Opinion by: Saagar Enjeti
As I’ve said here on the show many times before, my greatest fear for the GOP after Trump is a bunch of people chanting drain the swamp with MAGA hats on while actually pushing zombie ideology with a uniquely Trumpain flair.
That fear was realized earlier this weekend when GOP rising star Dan Crenshaw tweeted:
In 2020 remember this, Republicans are the party of Uber, Democrats are the party of taxi cab unions. Own your own labor, work where you want, and how you want. Embrace innovation. that’s conservatism.”
I was stunned to be reading those words in the year 2019 from somebody who purports to represent the Trump agenda. Did I die and wake up in 2014? Is Paul Ryan still speaker, are we doing makers and takers again? Luckily it’s 2019…
I hold Crenshaw in high esteem, his service to this country is unquestioned, he showed class and grace at the height of his fame after the SNL incident, and on matters such as immigration, he has actually been a stalwart. But its the economy stupid.
Crenshaw conservatism will doom the GOP to major losses in future elections and more importantly it betrays the very reason that so many untold millions were willing to give Donald Trump a chance at the Oval Office in the first place. Let’s ignore the fact that Crenshaw is holding up a company that loses billions of dollars a year as the face of American conservatism and go a little bit deeper to see actually why it’s so problematic.
Manhattan Institute senior fellow Oren Cass quickly pointed out after Crenshaw’s tweet that calling your opponents the party of uber would be a truly low blow given that it provides unstable, poorly paid, part-time work that is not a stepping stone to anything and almost never can support a family.
Crenshaw was quickly piled on so he added this addendum: “1. Working for a company is a choice. Terms of that relationship are made clear from the start and 2. The gig economy provides flexibility that we otherwise wouldn’t have. If you prevent companies from using independent contractors, you’re ending millions of jobs.”
Again Crenshaw misses the mark. Yes, Uber represents a major technological innovation but from an economic perspective it basically represents eliminating the obligations of employer employee relations, and makes any sort of competition with an entity that actually needs to balance its books impossible, not to mention the epidemic of rising suicides amongst their own drivers.
And as Cass again masterfully points out, Uber’s entire case is that the drivers don’t actually work for them! And saying that is only slightly less embarrassing for the Congressman than the effort to revive a position discredited 100 years ago, that individual low wage workers have market power to dictate terms and conditions of employment.
We understood 100 years ago that corporate power has as much if not more control over the everyday lives of American citizens than the government, that’s why we stepped in to provide protections codified in law and we took actions to preserve competition in our marketplace.
Fetishizing gig work, fake job creation, and expanding GDP numbers ignores the very things that make life worth living. As author Chris Arnade excellently said this weekend, I still cannot believe there’s anyone alive who doesn’t understand that focusing only on the things that can be measured while ignoring and destroying those that can’t, like the value of faith, place, family, and community is our problem.
For many years Crenshaw conservatives told us that neoliberal trade policy, corporate tax cuts, bank bailouts, and celebrating companies like Uber were how you both preserve, protect, and expand the everyday quality of life for Americans. We know how it all worked out, the hollowing out of the American middle class, skyrocketing costs for needs of American life, crippling debt, declining birth rates, declining life expectancy, a historic opioid epidemic, and record high suicide rates.
The GOP’s singular focus from this point should be to orient all domestic and foreign policy towards a single goal, easing the ability to make enough money and have reasonable costs to start a bountiful family in the place of your choosing. If they forget that, they’ll never win back power, no matter how many corporate checks they cash.
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