Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said Wednesday that in order to grow the economy “people need to work longer hours” -- a comment that the Bush campaign argues was a reference to underemployed part-time workers but which Democrats are already using to attack him.
During an interview that was live-streamed on the app Periscope, Bush made the comments to New Hampshire’s The Union Leader answering a question about his plans for tax reform.
“My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours” and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That's the only way we're going to get out of this rut that we're in.”
Already the Democratic National Committee has pounced, releasing a statement that calls his remarks “easily one of the most out-of-touch comments we’ve heard so far this cycle,” adding that Bush would not fight for the middle class as president.
In a statement, a Bush aide clarified that he was referring to the underemployed and part-time workers: “Under President Obama, we have the lowest workforce 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.”
Bush commented on this issue speaking before the Detroit Economic Council back in February.
“For several years now, they have been recklessly degrading the value of work, the incentive to work, and the rewards of work. We have seen them cut the definition of a full-time job from 40 to 30 hours, slashing the ability of paycheck earners to make ends meet," he said. "We have seen them create welfare programs and tax rules that punish people with lost benefits and higher taxes for moving up those first few rungs of the economic ladder.”
A 2014 Gallup poll found that already many Americans employed full-time report working, on average, 47 hours a week, while nearly 4 in 10 say they work at least 50 hours a week.
US workers toil more hours than workers in any other large, industrialized country, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
There are 6.5 million people in the country who, according to the Bureau of Labor, are working part time for economic reasons. This means they are involuntarily working part time because they can't find full time employment and presumably would work more if they could.
Some took Bush's comments as an opportunity to pounce.
The Clinton camp weighed in, with campaign chair John Podesta tweeting:
Americans are working pretty hard already & don't need to work longer hours — they need to get paid more. http://t.co/MsGj4SmtaE— John Podesta (@johnpodesta) July 9, 2015
Rick Tyler, the national spokesman for Ted Cruz's campaign also issued a statement.
“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," he said. "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.”