Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Wednesday seemed to propose a bold solution for economic troubles: “People need to work longer hours,” drawing negative reactions from critics who suggested the last thing Americans need is to work more.
The GOP presidential contender made his suggestion during an interview with the conservative New Hampshire newspaper, The Union Leader, on Wednesday to address a variety of issues, including a tax reform agenda that Americans could expect under his administration, ABC News reported.
After a town hall in Hudson on Wednesday night, Bush sought to clarify his remarks to reporters, saying that he meant that the 6.8 million Americans working part-time should have opportunities to work more hours, not that someone already working full-time should be forced to work more.
“Work force participation rates are low,” Bush said. “If anyone is celebrating this anemic recovery, then they are totally out of touch. The simple fact is people are really struggling. So giving people a chance to work longer hours has got to be part of the answer. If not, you are going to see people lose hope. And that’s where we are today.”
Before the clarification, the remarks had drawn instant and intense reactions from a variety of public figures on the left, including John Podesta, a former White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton who currently serves as the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Podesta tweeted: “Americans are working pretty hard already & don’t need to work longer hours — they need to get paid more.”
Late Wednesday evening, Clinton herself weighed in, sharing a graph from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute showing wages stagnating as productivity has risen over the last four decades:
Bush shot back Thursday morning:
The Democratic National Committee condemned Bush’s remarks, slamming him as “out-of-touch” and removed from the widespread concerns of middle-class Americans. In 2012, Democrats made great headway in criticizing Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, for this type of perceived disconnect.
A Bush aide responded promptly to the DNC’s remarks in a statement, claiming, “Under President Obama, we have the lowest work-force participation rate since 1977, and too many Americans are falling behind. Only Washington Democrats could be out-of-touch enough to criticize giving more Americans the ability to work, earn a paycheck, and make ends meet.”
Ted Cruz’s campaign also chimed in, invoking the specter of Romney’s infamous “47 percent” remark:
“It would seem to me that Gov Bush would want to avoid the kind of comments that led voters to believe that Governor Romney was out of touch with the economic struggles many Americans are facing,” Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler said in a statment. “The problem is not that Americans aren’t working hard enough. It is that the Washington cartel of career politicians, special interests and lobbyists have rigged the game against them.”
According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2014, fewer Americans are working the standard 40-hour week now than in previous decades. That study suggested that many Americans reported working on average 47 hours per week, which amounts to nearly one additional workday longer than a week consisting of a five-day, 9-to-5 work schedule. Beyond that, there are many Americans who are underemployed, confined to part-time versions of what used to be full-time jobs.