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It’s Time We Freed Americans to Work

September 1, 2023

Every year on the first Monday of September, we celebrate the dignity of American workers past and present, and recognize how their pursuit of happiness has helped make America the most prosperous nation in the history of the world. Of course, respecting the dignity of workers means respecting the choices they make regarding their careers. But too often, the government stands in the way of those choices, tying workers up in unnecessary red tape that prevents them from doing the work they want to do.

But the Goldwater Institute is freeing workers to earn a living in the profession of their choice; in fact, our landmark Breaking Down Barriers to Work reform has already empowered countless workers in more than half the states in the country to pursue their American Dream.

Currently, around one in four Americans is required to obtain a license just to do their job—a government permission slip to work in a certain career. These government-imposed barriers exist for a wide range of professions: barbers, plumbers, real estate agents, sign language interpreters, florists, landscapers, coaches, interior designers, and many others. And when a licensed professional moves from one state to the next, they are often forced to go through the costly and time-consuming licensing process all over again—no matter how qualified they are. This is particularly burdensome for members of the military and their families, who move every two to three years while on active duty and are forced to go through the government licensing process every single time.

But under Breaking Down Barriers to Work, a new arrival to a state is eligible to receive a license to practice their profession, so long as the applicant has held a license in good standing for at least one year and was required to complete testing or training requirements in the initiating state. It’s all about streamlining the licensing process for everyone: state licensing boards don’t have to devote unnecessary time to comparing education or training requirements across all 50 states, and applicants are no longer required to jump through hoops just to continue a career they were already doing safely and productively elsewhere.

Breaking Down Barriers to Work has been garnering bipartisan support in states across the country, because it’s a reform that’s simply common sense. The Goldwater Institute first enacted it in Arizona in 2019, and since then, Goldwater has passed this reform in more than half the states in the country. Moreover, this year, the Goldwater Institute passed the Military Spouse Licensing Relief Act into federal law, empowering military spouses to pursue their own version of the American Dream even as they support the important work of America’s servicemembers.

And our work is having real results. So far, more than 8,000 workers have already benefited from Breaking Down Barriers to Work in Arizona alone. And the best is yet to come, with one study projecting that by 2030, the reform will increase Arizona’s employment by at least 15,991 workers, raise the state’s population by at least 44,376 people, and grow the state’s Gross Domestic Product by at least $1.5 billion.

This Labor Day, we should keep the dignity of American workers in mind—and in particular, we should work to ensure that Americans are free to make a living in the careers they want and need. That’s why Goldwater will continue to prioritize the right to earn a living over the ability of bureaucrats to create red tape—so that more people can pursue their American Dream.

Read more about Goldwater’s Breaking Down Barriers to Work reform here.



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