March 23, 2014 in Opinion

Smart Bombs: Non-shared responsibility

By The Spokesman-Review
 

“The sharing economy” is a seductive concept, causing those in love with technology to think they’ve redefined the rules. You’re not renting a room; you’re sharing your space. You’re not providing a taxi service; you’re sharing your car.

I don’t know about you, but when we shared in kindergarten no money changed hands.

The city of Spokane is studying the issue of people renting out rooms overnight, after its code enforcers shut down some hosts. This type of lodging has popped up all over the world, with some cities enforcing tax collection and others issuing prohibitions.

Airbnb is an Internet site that markets vacancies, but neither the marketer nor host has to bother with the same rules and regulations as owners of hotels, motels and other accommodations. When a room is “shared” at a Holiday Inn, it’s subject to certain taxes, and zoning determines where hotels can be located. When a private home is a hotel all of that is sidestepped.

The same concept is occurring with car services. Visitors can use smartphone apps such as Lyft and Uber to contact motorists willing to “share” their passenger seats. Most of these drivers haven’t purchased commercial taxi licenses and they aren’t subject to regulations, which sure helps keep prices down.

“Sharing” in these instances is used to conceal simple capitalism. A service is rendered and paid for. A whiz-bang app doesn’t change the fact that everyone providing the same service should be subject to the same government guidelines.

Still want to think of it as sharing? Fine – just share and share alike.

NOT TOO TAXING. Airbnb got its start in 2007 when its founders plopped down a few air mattresses at their house and charged visitors to a San Francisco convention. From there, they started a website that publicizes available spaces in homes. The business handles payment and takes a profit of 10 percent or so.

The room-for-rent debate is often portrayed as David vs. Goliath, with the large hotel chains cast as the bullies. But last week it was reported that Airbnb is in talks with potential investors, with the value of their business pegged at about $10 billion. Bloomberg News reports that this puts the business in same league as the Wyndham chain, which has 7,500 hotels and is valued at $9.4 billion, and Hyatt, which is valued at $8.4 billion.

We’ll see if these entrepreneurs share the wealth, but in the meantime they certainly have enough cash to set up a tax collection system.

TO TELL THE TRUTH. Americans for Prosperity, a political outfit run by oil and gas tycoons David and Charles Koch, is running a strange ad that starts off with a very concerned woman saying, “People don’t like political ads. I don’t like them either.” Was she brought in at gunpoint?

Anyway, she goes on to say that “millions of people are paying more and getting less,” and she concludes that Obamacare just doesn’t work.

Factcheck.org and Politifact reviewed the ad and said this claim was false.

If it were true, it would contradict the complaints of people who had less coverage and were fine with that. But because of the Obamacare mandates, their plans were canceled and they had to buy more comprehensive coverage.

You’ve heard about that, right? I suspect the Koch brothers have, too, and just don’t care. The overarching message they hope to convey is, “Obamacare is bad,” and if they couldn’t come up with an honest reason, oh well.

On the other hand, the ad helps reinforce its only truth: “People don’t like political ads.”

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at garyc@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.


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