Yesterday, Republican hopeful Jeb Bush ticked off hard-working Americans everywhere when he said that in order to grow the economy, people had to work longer hours. Here’s the skinny:
What He Said: “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.”
This Is All We Heard: “People need to work longer hours.” And “Let them eat cake.” Then we played Hall & Oates “Out of Touch” a few times.
Then He Talked Some More. Later Bush clarified that his remarks really were in reference to underemployment and part-time workers. His campaign cited stark statistics of falling workforce participation, which are currently at their lowest level since October 1977. It also was a dig at Obamacare, which had previously defined the work week for a full-time employee at 30 hours, causing many employers to cap work weeks at 29 hours.
Who’s right? Well, as it turns out, both are. Workforce participation in the U.S. is at 62.6 percent. The Bureau of Labor says there are 6.5 million people in the U.S. who are working part-time because they can’t find full-time employment.
But it’s also true that many Americans are already putting in longer hours, and taking fewer and shorter vacations. A recent Time cover story called out, “Save the American Vacation” and referred to us as a “no-vacation nation.” A 2014 Gallup poll claims the average work week for many Americans who work full-time is more like 47 hours (not 40), and 21 percent report they work between 50 to 59 hours per week. Another 18 percent said they work 60 hours or more. (Only the South Koreans work harder, but we really don’t want to emulate them.)
That didn’t stop Democratic rivals from hollering back. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton Tweeted: “Anyone who believes Americans aren’t working hard enough hasn’t met enough American workers.”
So there—for now.
Ahead of a House Ways and Means Committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday, the Joint Committee on Taxation prepared an analysis of the distributional effects of the 2017 Republican tax bill. The New York Times’ Jim Tankersley highlighted the fact that according to the JCT analysis, about 75 percent of the individual and business benefits of the tax cuts will go to filers earning more than $100,000 in 2019. And nearly half of the benefits will flow to filers earning over $200,000.
President Trump’s 2020 budget includes up to $1.2 trillion in “potentially phantom revenues” — money that comes from taxes the administration opposes or from tax hikes that face strong opposition from businesses, The Wall Street Journal’s Richard Rubin reports, citing data from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. That total, covering 2020 through 2029, includes as much as $390 billion in taxes created under the Affordable Care Act, which the president wants to repeal.
The $1.2 trillion in questionable revenue projections is in addition to the White House budget’s projected deficits of $7.3 trillion for the 10-year period. That total is itself questionable, given that the president’s budget relies on optimistic assumptions about economic growth and some unrealistic spending cuts, meaning that the deficits could be significantly higher than projected.
Ben Ritz of the Progressive Policy Institute slams President Trump’s new budget:
“It would dismantle public investments that lay the foundation for economic growth, resulting in less innovation. It would shred the social safety net, resulting in more poverty. It would rip away access to affordable health care, resulting in more disease. It would cut taxes for the rich, resulting in more income inequality. It would bloat the defense budget, resulting in more wasteful spending. And all this would add up to a higher national debt than the policies in President Obama’s final budget proposal.”
Here’s Ritz’s breakdown of Trump’s proposed spending cuts to public investment in areas such as infrastructure, education and scientific research:
Since roughly the end of World War Two, individual income taxes in the U.S. have equaled about 8 percent of GDP. By contrast, the Tax Policy Center says, “corporate income tax revenues declined from 6% of GDP in 1950s to under 2% in the 1980s through the Great Recession, and have averaged 1.4% of GDP since then.”