With Congress unwilling to pass meaningful economic measures, President Obama’s recently unveiled overtime policy is one of the year’s biggest stories on the domestic economy. Jeb Bush, not surprisingly, doesn’t like it, but he may not fully understand it, either.
To briefly recap, under the status quo, there’s an annual income threshold for mandatory overtime: $23,660. Those making more than that can be classified by employers as “managers” who are exempt from overtime rules. The Obama administration’s Labor Department has spent the last several months working on the new plan, which raises the threshold to $50,440 – more than double the current level.
The policy doesn’t just nibble around the edges; its scope includes roughly 5 million American workers. NBC’s Kristin Donnelly reported the administration’s move constitutes “the most ambitious intervention in the wage economy in at least a decade.”
Campaigning in Iowa this week, Jeb Bush said the policy would result in “less overtime pay” and “less wages earned.” The Guardian did some fact-checking.
Numerous economists attacked Bush’s statement, calling him woefully misinformed. And several studies on the rule contradict Bush’s assertion that the overtime rules would “lessen the number of people working”.Daniel Hamermesh, a University of Texas labor economist, said: “He’s just 100% wrong,” adding that “there will be more overtime pay and more total earnings” and “there’s a huge amount of evidence employers will use more workers”.Indeed, a Goldman Sachs study estimated that employers would hire 120,000 more workers in response to Obama’s overtime changes. And a similar study commissioned by the National Retail Federation – a fierce opponent of the proposed overtime rules – estimated that as a result of the new salary threshold, employers in the restaurant and retail industries would hire 117,500 new part-time workers.
The Economic Policy Institute’s Ross Eisenbrey added that Bush “should be embarrassed about how misinformed he was.” Noting that the Republican presidential candidate also said Obama’s policy would also prohibit many bonuses, Eisenbrey added, “All of that is exactly wrong – and pretty much nonsense.”
On a surface level, it’s problematic that Bush would flub the issue so poorly, but it’s even more significant in the context of related confusion about economic policy.
Remember, the Florida Republican remains deeply committed to 4% GDP growth – a target no president has reached in the post-WWII era – despite the fact that the number was basically pulled out of thin air.
Bush picked the growth goal because, as he sees it, four is a “round number.” The fact remains, however, that this is “backed by zero substantive analysis of any kind.”
The former governor still sees himself as some kind of economic expert, thanks to Florida’s growth in the 1990s, but as we’ve discussed before, whether Bush is prepared to admit it or not, Florida’s economic growth during his two terms was the result of a housing bubble. In fact, Paul Krugman accurately described it as “the mother of all housing bubbles – and when the bubble burst (luckily for Jeb! just after he left office) it promptly wiped out 900,000” of the 1.3 million jobs created when Bush was in the governor’s office.
The economy, in other words, is not Bush’s strong suit.