GOP leader takes on beauty salon licenses

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Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) wants to make it easier for single moms to open beauty salons in their homes.

The House majority leader on Thursday cited a disparity in licensing fees for different industries as a critical “barrier to success” for the working poor that Republicans want to address.

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It can take more than 10 times as long for someone to acquire a cosmetology license as opposed to a license to become a medical technician, and Cantor said at a panel at the conservative American Enterprise Institute that he would reach out to governors around the country to reform the licensing system.

“Let’s tear down those barriers for people who want to start to get into the workforce and build a life and career for themselves,” Cantor said.

Along with AEI President Arthur Brooks, Cantor pointed to the licensing issue as a concrete area where his “Making Life Work” agenda could help solve problems for ordinary people, particularly the poor and working class.

Brooks and Cantor highlighted the cosmetology example because opening a home salon is a job that many single mothers could turn to that would allow them to be with their children at the same time. 

For more than a year, Cantor has, with mixed success, tried to steer the GOP toward issues that resonate more directly with people in the working and middle class, moving away from a heavy focus on broader fiscal issues that Republicans emphasized when they took the House majority in 2011.

More recently, Cantor and other top Republicans have sought to emphasize proposals to combat poverty as well.

“The bulk of the people in this country are not those who have a college or graduate degree. They’re wage earners,” Cantor said. “They’re people who are feeling that this country is not there for them.”

“There are way too many barriers right now to success,” he continued. “The licensing question in particular is one that strikes at the heart of what America is about.”

Brooks compared the 1,500 hours of training a cosmetology license requires in D.C. to just 135 hours to become a real estate agent, which is more typically a second job for a wealthier two-parent household.

“That’s anti-poor, and it’s un-American, and we need a solution,” Brooks said.

Cantor said part of the problem was that the federal government continues to subsidize the training programs that rely on steep licensing requirements for a profit.

“We need to stop that. The incentives are wrong,” he said.

Cantor highlighted the bipartisan deal announced on Wednesday to overhaul federal job training programs and said it stood a good chance of making it into law this year.

Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) also participated in the AEI panel and promoted their proposals to expand charter schools and the child tax credit, respectively.