked to at least a couple of individuals who did well. And so maybe I extrapolated a pattern from that.
Let's hope so. Right? Let's hope so. All right, Andrew, if people want to find out more about your campaign, where do they go?
You can go to Andrew Young, Dot Dotcom, and we'll redirect you. But yáng for NY dot com, every donation counts. This is a very winnable race and it's a sprint. The primaries on June twenty second. So we've got about four months to help take the greatest city in the world in a better direction. Would absolutely love your help and support.
Fantastic. Andrew Yang is an entrepreneur who's been in New York for over twenty years. He was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. He met his wife here twenty years and raised his two children and joins us from his home in New York. Andrew, stay safe on the trail.
Thank you, Scott. Appreciate the heck out of you. Our producers, Caroline Shagan, Andrew Boros, if you like what you heard, please follow, download and subscribe. Thank you for listening to the special episode of the Prop G Show from Section four and the Westwood One podcast network.
Like, I'm like a truffle pig of New York City, you know, I'm going to walk around being like, what's the coolest shit that people are doing? Like let's, you know, try and build on this.