Yang, an entrepreneur who is generating buzz with his signature proposal for universal basic income, is banking on a high-profile appearance on the Democratic debate stage later this year for his message to catch on.
The 44-year-old made his first visit Tuesday to the early voting state of Nevada. At least 300 people turned out to his evening rally to wave signs that said "Math" and "Yang Gang" while the candidate predicted his rise through a crowded pack of 2020 contenders.
Yang said that like Trump, he'll break away by taking on issues no other candidate will talk about - especially his plan to give money to most every American.
"I hate to say it, but the Democratic Party is in need of some new ideas," he said.
Trump won in 2016 by correctly identifying and speaking to economic anxieties, Yang told the crowd. But Yang said Trump's solutions were wrong, racially divisive and ignored the real culprit of increased automation.
"This campaign is about showing America that it's not immigrants that are causing these economic problems, it is technology," he said.
Yang's plan proposes paying every American adult $1,000 a month, no strings attached. The program would be paid for by a 10% value added tax estimated to generate $800 billion in revenue.
He also predicts savings by streamlining existing social programs like welfare and food stamps, proposing to let people elect to give up those benefits in favor of universal basic income. Yang is also estimating that once the money is distributed to Americans, it will infuse the economy and create further savings by improving people's well-being and curbing current spending on health care, incarceration and homeless.
Critics of guaranteed income plans argue they make people less productive and less likely to work and could attract more unemployed residents.
Yang suggests the only people likely to work less with guaranteed income would be new mothers and teenagers.
Once he's president, he said, Democrats would get on board with the proposal and Republicans would find it politically unwise to oppose a plan to put money in everyone's pocket.
In addition to universal basic income, Yang lists more than 100 policy positions on his website, which range from liberal touchstones like "Medicare for All" to the obscure: a proposal to revitalize and repurpose forsaken shopping malls, a push for free or heavily subsidized marriage counseling for all Americans and plans for a text-line to report abusive robocalls.
Yang, a New York native, is the son of Taiwanese immigrants. He earned Ivy League-degrees studying economics and political science at Brown University and law at Columbia University.
Before launching his run for the White House, he worked as a corporate lawyer, ran a test preparation company and created Venture for America, a fellowship program that helps cultivate entrepreneurs.
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