Newt Gingrich: Child Labor Laws are Stupid

Print Share on LinkedIn More

November 21, 2011; Source: Los Angeles TimesOne of the most lauded “breakthrough” accomplishments of this sector has been the passage of child labor laws but Newt Gingrich feels that they are downright “stupid” and he’d like to see them eliminated. In fact he has a very specific proposal that would replace unionized school janitors with children who would, we assume in his model, not be unionized. Gingrich asserts that “the core policies of protecting unionization and bureaucratization” cripple children. “It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, in child laws, which are truly stupid,” he said in a speech given at Harvard University’s Kennedy School last Friday.

Gingrich says poor children need to adopt a work ethic. “Get any job that teaches you to show up on Monday,” he said. “Get any job that teaches you to stay all day even if you’re having a fight with your girlfriend. I mean, the whole process of making work worthwhile is central.”

Wait let me check my watch—think I lost track of the century.—Ruth McCambridge

  • pamela mcgrath

    😡 Glad he is dropping like a rock in the polls after his Fannie Mae lame excuse!
    Frightening ideas! Especially since the Republicans seem to want to cut any programs that could really give the poor – not to mention the middle class an advantage educationally or otherwise!

  • Louis Altman

    Ah yes, Gingrich of Far Right America, the feudal lord. Even a casual consumer of news in this country over time notices how Republicans work the media in lockstep, pandering to their base constituency and cannily pummeling the impressionable independent voting block with a velvet hammer. Two things the Republicans accomplish. First, as with Gingrich’s call for child slave labor to return, his wacky proposal renders more palatable to the masses less extreme but still conservative right agenda items–I can imagine Gingrich is softening the ground for a public condemnation of unions themselves. The second accomplishment of a unified rightist propaganda machine, like a Machiavellian Greek chorus, is to whitewash reality by repeatedly pronouncing even the most outlandish notions, in the process making a large percent of the public convinced of their veracity–the most galling joust in this direction I can recall is when Rudolph Giuliani and many other popular Republicans on national media outlets about a year ago stating that a terrorist attack never happened on President George Bush’s “watch” but that this was likely to happen under President Obama’s tenure in the Oval Office. Such a consistent message engine can actually have people glossing over the 800 pound gorilla, 9/11 itself. Scary indeed is the manipulation of facts at the hand of the right wing.

  • Michael J. Rosen

    Before I share my thoughts, I need to state one thing for the record: I am NOT a Newt Gingrich supporter. It’s not that I necessarily oppose him, it’s that I’m a Democrat and, therefore, cannot vote for or against him in the Republican Primary. So, I haven’t expended the energy on deciding which Republican I like or don’t. I’ll worry about who the Republican candidate is once that’s been decided and I can make a choice in the general election of 2012. Nevertheless, I would like to share my thoughts about Gingrich’s recent remarks and the comments posted here.

    Pamela, what polls are you referring to? You say that Gingrich is plummeting in the polls. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. In virtually all major national polls, Gingrich has risen to the top in November. The Real Clear Politics polling average has him leading the pack. Check it out here:

    Louis, you appear to have little understanding of “feudalism.” You state that Gingrich wants to be a “feudal lord.” In reality, he wants just the opposite. Under feudalism, common folk would work and provide a large portion of their production to the feudal lord who had the responsibility to take care of those under his protection. Frankly, that sounds more like the left-wing of the Democratic Party. What Gingrich is proposing is something that would allow the poor to gain a measure of independence.

    Pamela and Louis, I’d like to respectfully suggest that we’d all be better off avoiding overstatements. Let’s debate Gingrich on the FACTS. Please.

    On the facts, I’m not quite sure what Gingrich meant in his comment about child labor laws. He did NOT call for their repeal. So, does he want to repeal them or reform them? Does he even have an accurate understanding of what the child labor laws do or do not allow? I suspect, after actually listening to his remarks, that he does not. For example, he seems to suggest that the law bars those under age 16 from working which, of course, is not the case. Did Gingrich call for the “elimination” of child labor laws as Ruth stated in her post? Not the the tape I listened to:

    Finally, the media, including NPQ, seem to paint a Dickens-esque picture of Gingrich’s remarks. Folks seem to be offended by the notion that kids would work as janitors for pay.

    Unlike, I suspect, most media commentators, I actually grew up poor. I know what it’s like to be poor. I know what it’s like to fight for survival and independence.

    At the age of 8, I had my first job; it was my own lemonade stand. When I got a bit older, I helped my dad out fleamarketing for extra income. When I was 15, you’ll love this, I did indeed work as a janitor at my former elementary school one summer.

    Working as a janitor at 15 taught me several valuable lessons including: 1) It taught me the joy of hard work and a job well done. 2) It taught me the pain of physical labor. 3) It convinced me to work hard at school so that I would never have to do physical labor for a living in my adulthood. 4) I also learned a sense of pride from helping my family put food on the table and a roof over our heads. In summary, working as a child janitor built my self-esteem, helped my family, and motivated me.

    So, while I think that Gingrich’s remarks were clumsy and ill-informed, I don’t disagree with his core messages: 1) We need better schools, particularly in our poor communities. 2) Children should have the opportunities to work should they want to. 3) There’s nothing wrong with, indeed there is much to be gained from, a child working. I’m certainly not speaking of sending 8-year-olds into coal mines. But, I don’t think that’s what Gingrich was talking about either.

    By the way, while I’m a long way from being in the top 1%, I’m no longer poor.