Put that kid to work

I wonder. Do these guys know what comes out of their mouths is insane when they say it? Chances are they do, and they do it to get a visceral reaction from their Red State, red-meat ravaging base.

Newt Gingrich tonight said at an address at Harvard that child work laws “entrap” poor children into poverty – and suggested that a better way to handle failing schools is to fire the janitors, hire the local students and let them get paid for upkeep.

The comment came in response to an undergrad’s question about income equality during his talk at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

“This is something that no liberal wants to deal with,” Gingrich said. “Core policies of protecting unionization and bureaucratization against children in the poorest neighborhoods, crippling them by putting them in schools that fail has done more to create income inequality in the United States than any other single policy. It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid.

“You say to somebody, you shouldn’t go to work before you’re what, 14, 16 years of age, fine. You’re totally poor. You’re in a school that is failing with a teacher that is failing. I’ve tried for years to have a very simple model,” he said. “Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they’d begin the process of rising.”

Now, there are a lot of things you can call Newt Gingrich, but he’s not stupid. He’s a historian, and he well knows that child labor laws weren’t created because of unionization or bureaucratization or income inequality or the desire to keep kids under 16 from learning the value of work. They were created because pre-teens were working seven days a week in sweatshops or coal mines or cotton fields or some other ungodly labor that paid pennies (or script) for hours of work. He knows that before the era of child labor laws poor families made a choice of either sending their kids to school or to the mines or the factories.

Child labor was common at the turn of the century, and many families needed the income earned by their children to survive. The 1900 census counted 1.75 million individuals aged 10 to 15 who were gainful workers.9 At that time, these children comprised 6 percent of the labor force. There were no national laws that governed child labor, and while some States enacted and enforced such laws, most did not. By 1999, Federal and State law regulated child labor; and Federal law effectively prohibited full-time workers under the age of 16.

He knows that child labor exists today in Asia and that multinational corporations, like Apple, are putting kids through the conditions we won’t allow American children to be forced into.

And he knows that corporations would prefer child labor, because you don’t have to pay kids as much as an adult. Which means that more adults will lose jobs and be put in a position where they’ll have to put their kids to work to make ends meet.

But he pretends that the source of America’s economic problems is the fact that children aren’t allowed to earn a wage.

That’s a lie, and he knows it. And if his constituents let him get away with it, that’s the point where you have to shift your contempt away from him and toward the voters who support these radical, inhumane ideas.

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