Saturday, August 22, 2015

Does Bill Maher Have a Point About Uber?

I saw Bill Maher talking about Uber and it got me thinking...Is Uber Sharing? Does anyone care?

Is Uber Sharing?
Uber talks out of both sides of its mouth in part because it has two audiences: drivers and riders.

To drivers, Uber says it is part of the sharing economy. "Get paid weekly for helping our community of riders get around town. Be your own boss and get paid in fares for driving on your own schedule," or at least that is what their web page says this week. The Uber brand screams "Share your car (which you already have), with friendly people (which you already do) for extra cash (which everyone needs)." Mr. Maher humorously says this is akin to communism.

To customers, Uber extolls the virtues of the capitalist economy. "Everyday cars for everyday use. Better, faster, and cheaper than a taxi." Or "Get a ride that matches your style and budget." I've seen a lot of this add copy over the last few months and it always has a theme of "Get more of the pampered life that you want for less." Can't get more bourgeoisie than that.

So what is Uber? Capitalist or Communist? It is definitely NOT sharing/communist. If it were, my riders would sit in the front seat like my friends do when we share a ride. If it were, Uber wouldn't set fares VERY low and then take a VERY large percentage of those fares.

Bill Maher seems to think Uber is a company taking advantage of desperate (Maher's word) people who need extra cash. That is definitely true for me. How desperate am I to get enough money for a house? Uber desperate. This week my latest offer on an uber modest home was beat (declines, refused, laughed at) by an ALL CASH offer. That means someone paid over 1/2 million dollars in cash for this house. (If you look at this 1300 sq. feet of pure luxury pay close attention to it's proximity to the freeway (.2 miles) and rundown auto body shop on the busy, urban MacArthur Blvd.)

People who created Uber may be making good money but the drivers have reason to be desperate.

Does Anyone Care?
Mr. Maher also makes the point that desperate people are the only ones that would put up with strangers in their backseat (Uber) or their showers (Airbnb). He then makes a bunch of condescending remarks about people who don't vote or refuse to work within the system to change this "sharing" economy. He implies that lazy Americans don't care because they are greedy. In other words, desperate people are in a pickle because they don't care about anyone but themselves.

What Mr. Maher doesn't point out is that he got to be worth $30 million telling jokes about the evils of capitalist Republicans. My searches for his giving campaigns came up with nothing making me wonder who the greedy one is in this situation. But the real issue I have with this video is that Mr. Maher is neither identifying the correct problem (because he is part of it) nor contributing to a solution. Mr. Maher should heed the warnings of Nick Hanauer who says that when the economic system gets this bad, people don't participate in politics, they get pitchforks and come after the rich.


  1. I completely agree that Maher was wildly condescending in this bit. His perspective was too disrespectful of people who struggle. Normally he would focus on how the system is screwing people who work hard. It was odd to see him do that.

  2. In his defense, he is just trying to make people laugh. I say some really stupid things when I'm trying to get people to laugh. I'm still a fan of Mr. Maher (even more now that Jon is gone),