No, Jeb Bush Was Not Implying American Workers Are Lazy

The truth is, people are working part-time when they want to work full-time.

On Wednesday, Jeb Bush's comments that "people need to work longer hours" immediately served as fodder for Democrats. The Democratic National Committee blasted out the comments in a press release. Hillary Clinton tweeted, "Anyone who believes Americans aren't working hard enough hasn't met enough American workers," pointing to a chart showing worker productivity increasing but wages diverging.

But while the comments have been interpreted as Bush blaming workers, economic data show that many workers are stuck working fewer hours than they want.

Last week's jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed there were 6.5 million people working part-time for economic reasons in June, meaning they would like to work full-time but aren't able to find full-time work or they had their hours cut back.

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That figure has gone down slightly, as seasonally adjusted numbers showed a declined from slightly less than 7.5 million people in June of last year to a little more than 6.5 million in June 2015.

Tim Miller, Bush's communications director, responded on Twitter, saying that people want to work more hours but are being prevented from doing so, in their view, because of a bad economy and regulations.

On his website, Bush argues that Obamacare is limiting hiring as well as reducing worker hours, and says he would repeal the law as president.

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Bush later clarified his hours comments at a New Hampshire town hall, saying, "High sustained growth means that people will work 40 hours rather than 30 hours, and that by our success they have money and disposable income for their families to decide how they want to spend it rather than getting in line and being dependent on government."

Bush's initial statements about people working longer hours were in response to a question in an interview at the New Hampshire Union Leader on Periscope about his tax reform plan and having the economy growing by 4 percent a year on a regular basis, which he discussed in his announcement.

But it's unclear how 4 percent growth could be achieved, and in Bush's comments yesterday he didn't give a clear indication of how his economic policy would create the additional hours that American workers are looking for. Bush has spoken about reducing regulations, getting rid of favors in the tax code and lowering tax rates, but largely just in general terms.

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So while Bush was right that many Americans would like full employment but are now only working part-time, he could have avoided giving red meat to Democrats just by saying that people "want to work" more hours.