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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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The Fear of Dissent

Police officers around the world employed as defense against dissent are responding to protesters with violence. From the massacres taking place in Syria and Tahrir, to pepper spraying students at UC Davis, to injuring veterans in Oakland…the brutal attempts to silence dissent are shocking. For Americans still living inside the “American Dream Democracy” bubble, it is almost incomprehensible to think of a country shooting and killing their own, simply for protesting against the ruling regime. Pop that bubble. It’s happening in America and has always happened.

The above video is from a student protest at CUNY on November 21, 2011. Students were protesting against proposed tuition increases. They were not allowed to attend the meeting about the proposal and were instead arrested for protesting. In addition, witnesses to the police state were told to leave.

Remember America was founded because of a protest against taxation with representation (a point of discussion I think we’ve returned to). Watch the videos and study the images of people being beaten, arrested, shot, and killed over what they are saying.

Is what they are saying so scary to the regime that it must be met with violence? Are breaking park rules a justification for police brutality? Is demanding a voice in the world you live in the wrong thing to say? Think about why dissent is so scary. Stop thinking about the “laws” being “broken” and the tents. Start questioning why protest isn’t being allowed.

A young man runs through tear gas in Tahrir on November 22, 2011.

The right of free speech involves me shouting at the top of my lungs what I believe and listening to you shout at the top of yours what you believe; even if those two things are completely opposite. We have to respect each other’s rights to retain our own. We have to demand our rights when they are taken from us. We have to speak out when rights are taken away from others.

Libya Free of Gaddafi But Not Gaddafi Regime

The death of Muammar Gaddafi brings freedom to Libya in symbol alone. Politicians speculate what comes after Gaddafi could be worse, people in Libya are concerned about the National Transitional Council, and the world waits to see if Libya will be a “friend” or “foe.” One way Libya and the rest of the world can measure the change is through the ideology endorsed by those in power. Rebels may have killed Gaddafi, but a tyrant is always more than the man himself.

Gaddafi used ideology to control the country for 42 years; he didn’t use violence alone. He printed The Green Book describing a true democracy, which is a democracy free of communism and capitalism. While the wealth of Libya did increase when Gaddafi took power (he demanded a larger percent from the oil companies) the results were not felt in mass (i.e. they didn’t trickle down). Gaddafi outlawed political dissent, employed informant groups, and limited who held power. His state controlled media guarded headlines, pictures, stories and videos making it easier for Gaddafi to wield power.

Rebels in Libya celebrate their freedom over Gaddafi, but still allow a state controlled media.

Violence outshines ideology because it is easier to comprehend. People can imagine a man being shot, but we have a hard time grasping our thought process and how it is constructed by what’s around us. We especially have a hard time admitting that our decision may have been made for us. Ideology is a long-term solution on how to maintain power. Gaddafi ruled Libya for 42 years making him the fourth longest ruling non-royal leader since 1900 and the longest ruling Arab ruler. Let’s talk about the violence, sure, but let’s mention Gaddafi’s other tactics of control and instilling fear. The state controlled media is a constant source of lies because it comes direct from the state.

Libya is not the only country dealing with this issue. BBC, as reputable as people want them to be, should always be remembered as a state controlled medium. China, Russia, America and every other country with a printing press experiences the same issue. People must be given the knowledge to question everything they are told so they are aware of the lack of objectivity in a report. What Gaddafi said was true and any questions could result in a person disappearing. A month before the rebellion began in February articles appeared describing Gaddafi as the savior of Libya. We cannot accept any source as our only source, people must have access to information.

With the uprisings in Iran, Egypt, Libya and the like many have pointed to the Internet for being the difference maker. Since videos can be uploaded onto youtube and seen around the world (that is if country’s don’t have the site blocked) people see a different reality. When Libyan rebels were ready to take the capital of Tripoli in August, Gaddafi was heard on the controlled TV station and radio station claiming victory over the rebels was imminent. Even though he claimed victory was certain, Gaddafi pressed women and young men to join in the fight against the rebels:

“All Libyans must be present in Tripoli, young men, tribal men and women must sweep through Tripoli and comb it for traitors,” the Libyan leader said. “I have been out a bit in Tripoli discreetly, without being seen by people, and … I did not feel that Tripoli was in danger,” he added. August 23, 2011

When the city of Tripoli was taken by the rebels, Gaddafi returned to the airwaves to claim his departure from the capital was only a strategy and declared victory against the rebels. Look at your window and see the rebels ruling the street, but listen to your leader and don’t recognize the rebel. Pretty brazen.

Let’s remember Gaddafi convinced people he lived in a tent. When they discovered Lamborghinis, and gold draped compounds, it was a big awakening. If Libya is going to avoid a repeat, and end a civil war, then the discourse of ideas must be open. There cannot be one source of information and people cannot accept only hearing one side of an issue. People, including those in Libya, have to recognize there is more than one side to a story. In fact there are two, three, four, five…an endless number.

Paintings of Gaddafi are defaced by Libyans.

People have to be aware of the untrustworthiness of the media at all levels no matter how much they read. If a leader takes away your right to have an opinion of your own then that person should not remain in power. The people of Libya finally overturned their person but can they overturn his ideas? And what can the rest of the world take away from Libya? Are we going to continue to trust the controlled media and whatever our leaders say without question? Can we see the dangers it caused in Libya and use that to find dangers in our own environment?

The people of Libya start their true rebellion now. Killing off supporters, and Gaddafi himself, doesn’t take away the rigid rules of life, negative view of Israel, mistreatments to other ethnicities, and the lack of civil rights. Are the people of Libya going to continue to think and live this way under a new ruling power? If the answer is no then recognizing the dangers of controlled media must be one of the first steps.