Occupational Licensing Reform Is a Biden Policy We Can All Favor
Digging through a modern major-party candidate’s proposals for good ideas is like wading into a cesspool in search of treasure; maybe you’ll find it, but don’t get your hopes up. But Democratic nominee Joe Biden—who looks likely to win the presidential election—actually has a gem hidden amidst a lot of, well, what you’d expect to find in a cesspool: he favors easing occupational licensing requirements. That’s not only a good idea, it’s a rare bit of wise policy that wins support across the political spectrum.
“Put an end to unnecessary occupational licensing requirements,” Biden’s campaign website promises, though you have to scroll through a lot of blather about evil corporations and saintly unions to find it. “While licensing is important in some occupations to protect consumers, in many occupations licensing does nothing but thwart economic opportunity. If licensed workers choose to move to new states for higher-paying jobs, they often have to get certified all over again.”
Biden isn’t a newcomer to occupational licensing reform, either; it’s a theme he’s maintained through the years and during the course of his presidential campaign.
“Why should someone who braids hair have to get 600 hours of training? It makes no sense,” he told a union audience in Pittsburgh last year. “They’re making it harder and harder in a whole range of professions, all to keep competition down.”
Extra credit to the guy for making the case to organized labor, which isn’t generally enthusiastic about reducing barriers to entry for workers.
Biden carries forward his concern about occupational licensing reform from his time as vice president under Barack Obama. Voicing worries about declining labor mobility and disappearing job prospects, the Obama administration produced an in-depth report on the problems posed by requiring people to seek government permission to work in their chosen fields.
“Over the past several decades, the share of U.S. workers holding an occupational license has grown sharply,” the report warned. “There is evidence that licensing requirements raise the price of goods and services, restrict employment opportunities, and make it mor
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