On Wednesday, Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush told New Hampshire’s The Union Leader that to grow the economy, “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.”
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was quick to jump on those comments, saying that Americans already work longer hours than employees in most other countries and shouldn’t be forced to “work even longer hours than they currently do.”
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.
Sander’s official campaign website, Bernie 2106, goes on to explain that
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.
The site concludes with another slam on Bush, noting:
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.