For what it's worth, I take Jeb Bush at his word that he did not meant to imply yesterday that we should do away with the eight-hour day. The former Florida governor got into trouble for making the bald statement that "people need to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families." After Democrats dogpiled on him, Jeb clarified that he meant that people now working only part-time due to a stagnant economy should be able to work full-time jobs. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's clear that Jeb needs coaching before he does live interviews. If that's what he meant he should have made it clear in the first place, but he failed then to make the distinction between part-time and full-time he now affirms. That's clumsy if not clueless and he deserves the misunderstanding he's getting. He should know that, as a Republican, he'll be assumed to believe that the rabble ought to work ten, twelve, fourteen hour days, if they're not already working two or three jobs to "gain more income for their families."
Hillary Clinton's reported response was just as predictable. She issued a pandering tweet: "Anyone who believes Americans aren't working hard enough hasn't met enough American workers.” I find this to be pandering because it seems self-evident that, collectively speaking, Americans aren't working hard enough. In part that's because they're denied the opportunity to do so by selfish corporate decisions that have taken "longer hours" jobs away from them. But it's also because we're not using our heads and we're not doing many things that clearly ought to be done in this country, above all upgrading our infrastructure. Clinton's tweet illustrates an unfortunate complacency in liberals that I've touched on before in discussing our modern suicidal vulnerability to shaming. For many people, it seems to be taboo to tell Americans as a whole that we can all, each of us, do better. In part that's because we fear the emotional consequences of telling anybody they aren't good enough, even if only for now. But it's also because some will infer what was inferred from Bush's remarks: you just want people to work longer hours than they ought to, etc. Do liberals really think our nation's problems will be solved simply by having the rich pay more taxes? That may be a prerequisite of progress, but without others contributing more of what they can it'll just be throwing money at our troubles. Everyone, the poor as well as the rich, must be challenged to improve themselves, but the true progressive must enable them to improve themselves. Otherwise all your talk will be no better than Republicans' self-help bootstrap rhetoric, and that isn't going to cut it in the 21st century. Nor is patting people on the head and telling them they've done all they can going to cut it. Flattery will get the Democrats nowhere, except maybe back in the White House for another four or eight years, which may be all they want. The rest of us should expect more of them and everyone else in this country.