The Uber car service application in New York, on May 2, 2011.
Photo by Julie Glassberg/The New York Times/Redux

Republicans get ready to break up with Uber

Republicans have generally been slower than Democrats to embrace new technology, but if there’s one thing the GOP loves, it’s Uber.
 
Republicans love Uber. Young urban voters love Uber. And Republicans hope that means young voters can learn to love the GOP.
 
Car-hailing and ride-sharing services like Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and others are wildly popular among wealthy, young, tech-savvy urbanites – precisely the kind of voters that the Republican Party needs to win over to remain competitive in the long run. Those same services also just happen to be warring with government regulators in cities across the country over whether the upstarts are operating illegally as unlicensed taxi services.
The Republican Party is in love with Uber, and it wants to publicly display its affection all over the Internet.
Uber, Lyft and Airbnb have become mascots for a Republican Party looking to promote a new brand of free market conservatism while making inroads with young voters.
 
Though the companies were engineered in the Democratic bastion of Silicon Valley, Republicans seeking to promote their party as freedom-loving and tech savvy are latching on to them.
I’m afraid, however, that the love affair is poised to come to an abrupt halt. Republicans may love Uber, but Uber loves “Obamacare,” suggesting the star-crossed lovers may have to agree to see other people.
 
Buzzfeed ran this report over the weekend:
The CEO of Uber said Friday that Obamacare has played a crucial role for his army of drivers, an unusual, partial endorsement of the president’s signature policy from a man often cast as a hero of anti-government libertarianism.
 
BuzzFeed News reported in October that the new, subsidized market for health care has been a boon to companies like Uber, which are essentially digital middlemen relying on armies of independent contractors. Figures ranging from Uber drivers to Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber called the health care overhaul crucial in the emergence of the sharing economy, but Uber had remained officially silent on the subject until Friday.
Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO and co-founder, described the impact of the Affordable Care Act as “huge,” adding, “The democratization of those types of benefits allow people to have more flexible ways to make a living. They don’t have to be working for The Man.”
 
Kalanick is touching on a well-kept secret: for all the irrational disgust the right has for the ACA, the law itself is actually a boon to entrepreneurs.
 
As we’ve discussed before, in the United States, plenty of creative Americans with a great idea for a business have traditionally been burdened by “job lock” – they’d love to pursue the entrepreneurial dream, but they can’t give up the health care coverage that comes with the job they don’t want. For these aspiring business leaders, the Affordable Care Act means freedom – they can start a new business without fearing that their families will go without access to medical care.
 
It creates the awkward dynamic in which Republicans – ostensibly those who celebrate private sector risk-taking and the entrepreneurial spirit – are trying to destroy opportunities for new business start-ups.
 
It also serves as a reminder that when it comes to the future of health care, the more the GOP assumes that the business community is behind the repeal crusade, the more misguided Republicans are.
 

Affordable Care Act, Obamacare and Technology

Republicans get ready to break up with Uber