On Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) demanded that American taxpayers foot the bill to bail out New York City’s taxi cab drivers who took out loans in order to pay for taxi medallion costs that were artificially inflated by the Democrat-led city government.
“These taxi drivers need a bailout because this is not just about predatory collection practices … this is manufactured financial indentured servitude and it is wrong,” Ocasio-Cortez argued during a congressional hearing on lending. “We need to bailout these drivers, and I would like to invite my colleagues here on the federal level and our partners on the city level to make sure they get the job done.”
Taxi cab drivers in the Big Apple are required to obtain a medallion in order to operate in the city legally. Intending to prevent a surplus of cabs, the New York City government has been artificially limiting the number of medallions it will issue. Today, there are currently only 13,587 medallions issued. That is only two medallions more than when the program was first created in 1937, despite a population growth of more than 1 million.
Taxi drivers in NYC are in crisis. They are trapped in a predatory lending scheme that steals their earnings and has led to a suicide crisis.
We must bail them out. Yesterday, we held a Congressional hearing to hear from drivers and advocates for reform ⬇ pic.twitter.com/6qSG66pdFN
— Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@RepAOC) September 27, 2019
As such, the artificial scarcity created by the Democrat-led New York City government has skyrocketed the cost to obtain a medallion — the price of a medallion soared to over $1 million prior to the bubble bursting in late 2014. Many taxi drivers were forced to take out loans with high fees or interest-only payments in order to continue to operate their cabs. Consequently, more than 950 drivers have since filed for bankruptcy, according to The New York Times.
Referring to government assistance as “a matter of life or death,” the self-proclaimed radical congresswoman cited a New York Times report detailing a black-car driver who complained on social media that the surge in ride sharing services caused him to work 100 hours a week in order to make a living. He subsequently drove to New York’s city hall and shot himself in front of the building.
“Regulatory agencies knew, the city knew, and these suicides are not just an indirect side effect, they are a direct consequence of the neglect of a vulnerable community in New York City,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “In fact, we have accounts reported right here by The New York Times: one of the drivers drove in front of city hall himself, wrote a note on Facebook saying he could not continue to live, and killed himself right in front of city hall. And we are ignoring this crisis.”
The New York congresswoman’s calls for the federal government to bailout the taxi cab drivers comes after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to do it because of the high cost to the city. The mayor’s office contends that a bailout could cost New Yorkers as much as $13 billion.
“This, I think, is a matter of financial malpractice and predatory behavior that I think in many ways should be a national scandal,” Ocasio-Cortez said during the hearing. “It is literally killing people.”