Valley News (N.H.), July 16:

Jeb Bush’s clarion call last week for Americans to work longer hours was issued at a particularly inopportune moment: In July, millions of Bush’s fellow citizens are on vacation, resting from their labors and savoring for a welcome change the pleasures of not working. We suspect, though, that that’s only one reason why the embattled American worker is not likely to rally to this cause.

For those who missed what may become a defining moment in the 2016 presidential campaign, Bush told the editorial board of the Union Leader that, “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.”

Bush subsequently issued an implausible clarification, claiming that he was merely saying that those part-time workers who aspire to a full-time job ”“ estimated at 6.5 million ”“ ought to have the opportunity to get one. It is plain from the context that that’s not what he was talking about. If it had been, the point was so obvious that it did not even need to be made: No one would dispute that those who want full-time work should be able to obtain it. Moreover, a 4 percent economic growth rate ”“ which many economists consider sheer fantasy anyway ”“ would require that far more people than the currently underemployed would have to work much longer hours.

It’s understandable that Bush feels strongly about work. According to The New York Times, since leaving the governor’s office in Florida in 2007, he has been paid $27 million for giving speeches, serving on corporate boards and consulting for a couple of banks. “I worked constantly and traveled the globe for my clients,” he has said. “Over these years, my income increased thanks to hard work and experience.”

It perhaps has not occurred to Bush that many ordinary people would not categorize as actual “work” the activity he describes and that in any case his ardor for pursuing it might be significantly cooled were he being paid $12 an hour.

To whatever extent Americans are not working as long and hard as Bush would wish, the reasons are plain. Good jobs for ordinary people are drying up at an alarming rate, wage growth is stagnant for everybody but top-earning families and the United States lags behind in policies that encourage work, such as excellent and affordable child care and paid leave.

In fact, Americans work plenty ”“ an average of 34.4 hours a week in 2013, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. That’s more than their counterparts in just about all wealthy countries, including 30 percent more hours than Germans. (Just for the record, Donald Trump, Mexicans worked more than anybody else in 2013, at 43 hours per week, the OECD reported.) It’s also worth noting that in a 2014 Gallup survey, Americans reported working an average of 47 hours a week.

Bush’s remarks were not, as they have been characterized, a gaffe, but rather another expression of the sotto voce Republican conviction that America is a nation of slackers and strivers, and that the former heavily outweigh the latter. They are simply a variant of Mitt Romney’s revelatory comments last time around about “the 47 percent” of Americans who purportedly are dependent on the government; who think they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, “to you-name-it”; who believe they are victims; and who don’t pay any income tax. This is a world view that says far more about those who hold it than it does about the people it disparages.