When Jeb Bush said that "people have to work longer hours and, through productivity, gain more income for their families," he was doing much more than flubbing his lines. He was flagging a basic reason not to nominate him.
Bush claimed that his remarks were taken out of context. And they were. He was discussing the large number of Americans who are working part time and urging them to seek full-time work. He should have gone on to attack the Obamacare law for incentivizing part-time employment by requiring only employers of full time workers to get them health insurance.
But, nevertheless, the very fact that he fell into this blooper illustrates the problem. When people who are known for their wealth, like the Bushes and the Romneys of the world, say things that seem out of touch, they are not given the benefit of the doubt. Ask Marie Antoinette about her “let them eat cake” comment that some historians say she never said. Or ask Bush Senior how his passivity in the face of the 1991 recession was interpreted.
Class warriors in the Democratic Party are constantly on the lookout for such remarks by rich Republicans. Mitt Romney had a point in saying that Democrats had a lock on 47percent of the vote. He was wrong only in that he included Medicare, Social Security, and Veterans Benefits in his stat. If he left them out and spoke only of the 35 percent on means-tested entitlements, he would have had it exactly right. But it cost him the election nonetheless.
How did Jeb come to make such a gaffe? He probably got an economics briefing that cited part-time work as a cause of low incomes. He naturally drew the interpretation that people need to work longer hours. Someone with more street experience would realize that very few of the part-time workers actually want only part-time work. In 2014, 7.3 million Americans worked part time but wanted full-time jobs. The briefer forgot to mention that.
But Jeb doesn’t realize the situation of part-time workers, so he flubbed the comment.
It will happen again and again. You cannot substitute good briefings for real experience.
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