I hope your Fourth of July break went well. Here are some items I ran across while your mind was occupied with other matters:

Uber and Lyft

The New York Legislature voted to allow ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft to operate outside of New York City. Our own state Sen. Terrence Murphy was a yes vote.

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Full disclosure: I am part owner of a taxi company licensed by the city of Peekskill. Our rules are in compliance with the Westchester County Taxi and Limousine Commission. This is so we do not need dual licenses to operate at Westchester Airport and Westchester Medical Center. A special thanks to County Legislators Michael Kaplowitz and John Testa, as well County Executive Rob Astorino, for making that happen. Uber and Lyft’s business model does not affect my business model.

There is nothing Uber and Lyft offer that a Westchester taxi cannot offer. Most municipalities that do not themselves offer to license taxis require them to be licensed by Taxi and Limousine Commission, Yorktown being one. This is because to receive a license to drive and/or own a taxi, one must submit to a fingerprint test and a drug test. Autos must also pass inspection once a year. In Peekskill, it is twice. These measures are to ensure passenger safety. Under present law, with Uber and Lyft, it is optional. Either local police or county police monitor Westchester taxis to make sure they are in compliance. Under present law, with Uber and Lyft, this falls to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles.

Here is the difference: If a local taxi is arrested for a narcotics infraction, local licensing police are notified immediately and their license is automatically suspended. That driver will not get a Westchester taxi license, either locally or through the county. This would not happen with Uber or Lyft. It would take weeks, if not months, for this to happen. A driver in this situation, until their matter is adjudicated, can go to another county and get livery plates so long as they have an active class E license. This, too, has happened.

A Westchester taxi must have taxi insurance. Uber and Lyft does not. Westchester County officials believed they could reject rules hashed out by the state Department of Motor Vehicles that govern companies like Uber and Lyft in favor of their own that they say would boost safety, especially by requiring fingerprint background checks. However, the law passed by the state prevents county-level ride-hailing laws. Because of this state law, the only thing our county executive could achieve is asking Uber and Lyft to do fingerprinting on an optional basis.

According to a June 26 article in the Journal News, Uber NY Senior Policy Manager Josh Gold said, “Fingerprinting…was not appropriate for employment background checks, citing a letter from former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. He said the current system of name-based background checks from an accredited third party, coupled with the app’s safety functionality, was enough.”

Ask any licensing official, it is not! Westchester can and should opt out. There is no shortage of taxis in Westchester. There is no upside.

As for Putnam, that is another matter. They have no licensing entities. Putnam taxis, Uber and Lyft would all be on equal footing except for insurance. If Putnam wants it, let them have it. People already have no idea if their driver has a record or the taxi has insurance that is in force.  It is an issue that does not seem to concern them.

When you raise the minimum wage

From a story in Town Hall: “The Empire State lost 1,000 restaurants last year and the number of jobs as cooks, servers and dishwashers grew by an anemic 1.4 percent. That’s a far cry from the 4.4 percent annual growth the state’s eateries enjoyed from 2010 to 2015, according to the Employment Policies Institute, a nonprofit research group.”

They are attributing this to the mandatory increase in the minimum wage for the food industry.  However one cannot leave out the mandatory paid sick leave and Obamacare regulations. They all pile on to make low-skilled workers cost more than the work requires. These effects were predictable. I know I predicted them. By making labor cost intensive, it results in less businesses. Also, for those trying to adjust and survive, the effects were reduced wages, fewer hours, and fewer job opportunities.

You want proof? According to a story in The Declaration: “McDonald’s plans for the restaurant chain to roll out mobile ordering across 14,000 U.S. locations by the end of 2017. The technology upgrades, part of what McDonald’s calls ‘Experience of the Future,’ includes digital ordering kiosks that will be offered in 2,500 restaurants by the end of the year and table delivery…These new digital ordering kiosks will replace cashiers in 2,500 restaurants.”

To those who believe that everyone should make enough money to live on, the reality is that an arbitrarily high minimum wage is counterproductive to both employees and businesses. Fact is, anyone whose work is not worth the minimum wage will not be hired. Businesses that cannot afford the minimum, will not survive, so therefore, no one would have a wage at all, since there is no business.

Or, if you take the case of McDonald’s and Wendy’s, they go to automation. No minimum wage, no paid leave, no Obamacare regulations. This is just more proof of what I have said over and over again. The liberals do not care if a policy actually works; they care only the policy they push makes them feel good.

The real effect of arbitrarily high minimum wages are indisputable. It increases employers’ incentives to evade legally and illegally the law. It expands the underground economy, people paid off the books. More importantly, it increases unemployment in the affected industries. When you raise the legal minimum price of labor above the productivity of the least-skilled workers, fewer will be hired.

The fact is: higher minimum wages mean fewer jobs.

This is what I say. What say you?