Sanders Defends Bush's "Work Hours" Comment
Jeb Bush has an unlikely defender: Bernie Sanders.
While many of his fellow Democrats seized on an opportunity to portray Bush as out of touch with middle America, Sanders, the self-avowed democratic socialist, defended the conservative former governor for his comments on wage compensation and productivity.
In New Hampshire on Wednesday, Bush said part of what makes his plan for 4 percent economic growth achievable is that workforce participation has to rise from its decades-low rate, and “people need to work longer hours” in order to increase productivity and incomes.
Appearing on CNN Friday morning, Sanders was pressed as to what exactly Bush meant by those remarks, and in what context he was speaking.
“If he is talking about the need for more full-time jobs rather than part-time jobs, he’s absolutely correct. That’s what we have to do,” Sanders said. “But I want to reiterate: We work – our people work today the longest hours of any people in any major industrialized country.”
Bush’s remarks immediately drew backlash from his political opponents. The Democratic National Committee called them “easily one of the most out-of-touch comments we’ve heard so far this cycle.” Other Democrats sought to connect the statement to 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s infamous “47 percent” remark.
But Republicans – and Bush himself – were quick to clarify that the former Florida governor was referring to the need for Americans who have part-time jobs to gain access to full-time opportunities, accusing Democrats of intentionally distorting his words.
“You can take it out of context all you want, but high sustained growth means people work 40 hours rather than 30 hours, and that by our success they have disposable income for their families to decide how they want to spend it rather than standing in line and being dependent upon government,” Bush said at a town-hall event later Wednesday in Hudson, N.H. He and other Republicans believe Democrats’ economic policies force businesses to limit employees’ hours.
Sanders added, though, that it was not appropriate for Bush to “suggest that people have got to work harder,” arguing that it is instead necessary to increase wages and incomes.
In a veiled reference to the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton weighed in with a Wednesday night tweet: “Anyone who believes Americans aren’t working hard enough hasn’t met enough American workers.” Accompanying the tweet was a graph showing an increase over time in productivity among American job-holders while their hourly compensation has stagnated.
Bush fired back at Clinton the next morning with a tweet of his own, in an attempt to make it clear that it was not referring to those Americans who already work full time: “Anyone who discounts 6.5 million people stuck in part-time work & seeking full-time jobs hasn’t listened to working Americans @HillaryClinton.”
Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, a former White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton, also chimed in on Twitter: “Americans are working pretty hard already & don’t need to work longer hours – they need to get paid more.”