May 7, 2012 10:20 AM

Statewide, thousands of independent contractors are working hard to provide for their families and contribute to our local economy. You may know them as hair stylists, software engineers, package deliverers, taxi cab drivers, even emergency room physicians. Their roles are extremely diverse, but they share an important commitment to earning a living by working for themselves and in many cases providing jobs for others.

Unfortunately, tucked away in the president’s budget is language that would make it difficult for people to have the option of working for themselves. The net effect will be restrictive and unnecessary oversight that would limit job growth and possibly even eliminate existing jobs.

Obviously, given our tenuous economic recovery, this is a move in the wrong direction.

Independent contractors work in every city and town in Missouri and every other state across the country. More than 10 million of them—comprising more than 7 percent of the American workforce—have chosen independent work for the work-life flexibility it offers.

Independent contractors are essential to our economy, accounting for $473 billion in personal income, or $1 of every $10 earned, and the sector is rapidly growing. In fact, economists predict that at least half of the total workforce will be independent contractors by 2020.

It’s no surprise that more and more women are finding the independent contractor model one that works for them and their families.

Just as importantly, many independent contractors are expanding into small businesses that create jobs for others. According to the US Department of Commerce, small companies—many of them arising out of independent contracting beginnings—create three out of every four new jobs. They are the key to job growth and economic recovery.

Yet despite their crucial role in our economy, federal and state policymakers are making it difficult for independent contractors to grow and prosper. These policy makers are trying through regulatory means—and in some cases through the courts—to take away the independent contractor status that so many hard-working Americans cherish.

There’s no question that independent contractors should obey all laws and pay taxes as required. But broad-scale attempts to reclassify independent contractors and turn them into rank-and-file company employees is harmful to those who play by the rules.

President Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget only confounds the problem by making it more difficult for people to work for themselves and run their own businesses Imposing over regulation of this profitable and growing segment of our workforce simply does not make sense. Nor does it make sense to create another layer of bureaucracy that makes it more difficult for businesses to work with independent contractors. Doing so would effectively smother their prosperity and handicap local economies all the same.

Independent contractors, like the rest of us, deserve the right to choose a job and a lifestyle that works for them. The president and Congress should not do anything to risk driving away innovation, job creation, entrepreneurship and the opportunity for greater work-life balance.

Brad Jones is state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, Missouri’s leading small-business association. 

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Reader Comments (1)
Just another step towards centralized government for all aspects of our lives. Nothing surprising here, it is what the liberals/progressives live for, complete control of every nook and cranny of our lives. Think of how the unions would fit into the picture. Absolute control of who can work and who can't, like a union shop for the independent contractors. Without the shop.
5/7/2012 12:11:43 PM  Jules Guidry  , Battlefield

Independent contractors are essential to our economy, accounting for $473 billion in personal income, or $1 of every $10 earned, and the sector is rapidly growing.

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