“President Obama on Wednesday declared that addressing income inequality would be the focus of ‘all’ of the White House’s efforts ‘for the rest of my presidency.’” But he came up with nothing new to advance this goal. Instead, he reiterated stale proposals that expand welfare rather than the opportunity to earn a living. For example, he “called for an extension of emergency unemployment benefits set to lapse by the end of the year,” even though “House Republicans have signaled they likely will not support an extension,” notes The Hill.
There is something he could have done instead, that would have expanded economic opportunity, and reduced social inequality, while disproportionately helping minorities, the poor, and the spouses of our soldiers and sailors. That step would be campaigning against the spread of costly and unnecessary occupational licensing rules – and reforming federal accreditation regulations that reinforce them.
In 1950, 4 percent of all jobs required a government-conferred license. Now, well over 20 percent do, many of them jobs that anyone could quickly learn how to do on the job. These licensing requirements are in many cases designed not to protect the public, but rather to prevent aspiring young people from competing with established businesses. In Florida, you need a state license to be an interior designer – and it takes two years of college study, plus years of training, to get such a license.
Poor kids can’t afford this kind of wasteful and unnecessary “training” as the prerequisite for entering a well-paying trade. But rich kids can. The net effect of these occupational licensing requirements is to reinforce and magnify social inequality and reduce social mobility. Aspiring working-class young people deserve better than being excluded from well-paying fields just because they and their families can’t afford pointless licensing requirements.