Jeb Bush recently told a forum hosted by the Union Leader newspaper of Manchester, NH that he aimed to generate 4% economic growth when elected in 2016. Despite the country being massively overworked as it is, Bush wants Americans “to be a lot more productive,” by working longer hours. He told the audience:
My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent 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. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut that we’re in.
The statistics on how overworked Americans are tell a very bleak story for a future under President Jeb Bush. As the graph below shows, Americans already get less holiday and less paid vacation than all other OECD nations:
Americans also suffer from excessive work related mental health issues, making Bush’s statement even more ridiculous. So why on earth would Bush propose massively overworked Americans do more even more work? The answer is that Jeb Bush doesn’t have any new ideas. The Republican Party is so rigidly locked into free market dogma that they cannot conceive of ideas outside of that narrow paradigm. According to Republicans:
1. Tax cuts create economic growth
2. Cutting government budgets makes everything more efficient
3. Cutting welfare makes people work harder
4. Private industry must be deregulated
We witnessed the extreme version of this under Jeb’s older brother, George W. Bush – and surprise, surprise, it was a colossal failure at every level. Other than create more billionaires, Dubya presided in one of the greatest hand overs of wealth from the poor and middle classes to the ultra rich in history. Bushonomics were not just bad, they were spectacularly bad for literally everyone other than the ultra rich. The Obama administration has done a reasonable amount to reverse Bush’s catastrophic economic policies, and has now presided over a rise in economic growth and a reduction in unemployment.
Rather than address these problems, the GOP has instead decided to bunker down and insist that their economic policies must be implemented even more stringently, the metaphorical equivalent of slamming ones head into a wall harder and harder hoping it will stop the pain. Jeb Bush wants Americans to work harder than they are already because within the paradigm of neoliberal economics, there is no other way. Bush’s plan may work for a few months – longer working hours could well increase productivity, but he would be sitting on top of a mental and physical health crisis that no free market solution could ever hope to fix.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.