The “longer hours” remark seems quickly destined to take its place in the annals of campaign gaffes that haunt candidates.
WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush may have inadvertently given the Democrats their first attack ad of the presidential campaign this week when he inartfully detailed a prescription for economic growth that included the phrase “people need to work longer hours.”
The comment, part of an editorial-board interview in New Hampshire, became instant fodder for Democrats seeking to portray the GOP candidate, the son of one former president and brother of another, as out of touch with working Americans. Disparaging news releases and tweets followed fast.
“Anyone who believes Americans aren’t working hard enough hasn’t met enough American workers,” tweeted Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democratic rival.
The “longer hours” remark seems quickly destined to take its place in the annals of campaign gaffes that haunt candidates. It has all the required elements: It sounds terrible. It’s caught on video. The context requires multiple sentences of explanation, maybe even some economic-policy jargon.
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That Bush’s statement is essentially accurate may not do much to stem the trouble. “My aspiration for the country … is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see,” he said in the interview with the Union Leader newspaper. “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.”
The thrust of Bush’s argument about employment isn’t controversial. Economists generally believe that addressing the number of people who work part time but want to work full time would increase economic growth. Roughly 6.5 million fit into that category.
“They are earning $30,000 less than those who are fully employed,” Bush said in a blog post Thursday. “In New Hampshire … I talked about these struggling Americans who deserve the opportunity to work, who understand the value of work and who want to achieve earned success for their families.”