Jeb Bush is trying very hard to separate himself from the rest of the 2016 GOP pack and be the moderate Republican. In this cycle, it isn’t hard to do when you have the other candidates screaming about religious persecution while trying to defy the Supreme Court on gay marriage as Bobby Jindal has tried, or insulting entire nations as Donald Trump has managed to do with Mexico and China.
It’s really pretty simple: Just manage not to say anything too inflammatory, toss out a few suggestions about how you would make the economy better, attack Hillary Clinton a few times without mentioning Benghazi, and you’re the voice of reason in the pack.
Sounds easy, right? While Rand Paul talks about privatizing the institution of civil marriage due gay people suddenly getting the same rights and Ben Carson compares Obamacare to slavery, all Jeb Bush would have to do is avoid saying anything really insensitive or stupid and he could watch everyone else flame out. Except, that’s not what happened yesterday.
During an interview that was live-streamed on the app Periscope, Bush told New Hampshire’s The Union Leader that to grow the economy, “people should work longer hours.”
He was answering a question about his plans for tax reform and responded:
“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.” (Source)
While Jeb Bush’s campaign is trying to say that the statement applied to the underemployed and part-time workers, Republicans have a long history of telling people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Don’t have the money to go to school? Get another job, free education is socialism. Don’t have the money to pay medical bills? Work more hours, Obamacare is communism. Can’t afford to bring another child into this world? Tough luck, you should have kept your legs closed. The government’s job shouldn’t be to provide birth control, and don’t even dare think of getting an abortion. Oh yeah, and when that child is born, you’re on your own there, so be sure to go to church and hope they have a food bank.
If Jeb Bush wanted to grow the American economy (the opposite of what happened under his brother), then he would propose ideas that would put more money in the pockets of working class, instead of the wealthiest one percent. American workers are already extremely productive, but wages have only increased 9.2% while productivity has increased by 74.4% since 1973, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
When the Great Recession took hold in 2008, many companies used the downturn as an opportunity to slash labor costs and force their remaining employees to do more for less. As an example, my employer at the time laid off a bunch of people, slashed benefits and instituted hiring and pay freezes that were still in place when I resigned in 2010. Since then, despite increased consumer spending and an improving economy, corporations have only hired domestic workers when it wasn’t possible to outsource the work to cheap labor markets like the Philippines, and when it wasn’t possible to squeeze any more production out of the employees they already had.
The answer to growing our economy isn’t to wring even more production and hours out of the people who are already working, but that’s what Republicans and their corporate sponsors want. Jeb Bush might say that he wants more participation by part-time workers, but the fact is companies don’t want to provide them with benefits, or anything else that will raise the cost of labor.
The economy is doing very well for the wealthiest Americans, just not for us working class folks, which is further proof that trickle-down economics are nothing but a false promise that voters have fallen for since the days of Ronald Reagan.
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