John Ellis (‘Jeb’) Bush: Blame the Victims For Bad Economy

What’s wrong with the American economy? If you ask presidential candidate John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush, it has nothing to do with the Great Recession of 2008 during the most recent Bush administration — which put 8.7 million of us out of work. Nothing to do with Tea-GOP economic sabotage during the long, slow recovery that replaced many middle-class jobs with low-wage and part-time employment.

Our friend “Jeb! 2016” says all that’s needed to fix the economy is for more people to work longer hours. Apparently he is not aware that productivity and worker compensation have been decoupled for about 40 years now. Working harder gets us nowhere, and makes CEOs and the 1 Percent richer.

The relationship between American workers’ industriousness and their economic security has eroded so severely in recent decades that the two concepts aren’t even on speaking terms these days.

Workers were a staggering 25 percent more productive in 2012 than they were in 2000. But over the same period that bosses started getting a full quarter more work out of their employees, the median wage grew exactly zero percent. Even those with college degrees saw their pay stagnate over the past decade. Over the five-year stretch encompassing the Great Recession and the first few years of the slow recovery Bush is criticizing, workers gave their bosses an 8 percent jump in productivity – and got back an outright decline in earnings.

Tea-GOP prescriptions like “work harder for less pay” don’t deserve to win any votes. Americans who work for a living are not at fault. We’re the victims of a financialized, de-unionized, 1 Percent economy that’s reaching Gilded Age levels of wealth inequality.

Newsweek: Does Jeb Bush understand economics?

Bush’s full statement was: “My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4% 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.”

This word salad mixes together different economic terms as if they mean the same thing and reaches for statistics that are, quite simply, ridiculous. Perhaps Bush was just sloppy in his language, but whatever aide is prepping him on economics needs to do a better job–maybe by working longer hours.

…When it comes to productivity, American workers have been doing a great job. Productivity, which is the economic output per worker, has grown relentlessly since 1947 in almost a straight upward line. Implying that Americans aren’t being productive enough is about the same as saying McDonald’s doesn’t sell enough hamburgers. How much is enough to Bush? If record productivity–with a cumulative growth of almost 300% since 1947–doesn’t cut it, what does?

There is no context where “we have to be more productive” means anything other than “push yourselves past record levels, workers!” That is, unless Bush doesn’t know what the word means.

But with this full statement, he has also demonstrated that he has no idea of the real problem facing American workers. No doubt, he is blaming them for their stagnant wages–all that’s needed is more hours of work, and wages will improve significantly.

As history proves, that’s hokum. America went through nearly a century where the profits generated by growth in worker productivity was shared–the more they produced, the more money everyone made. What Bush and far too many Republicans refuse to acknowledge is that wages and productivity became uncoupled around 1973: Productivity goes up, corporate profits go up, the rich get wealthier, but the financial benefits don’t trickle down to workers.

…American history’s most productive workers are not responsible for the fact that they aren’t paid enough. Do Bush and his GOP cohorts really believe that the wealthy are sitting in their offices, twiddling their thumbs, waiting for workers to demand more money that will then be handed over gladly? Wages are growing at their lowest level since World War II. In fact, income inequality is worse today than it was in 1774, even when slavery is included in the numbers, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

  1. #1 by Richard Warnick on July 9, 2015 - 1:50 pm

    In other campaign news, Donald Trump is #1 in North Carolina and is now threatening to actually file his presidential candidacy papers with the FEC.

    • #2 by Richard Warnick on July 10, 2015 - 9:11 am

      Trump leads the GOP pack in this week’s Economist/YouGov poll, with 15 percent of registered Republican voters saying he’s their first-choice candidate for 2016. Another 12 percent said Trump was their second choice for the Republican nomination.

    • #3 by Richard Warnick on July 10, 2015 - 1:24 pm


      Trump really is the GOP’s worst nightmare: He’s loud, dumb, confident and independently funded. He isn’t becoming the face of the GOP – he is the face of the GOP. Trump’s political rise, it’s worth recalling, is neither an accident nor a mystery; it’s the inevitable result of a decades-long strategy to appeal to an increasingly white and nativist base. He’s a political monster born of the sordid union between Fox News and right-wing talk radio. Republicans have aligned themselves with these forces, and now they’re getting what they asked for – and then some.

  2. #4 by brewski on July 9, 2015 - 8:05 pm

    why is that?

  3. #6 by Larry Bergan on July 9, 2015 - 9:37 pm

    You have to admit, Jeb is getting some big crowds. Almost tens of people. 🙂

    Sanders may not be a Republican, but he is definitely the elephant in the living room these days. Plus it’s funny to see Karl Rove freaking out over Donald Trump. Something about sleeping in the bed you made comes to mind.

    brewski, are you depressed? You’re seriously out of it lately.

  4. #7 by Richard Warnick on July 10, 2015 - 12:38 pm

    Josh Marshall:

    Jeb’s ‘work harder’ prescription provides a harrowing look at the level of derp that can be produced when you take a guy who isn’t all that bright and push him to the head of the national leadership line without ever having put in an honest day’s work or support himself in his life.

    …There’s a decent argument that people working longer hours is the problem; it’s definitely not the solution.

    This again is something you say about work when it’s something other people do.

    The media have branded “Jeb” as Bush’s smarter brother. Maybe they got it wrong (not that it’s like them to make mistakes).

  5. #8 by Richard Warnick on July 10, 2015 - 1:04 pm

    Fox Defends Jeb Bush’s Call For Americans To “Work Longer Hours” With Faulty Data, Disproven Theories

    In 2014, according to the most recently available data, an average worker in the United States worked 1,789 hours while the average OECD worker put in 1,770 hours. Americans worked on average 419 hours more than Germans, an amount roughly equal to working 10 additional work weeks.

  6. #9 by Richard Warnick on July 10, 2015 - 1:36 pm

    Joan Walsh: Jeb Bush Steps in It Again: He’s Either a Stone-cold Plutocrat—Or Just a Terrible Pol Who Sounds Like One

    Let’s not kid ourselves, obviously “Jeb” is a stone-cold plutocrat. He is against the very idea of a federal minimum wage, he advocates raising the retirement age to 70, he wants to privatize Social Security, and dismisses student debt relief as “more free stuff.”

  7. #10 by Richard Warnick on July 13, 2015 - 9:15 am

    Janet Allon, AlterNet:

    Jeb Bush is still trying to talk us into believing that he did not actually say what he said last week about the need for Americans to work even harder and longer…

  8. #11 by Richard Warnick on July 13, 2015 - 10:58 am

    Leo Gerard: Jeb! Cracks the Whip (emphasis added):

    The wealthy like Jeb! made out like bandits over the past 40 years – Jeb! amassed $29 million in the eight years since he left the Florida governor’s mansion. But working Americans have not prospered. Their productivity rose, but not their wages. Part of the reason for that productivity increase is that Americans worked longer hours and corporations paid them nothing for it.

    American workers put in more hours than those in any other large industrialized country, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In a Gallup poll late last year, full-time employees reported work weeks averaging 47 hours. That is nearly a full day beyond what is supposed to be a 40-hour work week. Forty percent said they work at least 50 hours.

    Most of these workers don’t see an extra dime for all that extra work because the federal overtime regulation is so outdated, and many corporations won’t pay time and a half for hours worked beyond 40 unless forced. As it is now, the regulation requires corporations to pay time and a half only to workers earning salaries less than $23,660 a year. That is so low that only 8 percent of salaried workers qualify for overtime. It means corporations can take every cent of gain from 92 percent of salaried workers when they put in more than 40 hours a week.

    Late last month, President Obama proposed increasing the overtime threshold to $50,440. Then 40 percent of salaried workers would qualify.

    Jeb! opposes that.

    …Silver-spoon Jeb! is just wrong. People don’t want to work harder. They’re working almost an extra day a week. What they want is to be paid fairly for the work they’re already doing. They want the minimum wage increased so that they can use their own paychecks for groceries instead of food stamps. They want the money that they’ve earned to be in their pockets – not in the pockets of 1 percenters like Jeb!

    …Jeb! suffers from the Republican blame-the-worker syndrome. He says, “Workforce participation has to rise,” as if unemployed workers chose to be laid off and languish in a life of insecurity without regular paychecks.

  9. #13 by Larry Bergan on July 13, 2015 - 2:18 pm

    Jeb is a monster alright. But don’t worry, Walmart is asking it’s employee’s to donate food to each other again. I don’t see this a as funny.

  10. #14 by Richard Warnick on July 13, 2015 - 2:41 pm

    Of course today Scott Walker joins the presidential race. Probably he hates people who work for a living even more than “Jeb! 2016” does.

  11. #15 by Larry Bergan on July 13, 2015 - 3:47 pm




  12. #16 by Richard Warnick on July 15, 2015 - 1:48 pm

    Jeb Bush Wants More Americans To Work Long Hours But Doesn’t Want To Pay Them Overtime

    Speaking at an event in Iowa on Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush voiced his opposition to the Obama administration’s proposal to expand overtime protection to an extra five million workers…

    …Bush faced a wave of criticism last week when he suggested that to get to his goal of four percent steady economic growth, “people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families.” One problem with that proposal is that Americans already work very long hours compared to other developed countries.

    On top of that, the link between working harder and making more money has been broken. Productivity rose nearly 25 percent between 2000 and 2012, but wages stayed flat or even declined for the bottom 60 percent of earners. In fact, productivity growth and wage growth became unlinked in the mid-1970s, as the overtime threshold started losing its bite.

    One way to ensure that putting in more hours will result in higher wages for families is to require those extra hours to be compensated more with overtime pay. Another is to make sure the minimum wage is enough to live on, which it currently isn’t for a family of two. But Bush has also voiced his opposition to the minimum wage.

  13. #17 by Richard Warnick on August 26, 2015 - 11:46 am

    Jeb Bush’s Cruel Economic Prescription for Americans to Work Longer Hours Is Worthless

    The call for American workers to put in more hours would make the United States economy more like those of Mexico, Russia, Latvia, and Estonia, where GDP per hour worked lags far behind countries whose workers have more time off. The notion that Americans should work more is based on two false premises: that slow productivity growth is what ails the U.S. economy, and that longer hours are the cure.

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