101 years ago, the first traffic light was installed on the corner of Euclid Avenue and East 105th Street in Cleveland. Before the installation, rush hour traffic was directed by police officers in the middle of the street, proving to be not only dangerous but unproductive as traffic conductors were only able to see a few yards ahead of them.
Had it not been for the first installation of the simple green and red traffic light in 1914, our roads today could still be a chaotic mess of pedestrians, cars, and bicycles. At a time when traffic signals were developing and air conditioning units were being installed in private homes for the first time, entrepreneurial minds were highly valued. Today, this still stands true.
The sharing economy, which includes various peer-to-peer services like Uber, Airbnb, and TaskRabbit, have flourished due to innovative minds and old fashioned American hustle. Expected to bring in revenue of $335 billion by 2025, the sharing economy isn’t slowing down for anyone – not even the federal government and other entities attempting to regulate and tax these services out of existence.
Democratic leaders have attacked the sharing economy and insist these services – which provide thousands of jobs and an efficient array of services – need an overhaul and more regulation. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has criticized Uber and tried to freeze the service by putting a cap on the number of new drivers, claiming Uber cars “clog the streets” when reports show this is false. If he got his way, Uber wait times could have tripled and prevented employment for nearly 10,000 people.
Uber cleverly fired back by featuring a new “de Blasio option” on the app that would show the projected wait time for an Uber car should de Blasio get his way and cap the licensing of more drivers for the ride-sharing app. Not only did De Blasio face a backlash from the likes of Kate Upton and Ashton Kutcher, but a significant number of the 2 million New Yorkers who use the service. De Blasio has dropped his efforts to limit the number of drivers.
Claiming the “gig economy” is harmful and raises “hard questions,” Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton seems to be pulling out all the stops to get her hands on the sharing economy and implement regulations. Clinton’s argument against these thriving app-based platforms are rather confusing considering Hillary claims to be a friend to the middle class. Why doesn’t she understand the desire for a flexible work schedule, the appeal of being your own boss, scheduling your own hours and having the opportunity to make a little extra cash? After all, when her and former President Bill Clinton left the White House they were supposedly “dead broke.” Instead of letting this new economy thrive, however, Clinton seems adamant about taking a step back to the 20th century, where technology was not as advanced and large handouts to unions were seemingly the answer to all our economic woes.
While Hillary is trying to put a halt on economic growth by going after app-based services, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is implementing taxes on technology-based services in his own city. Chicago residents are seeing a 9 percent “amusement tax” crafted by Mayor Emanuel to combat the city’s serious over-spending problem. These services, widely used by millennials, include Spotify, Netflix and Xbox Live. Facing a $900 million deficit, this latest cash grab proves to be a desperate attempt to rein in cash to deal with the city’s long term overspending problem.
When it comes to facing the facts, the sharing economy is part of America’s future. Twenty-first century American innovators are paving the way for much needed economic growth. No “war on the future” should become a barrier for innovation and entrepreneurship in America. Less work and less productivity undoubtedly lead to less growth. In order to keep U.S. productivity up, we must encourage an environment where new, innovative ideas and start-up businesses are welcome, allowing room for growth and competition.