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Biden’s war on work undermines the American dream

February 6, 2024

(Washington Examiner) – As President Joe Biden’s war on independent work enters its fourth year, the economic butcher’s bill is coming into grim focus. It turns out that government attacks against flexible, independent, freelance work have hammered the very people who most rely on it: women, minorities, and the marginalized. 

The latest volley in Biden’s campaign is a new rule issued by the Labor Department to reclassify millions of independent workers as formal employees. The administration believes that this type of work is exploitative and that individuals would be better off in traditional employment arrangements.

As President Joe Biden’s war on independent work enters its fourth year, the economic butcher’s bill is coming into grim focus. It turns out that government attacks against flexible, independent, freelance work have hammered the very people who most rely on it: women, minorities, and the marginalized. 

The latest volley in Biden’s campaign is a new rule issued by the Labor Department to reclassify millions of independent workers as formal employees. The administration believes that this type of work is exploitative and that individuals would be better off in traditional employment arrangements.

The Left’s war on self-employment isn’t reform — it’s paternalism. Out-of-touch elites want to tell 70 million happy, hustling people they don’t know what’s good for them. (It’s also special-interest partisanship, as the war on independent work is fundamentally a project of big labor unions, who hate competition.)

And as always, when government strikes a blow for the proverbial“little guy,” the real little guys in our economy — women, minorities, and lower-income communities — feel the pain. 

Half of Latinos do some form of independent work, as well as 40% of black people, half of young workers, and more than half of lower-income workers. An analysis by the LIBRE Initiative found that up to 26% of independent workers are Hispanic, and 14% of independent workers are black. The flexibility of independent contracting is also favored by working mothers, people caring for elderly relatives, those who lost another job, and people whose job prospects are hampered by past contact with the criminal justice system.

California’s anti-gig law, AB 5, is proof that restricting independent contracting only hurts workers. Across the state, freelance journalists were let go as soon as the law went into effect in 2020.  Independent truckers facing unemployment left the state altogether. 

Uber estimated they would have to let go of 76% of the drivers in their network. One study projected that outlawing independent ride-share drivers would eliminate up to 87% of current drivers’ “earning opportunities.” 

California’s huge entertainment industry was kneecapped, too. Freelance actors, singers, dancers, and musicians suddenly couldn’t work.

And that doesn’t even count the kinds of niche skills that have always lent themselves to “side-hustle” work, such as translating, editing, court reporting, hairstyling, photography, and videography. 

Professional associations across the state sued Sacramento on behalf of their members’ right to earn a living. Even California policymakers realized the law was such a spectacular failure that, within months, the legislature passed another law exempting dozens of professions from the catastrophic regulation. 

Biden’s Labor Department rule pursues the same goals as AB 5 and would put the monthly incomes of tens of millions of people — disproportionately women (especially mothers) and minorities — at risk.

And yet, despite its economic costs, the real damage being inflicted by Biden’s war on work is on the American dream itself. The freedom to work is what makes America the land of opportunity. It’s how successive waves of immigrants built the most prosperous economy in the world. And it’s why people from around the globe still flock to our shores.

Only privileged elites and out-of-touch politicians talk of work as a hardship. To everyone else, especially the underprivileged, work is a ladder they want to climb. Who are politicians and bureaucrats to tell them they can’t?

Isabel Soto is policy director at the LIBRE Initiative.