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Bernie’s 32-Hour Work Week

Posted on Tuesday, March 19, 2024
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by Outside Contributor
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bernie sanders' work week

Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) wants everyone to get paid the same for doing less work. Many entrepreneurs throughout human history have wanted this same goal. In fact, they set their sights higher, wanting everyone to get paid more for doing less work. So they invented various labor-saving devices that allow humans to get more done in less time.

About 200 years ago, entrepreneurs in northwestern Europe really got going on these labor-saving devices and eventually spread them throughout the world. We now call this process, still playing out in poorer countries, the “industrial revolution.” It didn’t just make people twice as wealthy, or ten times as wealthy. Average people today are 30 times wealthier, in real terms, than they were before the industrial revolution.

That means that instead of having your entire family, including young children, working 80 or more hours a week on a farm just to grow enough food to not starve, you can work 40 hours a week while your spouse works part-time or not at all and your kids go to school until they’re at least 18, maybe 22 or older. And you aren’t doing any work that will cause injury; no, the greater health concerns for workers in modern industrialized countries relate to being too sedentary.

In many cases, you can do all this work that your ancestors wouldn’t even recognize as such while listening to music from any period of human history. You can do it in the comfort of air-conditioning, which follows you even while moving from place to place because you own a car that allows you to travel over long distances whenever you want. You can drive it to a grocery store with at minimum 30,000 different items in it, from all over the world, sold by people who look at a pack of name-brand English muffins (invented in the U.S. in 1894) selling for $4, say, “No, that’s too much,” and create their own generic-brand version for $1.50.

Was the unbelievable prosperity of the industrialized world inevitable? Absolutely not. A bunch of people over many years in many countries worked very hard to come up with new ideas and turn them into products and processes that would generate so much wealth that nobody has to be a peasant anymore.

There were lots of challenges along the way, including things such as pollution, dangerous working conditions, and cramped, unhygienic cities. But the industrial revolution has thrown off so much wealth that there’s enough left over to solve those problems too without sacrificing the higher living standards that come with it.

So what is Sanders’s plan to contribute to the great human endeavor of becoming wealthier while working less? Does he have an idea for the next automobile, a better management strategy, or the power loom for the 22nd century?

No, Sanders wants to write words on a page and have a couple hundred people vote for it. He has introduced a bill to mandate a 32-hour work week “with no loss in pay.” It would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to reduce the definition of full-time work from 40 hours per week to 32 hours. Pay wouldn’t go down because the bill says employers “may not reduce the total workweek compensation rate.”

That’s Sanders’s idea of progress. Pass a law that says everyone gets paid the same for doing less work, and then it happens. Done. Easy. The only reason it doesn’t happen is the greedy corporations.

“While CEOs are making nearly 350x as much as their employees, workers are missing their kids’ birthday parties and little league games…and many of them, STILL [sic] do not have enough money to pay the rent,” Sanders posted on social media in support of his bill.

Never mind that, according to a study published in 2018 in the Harvard Business Review, the super-wealthy CEOs working for major companies work 62.5 hours per week on average and work on 79 percent of weekend days and 70 percent of vacation days. If it’s really true that all we need to do to work less is pass a law, why is Sanders stopping at 32 hours?

If we only worked 30 hours a week for the same pay, we’d have even more time for birthday parties and little-league games. Sanders has noted, correctly, that American workers are 400 percent more productive today than they were in the 1940s. So why aren’t we only working eight hours per week? Is Sanders a corporate shill, forcing us all to still work 24 unnecessary hours per week to feed the greed of the C-suite?

People have been predicting short work weeks for years. In 1930, John Maynard Keynes thought we’d have 15-hour work weeks by now. In truth, we do work a little less. Average weekly working hours per worker has declined from about 39 in 1951 to about 34 today. But Keynes and everyone else who has made similar predictions forgets that humans have infinite wants.

We could easily produce 1950s levels of output only working a few hours per week. But that would mean 1950s levels of technology, 1950s levels of poverty, 1950s levels of housing, 1950s levels of air-conditioning, 1950s levels of food quality and variety — and it turns out nobody really wants that. So we keep working, and innovating, so we can be better off, not just as well off.

And more fundamentally, work isn’t something that humans put up with to get stuff. Yes, it’s something we strive to make easier. But working hard is a core part of being human. Maybe if you’re an 82-year-old socialist who has only worked in politics your entire life, you lose touch with what it means to be a productive member of society. But for the rest of us, we wouldn’t eliminate work even if we could.

Reprinted with permission from the National Review by The Editors.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AMAC or AMAC Action.

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Kdesq
Kdesq
2 months ago

That worthless sack of feces has NEVER worked an actual job in his entire life. His first full time job was as mayor of his city at 40, living with Mommy and Daddy. Typical communist manure.

Edward
Edward
2 months ago

Maybe Bernie needs to get a real job and do some hard work like I have done working sometimes 72 hour work week. Some weeks working 12 hour days Monday – Friday then working Saturday working 6 to 8 hours and then on Sunday 4 to 8 hours did this for almost 2 years. I think Bernie should go live in Russia

Larry
Larry
2 months ago

Stupid BurnMe Sanders will break the backs of businesses … small and large. He is out to destroy the USA

Thea
Thea
2 months ago

Preach it! I am on social security now, but I worked my way up from harvester to business graduate. I reared three children to be contributing members of society, mostly on my own. I am still fit as a seventy year old worker. I have a hobby farm that I plan to live off of and pass down someday, but not soon.

Michael Cajohn
Michael Cajohn
2 months ago

Sanders has never had a real job in his life. He is a life time politician and he is a life time socialist bordering on being a communist. He is a great example why there should be term limits on ALL our politicians as well as age restrictions.

Beck
Beck
2 months ago

Ditto to all comments. Thea, I’m with you. I’m on Social Security, too, and earned Every penny of it over my last 58 Years of working my “you-know-what” off! As measley as it is (Social Security) in today’s Biden economy and crushing of American Citizens, I’m grateful to have it. If Stupid BurnMe Sanders (I like that, Larry!) keeps wanting socialism, less working hours, etc. for America, yes, it will ruin all of us.

Jimmy Page
Jimmy Page
2 months ago

This coming from the “Socialist” that refused to share profits from his book with fellow citizens… when asked by Brett Bair and Martha MacCallum his answer was… “Yea right” He’s a fraud… just like the rest of his leftie Tree Huggers .

Jim
Jim
2 months ago

These swanky liberals always want something for nothing!

PhatMan
PhatMan
2 months ago

When Bernie was pressed on this issue, he lost self-control, waving his hands and voice to the reporter Mr. B.S. changed his attack from 32 hour work week to the rich need to be taxed!? Wait what? I thought the Dem-Socialist party ran on that issue 3.5 years ago? Gosh Mr. B.S. what happened? Why hasn’t your leader made good on his promise? With a stroke of a pen the rich could be made to pay their fair share, but then the real leaders won’t have none of that!

Tim Toroian
Tim Toroian
2 months ago

Bernie is an old elitist acting as a communist. Anybody who honeymooned in the USSR in the seventies should have never been in the US legislature. His constituents weren’t lied to; they were just stupid.

Chris
Chris
2 months ago

Excellent article.

Julia Robertson
Julia Robertson
2 months ago

When the government starts mandating rules in private companies like this, we’re on our way to Socialism!

Wayne
Wayne
2 months ago

This is just stupid.

jimm
jimm
2 months ago

The U.S. is a lazy society that cotinues to fall behind in manufacturing and technology.

anna hubert
anna hubert
2 months ago

If there is to be a true equality with those who represent us then we should not be required to work at all and be paid for it

Max
Max
2 months ago

Interesting, The Europeans have had a shorten work week for about 20 years. I am surprised that the US has finally figured it out and now are trying to make it official. The economy is in bad enough shape, now this fiasco.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
2 months ago

If America went to a 32 hour work week, they’d still end up doing 30 hours more work per week than these socialist dolts in Congress do. Pathetic. Hey Bernie, forgot to add the fact to your tweet how YOU make “350X more” than most poor workers do… And they actually WORK.

Mike Stevens
Mike Stevens
2 months ago

Who is John Galt? Apparently NEVER learning from history is Bernie’s forward thinking brain! And France just changed their rules about this because it was a FAILURE. WOW

Yvonne
Yvonne
2 months ago

This is the stupidest solution. The best solution is to terminate salary pay. Everyone should be eligible for flex time AND overtime both. 40 hrs max per week and everything over that is overtime. Bring back paid vacation time as well. If an employer doesn’t give the employee time off to take their vacation, then they must pay up. That is how it worked in my youth, not this lost vacation time, no coverage, no overtime garbage that started in the 2000s.

PoppaD
PoppaD
1 month ago

While the current employees get paid for 40 hrs on the job, many actually are productive for 30 to 50% of the time; Facebook, online shopping, private email are all accessed while at work. For new young workers, private online time is expected as part of their jobs, so a change to less that 40 hrs per week is necessary for business to thrive. Some production jobs allow for 40 hrs via 10 hr days, so long as the weekly quota is met. Some Healthcare jobs allow 12 hrs shifts (ie. nursing) for 36 hrs as equivalent to 40 hrs, and that is OK.

Ol'man
Ol'man
1 month ago

Old Bernie just never changes. For over 43 years he’s been selling his trash under the same pretense that if you throw enough crap at a wall something’s gotta stick. About the only time he does have something stick is in his reelection years. I wish Vermont would wise up…

Randall L. Beatty
Randall L. Beatty
2 months ago

He is the worst part of our government he is a government communist with his dumb ideas he is another that will destroy this country. Instead of dumb ideas he come’s up with why not try to fix the border he another Dem that does not care what comes into this country.

Dave
Dave
2 months ago

Oh great that’s wonderful most companies require you to work full-time 40 hours or more in order to get paid full benefits including most of the insurances. So you won’t be working enough hours to get paid Insurance you’ll have to pay for it yourself but you won’t be working enough hours to afford to pay for it shall we say. How much asinine ignorance can come from the rear end of this Administration wait don’t answer that because I know it’s more than American can possibly stand. And they will take up the challenge to produce more. God help

marty
marty
2 months ago

Socialist Bernie Sanders has along history of Non Work. He was kicked out of a kibbutz in Israel for non work , after honeymooning in Moscow , he took a job as a small town Mayo in New Hampshire, at least when he showed up. Finally ending up in the Senate as an independent (can’t even pick a side) ! Now he wants a 32 hour work week for the masses, not thinking of Employers and businesses. Does BS work 32 hours ? AzeroC does even better, she wants a 24 hour work week *she’s a Democrat Socialist ) She wants to go the way of the USSR ?.

John
John
2 months ago

Also, all the folks mentioned above (Keynes, et al) failed to take into account the fact that the price growth of virtually everything, but especially the big ticket items such as automobiles, homes, and the introduction of all today’s appliances and services not in broad existence in their days (major kitchen appliances, internet/satellite/widespread communications, and all the electronic gizmos we have today would become must-have products. I don’t believe it is so much that people’s wants and needs have unnecessarily expanded so much. Rather I believe that every household has to have them today because we simply cannot live on a small plot of land like most people did even back in the 1930s and 1940s. Simply put, American lives have become significantly more complex, requiring many must have items. Along with well beyond the cumulative CPI growth over the last 50 to 60 years of the big ticket items of houses, autos, and adding the new minimum standard of living necessities, today’s Americans have to work as many hours now as those same 50 to 60 years ago. Finally, the average American hourly pay has not exceeded the price increases noted by the cumulative consumer price index, so to a large degree I believe that typical families today have both parents working rather than the single parent working back in the 1950s and 1960s when I was barely past being a baby to barely being an adult by 1970. From an employers perspective the Sanders proposal would simply reduce output by 20% and the real unit cost of the remaining 80% output would be least 25% per cent more.

Stephan
Stephan
2 months ago

I wish I could comment but it never works and AMAC can’t figure out why.

bsandersfan
bsandersfan
2 months ago

feel the bern

bsandersfan
bsandersfan
2 months ago

feel the bern feel the bern feel the bern

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