Yesterday’s New York Post opposes the words of Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo on the Uber controversy that came to a head last week, with the mayor saying, “No company’s multibilliondollar political war chest gives it a blank check to skirt vital protections and oversight for New Yorkers” and Cuomo intoning, “I don’t think that government should be in the business of trying to restrict job growth.”
There’s no more mystery as to which sentiment is closer to the Post‘s editorial heart than there is as to whether Hizzoner or the Gov ended up on top after the intense battle over Uber. There have been so many Uber post-mortems that it’s getting hard to say exactly what de Blasio did wrong. Is it that he folded like a cheap suit, or that he threatened to un-fold the suit and thus offended the City Council, which independently folds and unfolds its own cheap suits, thank you very much?
Believe whichever autopsy you like; they all point to de Blasio getting outmaneuvered and Cuomo once again being in a position to kick the mayor when he’s down and pat the backs of City Hall’s rivals and erstwhile allies.
But Cuomo’s statement of principle—”I don’t think that government should be in the business of trying to restrict job growth”—rings a little hollow. Government restricts job growth all the time, often because it should. In fact, Cuomo’s administration has restricted job growth at times, with good reason.
Fracking was supposed to create lots of jobs, but it posed an existential environmental threat, so the Cuomo administration banned it. Imposing a prevailing wage on 421-a subsidized housing projects would, in the short term at least, mean fewer (albeit better paying) jobs for people building affordable housing. The SAFE Act, with its restrictions on firearms and ammunition, was a check on profits and employment in the gun industry. The new rules affecting nailworkers might reduce employment in salons. And earlier in his tenure Cuomo was more than willing to threaten deep layoffs at public agencies in order to get contracts he thought were a better deal for taxpayers.
Late last week, Cuomo backed away from his blanket statement about the government’s role in the marketplace, embracing the idea of regulating Uber (as long as he, rather than de Blasio, got to do it). That reflected a more realistic understanding of the fact that private cars—whether yellow or black—have been subject to government regulation for more than a century. That doesn’t mean Uber, which has earned some genuine fans who make powerful arguments for its survival, deserves an arbitrary cap. But it does mean that this isn’t the first time government has had to balance job growth against other policy goals for this industry.