“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.”
This is an occasion when it is instructive to read past the superficial narrative. True, this is another occasion on which Mr. Bush required a do-overα, and the line really didn’t sound all that good. Still, though, the rebound was good enough to get Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)―the ostenisble House GOP budget wonk and former vice-presidential nominee―onboard. And even Democratic-sympathizing pundits and politicians alike can find a reason to go with the later iteration; to wit, Steve Benen:
For what it’s worth, the Florida Republican, not long after his interview, clarified that his comments were about part-time vs. full-time employment. The Washington Post reported Bush saying, “You can take it out of context all you want, but high-sustained growth means that people work 40 hours rather than 30 hours and that by our success, they have money, disposable income for their families to decide how they want to spend it rather than getting in line and being dependent on government.”
As a matter of Economics 101, Bush’s broader points have at least some technical merit. When an economy has more full-time workers, it means more economic activity. When employees work more hours, it means more output and greater growth. None of this is controversial.
The problem with Bush’s rhetoric, however, is the real-world implications, and the degree to which he fails to understand the issue.
For example, the Republican candidate, who made $5.8 million in “consulting and speaking” income in 2013, makes it sound as if sluggish economic growth is your fault – you’re just not working enough hours. In reality, however, full-time employment is soaring when compared to part-time employment, and Americans are already working, on average, 47-hour weeks.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-VT), running for the Democratic nomination, is also willing to follow that course.