Fox News is on the defensive after Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush said making Americans “work longer hours” was a central facet of his economic growth plan, claiming that Bush meant to say that the “Obama economy” is forcing Americans into part-time work. However, Fox's reasoning is based on faulty data and imaginary links between hours worked, productivity, and wages.
Jeb Bush's Economic Recovery Plan: “Work Longer Hours”
Bush: Americans “Need To Work Longer Hours” To Boost The Economy. In a July 8 interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, Republican presidential candidate and former Florida governor Jeb Bush said that American workers “need to work longer hours” to boost their economic productivity and create the conditions for “4 percent growth as far as the eye can see”:
BUSH: My aspirations for the country, and I believe we can achieve it, is for 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see ... 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 are going to get out of this rut that we're in. [New Hampshire Union Leader, 7/8/15]
Fox Runs Defense For Bush By Blaming Obama For Slow Economic Growth
Fox's Nauert: Bush's Comments Were “Taken Out Of Context.” On the July 9 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, correspondent Heather Nauert claimed that the Republican president hopeful's comments were “taken out of context” by Democrats, and cited a Bush campaign statement to clarify that the candidate meant to say that “some workers can only find part-time jobs in this Obama economy.” Co-hosts Steve Doocy, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and Brian Kilmeade piled on complaints about low workforce participation rates under Obama, with Hasselbeck declaring that workers should “take pride in working hard and long”:
HASSELBECK: More than 6 million people are underemployed, roughly 5.5 million more people living in poverty than when President Obama took office in 2009. So Jeb's trying to up that 4 percent annual growth.
DOOCY: He wants people to have the opportunity to work, and in many cases --
KILMEADE: If you want more money, you gotta work another job, you gotta work longer, that's just a fact.
HASSELBECK: You should take pride in working hard and long.
KILMEADE: I thought so. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/9/15]
Fox's MacCallum: Bush Was Right, “The Truth Is That Productivity Levels Are Very Low.” On the July 9 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum discussed “backlash” to Bush's comments on the “need to work longer hours” with Fox's Bret Baier, claiming that Bush was right and “the truth is that productivity levels are very low.” Baier agreed and dismissed criticism of Bush's comments, saying that “people just don't like hearing” those kinds of comments from presidential candidates:
MACCALLUM: The truth is that productivity levels are very low in this country, and the worker participation rate is extremely -- you've got 100 million people who are out of work in this country, right now. But that was something that he had to backpedal on. Why is that, Bret?
BAIER: Well, because people just don't like hearing that, you know? A lot of people are working really hard across the country, and you can talk about productivity, you can talk about stats, but when you talk about somebody who is putting in a long day the last thing they really want to hear is a candidate for president telling them that they need to work longer hours. So, it's just not, you know, a way to phrase it. And so, that's why he had to walk it back. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 7/9/15]
Fox Hosts Defend Bush, Blame Obamacare For Creating Part-Time Economy. On the July 9 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, co-hosts Ainsley Earhardt, Harris Faulkner, Elizabeth MacDonald, Andrea Tantaros, and guest Joe Theismann defended Bush's comments by attacking the Affordable Care Act for allegedly forcing employees into part-time jobs and suggesting that government anti-poverty relief programs discourage Americans from working. Thiesmann claimed that “if you want people to go back to work, you have to stop giving handouts,” and Earhardt suggested that what Bush meant to say was that Americans “want to work longer hours,” and that the Republican candidate is in fact “fighting for families.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 7/9/15]
Bush And Fox Are Totally Wrong About Wages, Job Creation, And Economic Growth
Economists: Bush's 4 Percent Growth Goal Is Probably Impossible, Out Of His Control. In spite of the serious doubts of many economists and experts, Bush has made 4 percent annual economic growth a central focus of his economic policy agenda. The candidate unveiled this benchmark during his June 15 presidential campaign announcement and was roundly criticized for promoting “nonsense” policies with “impossible” and “tenuous” goals for growth that would “require some real wizardry” and a labor market “revolution” beyond the control of any president. [Media Matters, 6/17/15]
OECD: Americans Already Work More Hours Than Workers In Most Developed Countries. According to data compiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), American workers already work more hours annually than average workers in developed countries around the world. 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:
[Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD.Stat, accessed 7/9/15]
EPI: American Productivity Is Soaring, But Wages Remain Stagnant. According to an analysis performed by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), American productivity has steadily increased since at least the end of the Second World War, but “wage stagnation” has sapped worker compensation since the Nixon administration. Contrary to Bush's claim, working longer hours and further increasing “productivity” is an unlikely avenue to boost American incomes:
[Economic Policy Institute, 1/6/15]
There Is No Evidence That Obamacare Boosted Part-Time Employment. Fox News has spent years suggesting, without evidence, that the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) created an incentive for employers to push full-time employees into part-time work in an effort to avoid providing them with health insurance. In 2013, numerous economists who reviewed payroll data since the inception of the ACA found no evidence of a surge in part-time work, despite the repeated claims from Fox News. [Media Matters; 8/21/13, 9/5/13, 9/29/13]
There Are Not 100 Million Americans “Out Of Work.” Contrary to Fox's claim, there are not “100 million people who are out of work in this country.” According to the most recently available data, in June 2015 there were 93.6 million Americans classified as “not in labor force” by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This includes tens of millions of children, retirees, and disabled persons, as well as several million “discouraged workers” -- people who are of working age but have given up pursuing employment for economic reasons. The number of people not in the labor force has been climbing steadily for generations, driven mostly by natural population growth and the progression of retiring baby boomers:
[Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, accessed 7/9/15]
Most Of The Jobs Created Since Recession Are Full-Time, Not Part-Time. According to labor force data compiled by the Federal Reserve, since the recession officially ended in June 2009 (shaded), the economy has created millions of full-time jobs. At the same time, the number of part-time jobs, which increased during the recession, was relatively flat. From June 2009 through June 2015 the economy created more than 8.3 million additional full-time jobs and just over 200,000 additional part-time jobs: