Jeb Bush thinks Americans “need to work longer hours.” However, the Republican presidential candidate clarified that he was referring to underemployed part-time workers after his Democratic opponents used his statement against him.
In an interview with Wednesday with the New Hampshire Union Leader, the former governor of Florida explained his views on tax reform and economic growth. His aspiration for the country, he said, is 4 percent growth. This means people need to be “a lot more productive.”
“It means 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,” he said.
The Democratic National Committee called Bush’s comments “the most out-of-touch comments we’ve heard so far this cycle.” Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also chimed in, saying, “Anyone who believes Americans aren’t working hard enough hasn’t met enough American workers.” Her campaign chairman, John Podesta, said what American workers need is higher salaries, not longer hours.
Bush’s fellow Republican candidate, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, also criticized Bush's remarks. Cruz's national campaign spokesman, Rick Tyler, issued a statement, as obtained by ABC News. It advised Bush to avoid such comments, likening them to statements made by 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Cruz also disputed Bush’s views about extending work hours, saying the real problem is that politicians and lobbyists have made life harder for ordinary workers.
But Bush claimed his statement was taken out of context. He clarified later in the day that he was not talking about imposing longer working hours for full-time employees, but for part-time and underemployed workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 6.5 million people in the U.S. work part-time involuntarily. These workers wanted full-time jobs, but couldn’t find such employment. These are the people who need more working hours, Bush said.
Meanwhile, Bush’s supporters have donated $103 million to his campaign in the first half of the year, placing Bush ahead of his GOP rivals. Bush and businessman Donald Trump currently lead in most polls of likely Republican voters.