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Dumb Ideas That Are Laws

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Laugh and Learn with Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich would like it if you continued to forget about his past and your future. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

The sound bites from Newt Gingrich can be hard to keep up with as many are comedic gold. Before incorporating the statements into our joke culture and keeping it there, let’s recognize the weight his comments hold. Take for instance his thoughts on child labor laws being “truly stupid.”

In Newt Gingrich’s world, the way to combat high unemployment rate in adults is to give their jobs to children, which will satisfy the child’s secret wish of being able to work and go to school. It’s a win-win-win.

“It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid. 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.” – Newt Gingrich, 11.19.2011 while speaking at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard

While calling the laws “truly stupid” and suggesting getting rid of unionized janitors is interesting, the part to focus on comes at “they’d begin the process of rising.” Ah, yes, money will cause them to rise. Making that $7.25 (minimum wage) an hour is going to help children skyrocket out of poverty! Forget the interference of their education, that hourly pay will make everything better.

Have a laugh with Ron Swanson, one of the best characters on Parks and Recreation, about child labor.

Gingrich isn’t advocating for the child to drop out of school to become a janitor. He thinks the child can handle the janitor position, attending classes and the burdens of poverty with no problems. At least he has faith in their endurance and strength of character. It’s still no excuse for such a stupid suggestion though.

Is Hiring Kids to be Janitors Really the Solution to Poverty?

In addition to waking up an hour early to catch the bus, and hoping their free breakfast is still available at school, they will be responsible for all the janitorial duties.  Do you know what a janitor does? How does it make you feel when Gingrich infers the job can be done by children? Let’s dig a little deeper.

Forget the education they could be receiving that could lead them to college and higher academic learning, just give them a broom and put them to work.  Forget helping their parents obtain employment. Forget about the unions that give janitors a voice. Forget about forcing a child to clean up after his peers and be singled out because of economic status.  This is to help them “rise.”

What this calls to light is again politicians are looking at short-term solutions that hurt people in the long term. Is it because they don’t care about poor children? Is it because they really think this is a good idea? I don’t pretend to know what goes on in D.C.’s imaginationland, but this should not be seen as good sense by the majority.

To empower children we should give them support and education. We shouldn’t take the job away from their parent and then put the burden on their small shoulders. Students already have a job; it’s called being a student. Studies repeatedly show as the hours teenagers work increase, their attendance and grades decrease. It’s no surprise Gingrich would try to limit the education of children though. Cutting education has been a tool of America’s repressive Congress regime since its inception (i.e. separate but equal, decreasing funding while increasing Congress salaries, No Child Left Behind).

Sometimes we resort to making things the butt of the joke in hope people will realize the obvious.

A Shared Opinion

Gingrich isn’t the only politicians to suggest creative ideas to help the nation’s unemployment rate. Michelle Bachmann said she was open to the idea of getting rid of the minimum wage all together as a way to attract more companies to America. This air of brilliance was uttered back in August when she still had a small chance.

Lawmakers in Wisconsin responded to lobbying from the Wisconsin Grocers Association by repealing acts that limited the hours 16 and 17-year-olds may work. Apparently, the Wisconsin Grocers Association was “confused” between the differences between the federal and state laws. Instead of asking for an explanation, they asked for a change in the law. The new law places no limits on daily or weekly hours while still banning teenagers from working during school hours. The Wisconsin Grocers Association says the new law will help teenagers be able to compete against unemployed adults. Yeah, I’m sure it will. I’m sure the adults on unemployment thank the lobbying grocers association for their service.

Politicians in Maine increased the number of hours teenagers may work from 20 to 24, but it doesn’t go as far as the originally presented bill. The first proposal by a Republican senator would have rolled back all hour restrictions and lowered the minimum wage for teenagers to $5.25.

This type of thinking isn’t only in America. In the UK, unemployed youth live under the threat of having their benefits revoked if they refuse to work for supermarkets and grocers for free during a “cooling off period” which could last up to 90 days. The Guardian revealed that disturbing story last week.

To take Newt Gingrich’s comments as fluff and to move on is not the right step. Child labor laws and reducing education for the poor is a constant conversation in politics. Let’s listen, but how long can we laugh when we know these types of ideas are already legislation?

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