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Andrew Yang's UBI plan is an attempt to just trust people, he says

Ahead of the last debate of the year, Andrew Yang is sticking by his core principles — especially his universal basic income initiative. The entrepreneur spoke to Freakonomics about his plans to put $1000 in pockets across the country. Yang had previously spoken to host Stephen Dubner about the plan, titled the “Freedom Dividend,” last year. His dedication to the idea hasn’t waned since then; instead, he has expanded the program.

“I’ve doubled down on the Freedom Dividend of a $1,000 a month, and it’s changed since we spoke last year. I believe at that point it was between 18 and 64, with the understanding that Social Security would kick in at 65,” Yang told Freakonomics in an interview.

After talking to citizens and examining the social security crisis, though, Yang determined every American deserves the funds. “We have a retirement-savings crisis that’s going to get worse for Americans of different generations. So now the Freedom Dividend goes from 18 until you expire,” he continued.

He explained how he decided that the Freedom Dividend should be expanded, saying that he specifically considered how motherhood can interrupt a woman's career. “One thing that convinced me of this is that many women who took time off from the workforce to raise kids have much lower Social Security benefits than others. And that struck me as deeply unfair,” he said. Yang frequently invokes his wife Evelyn, who stays home to care for the couple's two young sons, on the campaign trail.

Yang was the last candidate to qualify for Thursday's debate in Los Angeles, the sixth Democratic presidential debate this cycle. In past debates, he came in last for amount of time spent talking, which he admitted has “been a constant source of frustration.” At last month's debate, his speaking time clocked out at six minutes and 48 seconds.

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Yang has a strategy for these events, but it doesn’t include what he referred to as “rehearsed attack lines," he told Dubner.

“I will say that even though I’ve gotten less speaking time in some of these debates, we’ve always had a really strong surge of support afterwards, regardless of how much I got to talk,” he stated. “And I’m not naturally geared towards fake attacks on other people. If I engage with someone, it should be on the substance of a policy that they actually stand for.”

Yang plans to stick to the issues, he said. The Hill reported Thursday that that includes a plan to challenge Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren during the debate, with a source telling The Hill that Yang doesn’t think Warren’s plan to tack an additional $200 onto Social Security payouts is enough. Instead, per the source, Yang doesn't think Americans should have to wait “to receive their dividend as the shareholder of the wealthiest country in history.”

The candidate also believes that his Democratic rivals place too much trust in the existing system, he told Dubner.

“Unfortunately, I think putting money into people’s hands is at odds with the Democratic Party," Yang said. "The Democratic Party has a lot of faith in programs and institutions where it’s more likely to champion something like free college, even though only 33 percent of us will go to college, [rather] than just putting cash into people’s hands."

“There’s a mistrust of people in the Democratic Party that I frankly don’t understand," he added, "because I feel like people are the point.”