Yesterday, Republican hopeful Jeb Bush ticked off hard-working Americans everywhere when he said that in order to grow the economy, people had to work longer hours. Here’s the skinny:
What He Said: “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.”
This Is All We Heard: “People need to work longer hours.” And “Let them eat cake.” Then we played Hall & Oates “Out of Touch” a few times.
Then He Talked Some More. Later Bush clarified that his remarks really were in reference to underemployment and part-time workers. His campaign cited stark statistics of falling workforce participation, which are currently at their lowest level since October 1977. It also was a dig at Obamacare, which had previously defined the work week for a full-time employee at 30 hours, causing many employers to cap work weeks at 29 hours.
Who’s right? Well, as it turns out, both are. Workforce participation in the U.S. is at 62.6 percent. The Bureau of Labor says there are 6.5 million people in the U.S. who are working part-time because they can’t find full-time employment.
But it’s also true that many Americans are already putting in longer hours, and taking fewer and shorter vacations. A recent Time cover story called out, “Save the American Vacation” and referred to us as a “no-vacation nation.” A 2014 Gallup poll claims the average work week for many Americans who work full-time is more like 47 hours (not 40), and 21 percent report they work between 50 to 59 hours per week. Another 18 percent said they work 60 hours or more. (Only the South Koreans work harder, but we really don’t want to emulate them.)
That didn’t stop Democratic rivals from hollering back. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton Tweeted: “Anyone who believes Americans aren’t working hard enough hasn’t met enough American workers.”
So there—for now.
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Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters that the nearly $2 billion that had already been spent on the program wasn’t wasted because “we are still going to get upgraded electronic displays.”
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