Jeb Bush Comes Out Swinging for Dumb Growth

In a blog post on LinkedIn—raise your hand if you didn’t know LinkedIn even had blog posts—Jeb Bush writes about the sharing economy. Specifically, he targets Hillary Clinton for her comments on the sharing economy. Bush misrepresents Clinton’s comments by saying she “sees these emerging companies as a threat to the established order.” That’s just not true.

In fact, Clinton (rightly) characterized sharing economy companies as a threat to intelligent growth. She argued that “quarterly capitalism,” which focuses “on the next earnings report or the short-term share price,” isn’t the kind of growth that America wants to encourage. Bush (also rightly) praises businesses like Uber for creating a market that didn’t exist before, but Bush seems to think that the sharing economy employment model—hiring workers as subcontractors for bursts of micro-employment, with no benefits or stability—is a healthy employment climate. This kind of an economy, presumably, is how he’ll get American workers to “work longer hours” to reach his unattainable 4 percent national growth goals.

"This Standard Oil app is great! Why do Democrats want to hold them back with their damnable 'anti-trust' regulations?"

“This Standard Oil app is great! Why do Democrats want to hold them back with their damnable ‘anti-trust’ regulations?”

Bush is wrong. America wants smart growth, in which employers and employees both do better. Smart growth, which gives the middle class more spending money to afford the goods and services they create, leads to a sustainable economy with less inequality, thereby growing the economy for everyone. Companies like Uber are essential to America’s success, but if that success is built on a whole new class of workers without health insurance or vacation time or sick leave, the economy will fall further and further into unsustainable inequality.

Bush then mischaracterizes the progressive standpoint on the sharing economy:

Big government liberals fundamentally can’t embrace digital innovation because it threatens the way they govern. They see car-sharing services as a threat to the local government taxi cab cartels. They see food trucks and Airbnb as a threat to urban planning and the tax and fee racket that they’ve imposed on brick and mortar restaurants and hotels.

I’ve got to hand it to Bush: this is a compelling new framing to add to an ancient conservative argument. But when you wipe off the tech-friendly chrome on his rhetoric, Bush is arguing that regulations will stifle business, the same way his brother fought against regulations and eventually caused the economic collapse of 2008. But by posting on LinkedIn and by riding in Ubers and by talking about the sharing economy, Bush is trying to position himself as the future, even though his policies are the same boring deregulation riffs that Republicans pushed in the 1920s. The fact is, he’s just a proponent of the same dumb growth that his brother championed, that his dad championed, that his party has championed in every presidential election going back a century.

Nobody wants to choke Uber to death with regulation. But most Americans want Uber employees to be able to make a living wage in exchange for their work. Americans want to be able to pay for health insurance. We want time off in exchange for our hard work. We want some of that sky-high revenue and growth to return to the workers, preferably through a system that is just as lightweight and tech-savvy as Uber itself is.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.