Venture for America, Yang’s effort to send young entrepreneurs to fading urban centers, has yielded great results. Why does he downplay it on the stump?
As Peter Beinart has trenchantly observed in The Atlantic, formerly moderate Generation X Democratic candidates Cory Booker and Kamala Harris have chosen to turn their backs on policies they once championed. Booker no longer talks up his successful expansion of charter schools as mayor of Newark, while Harris has run away from her common-sense decision, as San Francisco district attorney, to enforce truancy laws as a means to get the attention of parents of disadvantaged students. But there’s another Gen X candidate, unmentioned by Beinart, who’s run away from past successes: Andrew Yang.
While he promotes government-led efforts to redistribute income, Yang has been silent about his own groundbreaking efforts to help declining cities — not through government, but through civil society. In 2011, after a successful career as corporate lawyer and business-school test-prep entrepreneur, Yang founded Venture for America (VFA). Modeled on Teach for America, VFA aimed to attract applicants from elite colleges to work as paid interns at start-up companies in poor cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, Birmingham, and Baltimore. Its funding came entirely from philanthropists, most importantly Detroit’s Dan Gilbert, the founder of Quicken Loans. Like Dan Markowits, the author of the new The Meritocracy Trap, Yang saw the best and brightest as having “too limited a vision of what career success looks like,” and got to work fixing the problem.
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