Friday, March 23, 2018
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My Deplorable Uber Driver

By Philip Greenspan,  Blogs Harvard

On a recent Nor’easter-tinged odyssey from Boston to Seattle, Dallas, Washington, D.C., and back home to Boston, I took quite a few Uber rides. All of my drivers across three cities were immigrants from either Ethiopia or Somalia, with two exceptions: a Bangladeshi and a while male in his 30s.

In Dallas there is a lot of Presidential history, starting with the unfortunate memory of JFK being shot (by a guy who fired just three bullets; not like our modern AR-15 sprayers) and ending with the George W. Bush Presidential Library. I asked one of the Ethiopian drivers what he thought of President Trump: “Obama was in office for 8 years and didn’t change anything, so now I don’t pay attention to who is president or what he says.” What about on immigration? “Trump is not bothering me.”

In Seattle there is an infinite supply of virtue. People there say that they will do anything for homeless people… except provide homes for them. So the streets are packed with folks who are camping in the cold rain. (Contrast to Dallas, where nobody talks about their love for the vulnerable, yet the conservative Christians have set up “missions” that provide services, including beds, for the homeless. I didn’t see anyone sleeping in the street.) One of my Uber drivers, however, was that white male native-born American. He lived in Marysville, just north of the Boeing factory in Everett, Washington.

He had voted for Trump because he thought that (a) welfare programs were enabling Americans to spend their lives as drug addicts, and (b) immigrants were reducing the wages of people such as himself (MIT has been looking into the net income of Uber/Lyft drivers and, if their initial number of $3.37 per hour is correct, the availability of Ethiopian and Somalian labor has indeed had a negative effect on this Deplorable!).

Separately, the Seattle airport requires drivers to show up in an electric or a hybrid car. In practice that means every Uber on an airport run is a Prius. I was shocked at how noisy the Prius is on the highway (my airport trips were at midnight and at 6:00 am and therefore we were able to exceed the usual 5 mph practical speed limit on I-5).


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