Power Players

Andrew Yang: What good are record-high profits if we have record-high stress, anxiety, student loan debt

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang speaks onstage during the fourth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by The New York Times and CNN at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio on October 15, 2019.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

"Our economy is the envy of the world, and we're going to keep it that way. So that's very important," said President Donald Trump on Dec. 7 from the South Lawn of the White House. Trump said he is to thank for that strong economy, which is a primary thrust of his 2020 reelection campaign.

Were Democratic candidate for president Andrew Yang to debate Trump on the economy, Yang said he would highlight the toxicity of the environment in which the economy has been flourishing.

"I would just tell American people the facts they already know; that you have record-high levels of corporate profits, but also at record highs in the United States of America right now: stress, anxiety, mental illness, depression, even suicides and drug overdoses. Student loan debt, record highs," Yang told podcast Freakonomics in an episode published Wednesday.

"And so you have to ask," said Yang "'What good are corporate profits if people are literally dying earlier because of surges in suicides and drug overdoses?'"

Corporate profits are close to record highs. The National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA), prepared by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), show that corporate profits are just slightly below the record high hit in the third quarter of 2014. And S&P 500 companies' earnings (weighted by their market cap and measured by the Standard and Poor's rating agency) shows that at the end of the second quarter, earnings per share of the index were at $40.14. The record was $41.38, hit in the third quarter of 2018.

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As for the other side of the coin, there is a record $1.6 trillion in outstanding student loan debt in the United States.

The rate of mental illness among U.S. adults is at the highest level it has been in the past decade, if only slightly, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates have been trending slightly higher and the rate of drug overdose deaths has increased starkly in recent decades.

This all goes to show that high corporate profits are not translating to a happy country, Yang says.

"When I go campaigning around the country, I cannot tell you how many heads nod when I talk about how their lived experience has nothing to do with corporate profits, the headline unemployment rate, or GDP," Yang told Freakonomics.

Part of Yang's solution to this problem is his best known platform: giving people free cash.

The entrepreneur and tech executive has focused his campaign primarily on giving every U.S. citizen over the age of 18 in the United States $1,000 per month.

See also:

Andrew Yang: You should get a check in the mail from Facebook, Amazon, Google for your data

Why everyone is talking about free cash handouts—an explainer on universal basic income

Billionaire Marc Benioff: Capitalism has 'led to horrifying inequality' and must be fixed

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