Jeb Bush apparently thinks that the biggest problem facing middle class Americans is that they’re not working hard enough. In a webcast interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, the former Florida governor and GOP presidential candidate said this:
“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.”
Bernie had an immediate response:
“Unfortunately, Gov. Bush does not seem to understand what is happening in our economy today. The sad truth is that because the middle class has declined over the last 40 years, while almost all new income and wealth have gone to the people on top, Americans already work the longest hours of any people in the western industrialized world. In fact, 80 percent of working men work longer than 40 hours a week. What we need now is an economy that provides decent wages and income for the middle class, not demands that people work even longer hours than they currently do.”
As Bernie says, Americans are working longer hours than anyone else in the industrialized world. Productivity increases won’t change that. For roughly thirty years, workers’ wages kept pace with productivity. That ended in roughly 1980, when conservatives took power and began implementing policies designed to ensure that the wealthiest among us kept the income created by productivity gains for themselves.
A longer workweek isn’t Jeb Bush’s only aspiration for the struggling middle class. He also wants to eliminate the Federal minimum wage, cut Social Security benefits, and raise the retirement age.