Scott Rasmussen: Opposing sharing economy is big mistake for Democrats

Scott Rasmussen

Scott Rasmussen

“The consumer demand for the Uber and Lyft kind of services is so great that any politician who gets in the way of that is really asking for trouble,” according to Roger McNamee. The co-founder of investment firm Elevation Partners said on CNBC that “Uber’s success is really about consumers demanding the availability of Uber and Lyft cars wherever they are.”

It’s not just consumers who like the Uber experience and the sharing economy; it’s the drivers, as well.

The New York Daily News recently headlined a column, “Uber Job Beats Working for Yellow Cab,” by one such driver. Rabiul Karim said, “With Uber, it’s like 50 percent stress is gone right there, because you don’t have to look for passengers.” Reducing stress among drivers is a good thing for all of us!

But Karim added another reason he prefers driving for Uber. “I have flexibility with time. Suppose my daughter has a doctor appointment. I can take her without having to pay the day rate for yellow cabs.”

On the other coast last week, in California, I heard that exact same theme while chatting with my Uber driver. His first reaction was to talk about how much he loved the flexibility. With three kids under 7, he appreciated the ability to schedule his work around other family needs. And when he needs a little extra money, he can work a little bit more.

Despite all of this, a lot of Democratic politicians really dislike Uber and the entire sharing economy. The latest to try to stand in the way of progress was New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The New York Daily News described the mayor’s anti-Uber plan as “a protectionist crusade for an entrenched industry, absurdly claiming to stand for the thousands of New York passengers and drivers who have flocked to Uber.” The New York Post noted that the beneficiaries of the mayor’s plan would have been “a yellow-cab monopoly, and fleet owners who’d donated more than $550,000 to de Blasio’s mayoral campaign.”

The mayor eventually was forced to back down after the firm ran a campaign highlighting its service to minorities, women and people who live in less affluent areas of the city. An important reason the campaign worked was that it featured actual Uber drivers touting the virtues of the service.

But de Blasio is not alone in his efforts to oppose Uber. Just like in New York, government activists in California are trying to cripple the tech company that has earned tremendous loyalty from customers and drivers alike. In fact, there are signs that opposition to the sharing economy may have become a mainstream position in the Democratic Party.

In her very first speech on the economy, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton said she would “crack down on bosses who exploit employees by misclassifying them as contractors or even steal their wages.” CNET reported that those comments were “aimed squarely at companies like Uber.”

That could very well be one of the biggest unforced errors of the 2016 election season. The ride-sharing economy is empowering both consumers and drivers. Politicians seeking to defend the status quo will get burned.


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