The Audacity of No Shame: Gingrich/Santorum Edition

There are policies  supported by today’s Republicans that go beyond long standing American Values. Is this really still the party of Abraham Lincoln?  Last night at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Newt Gingrich said that child work laws “entrap” poor children into poverty.  He went beyond  this to suggest “that the best way of handle failing schools is to fire the janitors, hire the local students and let them get paid for upkeep”.

“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.”

He added, “You go out and talk to people, as I do, you go out and talk to people who are really successful in one generation. They all started their first job between nine and 14 years of age. They all were either selling newspapers, going door to door, they were doing something, they were washing cars.”

“They all learned how to make money at a very early age,” he said. “What do we say to poor kids in poor neighborhoods? Don’t do it. Remember all that stuff about don’t get a hamburger flipping job? The worst possible advice you could give to poor children. Get any job that teaches you to show up on Monday. Get any job that teaches you to stay all day even if you are in a fight with your girlfriend. The whole process of making work worthwhile is central.”

The former House Speaker acknowledged that it was an unconventional pitch, saying, “You’re going to see from me extraordinarily radical proposals to fundamentally change the culture of poverty in America and give people a chance to rise very rapidly.”

I do believe that it’s just a matter of time when we see them suggest the return of forced labor and poor farms.  Earlier today, I found this video from Santorum suggesting the Christian thing to do was to allow people without jobs and food to suffer.  I wasn’t raised Catholic, but my understanding of that particular brand of Christianity is that outreach and care for the poor has been a central part of the church’s core mission for years.  Michelle Bachmann has already suggested letting the unemployed starve.

“Our nation needs to stop doing for people what they can and should do for themselves. Self reliance means, if anyone will not work, neither should he eat.”

Is the new Republican pogrome one that forces the poor to sell the children which is basically what happens in undeveloped nations all over the world?

Are they suggesting we return to a time of indentured servitude and child slavery?  It seems that way to me.  Labor reforms of the 20th century included laws regulating the use of children as workers.   These have essentially been core US values since the very dawn of the 20th century.  The attempts to let children be children instead of the property of their parents and others to be used as slaves was enshrined in national law via Labor Standards Act in 1938.  The movement to end enslavement of children in the US began as early as the 19th century in 1832 New England.

The New England Association of Farmers, Mechanics and Other Workingmen resolve that “Children should not be allowed to labor in the factories from morning till night, without any time for healthy recreation and mental culture,” for it “endangers their . . . well-being and health”

The mental, emotional, and physical development of children is such that they are endangered in many working environments.  They don’t have the physical or mental maturity to make all kinds of basic decisions and they certain don’t have the physical or emotional power to stand up to exploitative adults.   You can see this in  the exploitation of children by pedophiles in positions of power of children like priests, doctors, coaches, scout leaders, and teachers..  Children are the least among us to be able to stand up to bad situations and bad people.  That’s exactly why our laws protect them.  However, the pro-slavery argument of “states’ rights” has resurrected itself in a new brand of neoconfederacy.

Newly elected extremist Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah has argued that child labor laws are actually unconstitutional.  This is the Tea Party candidate that took down Bob Bennett. It is easy to see the anti-labor regulation ideology of the Koch Brothers and others in the rhetoric.  They clearly want to remove 20th century labor laws.

“Congress decided it wanted to prohibit that practice, so it passed a law. No more child labor. The Supreme Court heard a challenge to that law, and the Supreme Court decided a case in 1918 called Hammer v. Dagenhardt,” Lee said. “In that case, the Supreme Court acknowledged something very interesting — that, as reprehensible as child labor is, and as much as it ought to be abandoned — that’s something that has to be done by state legislators, not by Members of Congress.”

Lee’s reasoning was that labor and manufacturing are “by their very nature, local activities” and not “interstate commercial transactions.” He added: “This may sound harsh, but it was designed to be that way. It was designed to be a little bit harsh.”

The key Congressional law that addresses child labor is the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which placed a series of restrictions against the employment of people under 18 in the public and private sectors.

The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the law in the 1941 United States v. Darby Lumber decision, overturning Hammer, on the basis of the constitutional authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. It has hardly run into controversies since.

Lee said he was not opposed to laws regulating child labor, but merely insisted they be controlled by state governments, not Congress. The issue of states rights is particularly popular in Utah, widely known as America’s most conservative state.

The slippery return to slavery and women and children as property is again cloaked in the mantel of “state’s rights”. There’s been a Maine bill already seeking to overturn child labor laws.   There are ongoing efforts in other states to also dismantle laws protecting children from exploitation.  Missouri seems to have jumped on the child labor bandwagon also.

Maine State Rep. David Burns is the latest of many Republican lawmakers concerned that employers aren’t allowed to do enough to exploit child workers:

LD 1346 suggests several significant changes to Maine’s child labor law, most notably a 180-day period during which workers under age 20 would earn $5.25 an hour.

The state’s current minimum wage is $7.50 an hour.

Rep. David Burns, R-Whiting, is sponsoring the bill, which also would eliminate the maximum number of hours a minor over 16 can work during school days.

Burns’ bill is particularly insidious, because it directly encourages employers to hire children or teenagers instead of adult workers. Because workers under 20 could be paid less than adults under this GOP proposal, minimum wage workers throughout Maine would likely receive a pink slip as their twentieth birthday present so that their boss could replace them with someone younger and cheaper.

And Burns is just one of many prominent Republicans who believe that America’s robust protections against the exploitation of children are wrongheaded:

It’s easy to image what kind of jobs children could be forced to do under this new Republican form of child servitude.  Farm labor comes to my mind.  Since Alabama has moved to vacate their migrant worker population, can forcing the unemployed, children, and prisoners to toil in farms for less than minimum wage be far behind?  What kind of country would undo the legal protection of its most vulnerable citizens?  These candidates repulse me.  How disingenuous is it of Newt to suggest that you can move quickly out of poverty by farming your child out as free/cheap labor?

41 Comments on “The Audacity of No Shame: Gingrich/Santorum Edition”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    Dak, this is the same Newt Gingrich who “championed” orphanages and poorhouses back in the day if memory serves.

    It used to be that during the presidential campaigns you might get one idiot who was considered mildly amusing but this year we have a bounty of idiots to choose from.

    Hard to put a stamp on which one of these morons stands out from the others. With the exception of Jon Huntsman, who, to be fair, is the least one called upon during the debates, the others are all batshit crazy to a large degree and in the company of sane people would otherwise be ignored.

    I have to check my surroundings every now and then when they are “debating” to be sure I am not stuck on the subway with some of New York’s finest nutjobs!

  2. janicen says:

    I think that their latest tactic is to toss this insanity out there and when liberal politicians dismiss it as insanity the Republicans howl that the liberals are not being bipartisan. Then an actual discussion of stuff we thought unimaginable begins. I wonder what compromise Obama will come up with to appease the Republicans on this topic.

  3. Susan says:

    Since both Gingrich and Santorum have both spent a fair amount of their lives sucking off the government teat, so to speak, while offering nothing of value in return, I think they should both be charged with theft and imprisoned.

  4. Peggy Sue says:

    It does appear that the GOP contenders are trying to outbest one another in outrageous suggestions. When I first heard someone mention upending Child Labor Laws, I thought they [it was probably Lee] were just trying to grab the headlines with fringe ideas. But the fact that so many of these Republicans are willing to duckwalk on every looney [and frankly immoral] policy suggestion is appalling. All you need do is read about the kids in coal mines and factories at the turn of the last century to know that when it comes to exploitation, the industrialists knew no shame. Children were made old before their time. And photographs have recorded that. Flip through a few. The children are dead in the eyes. And often their health was ruined before they ever got a start in life.

    If we want to pull people out of poverty then we have to be serious about education, premier education for all our children. Those without an academic interest could opt for vocational and skilled trade training. There’s no excuse that you can flip through zip codes and make a very accurate prediction about the level of schooling a particular group/district can expect and the future they will have. Same holds true for school lunch/nutrition plans. Sorry, pizza sauce is not a vegetable and greasy french fries does not a balanced diet make. There’s something very telling that we’re spending gobs of money on imprisoning people but balk at offering top notch education or decent nutrition to our kids. Even if you take an entirely self-interested stand, we [as a country] cannot waste good talent and energy and expect to compete in the global market.

    We either make an investment in our children and people. Or we don’t. But I would argue that people are our most important resource as a country. And our children, all of our children, represent our future. It’s a pay me now or pay me later proposition.

    Btw, I see that Pat mentioned Jon Huntsman. I happened to catch Huntsman on Morning Joe this week and he was extremely impressive. I’m not a conservative in any way but Huntsman is a serious, intelligent and articulate man. His firsthand knowledge of China puts him head and shoulders above the pack. And yet, he’s the Forgotten Man and [according to TP types] is nothing more than a Democrat in disguise.

    I don’t know where these ideas are coming from but they’re crazed and are repeated like a mantra. Huntsman could beat Obama. I’d bet he could beat him handily. Which makes me wonder if Republicans really want to win. Or just make noise.

    • Outis says:

      You are so right. And yet, these are THE SAME people who scream about every life being precious so they must police all uteri to save the beautiful babies. Well, when these beautiful babies get old enough to walk, they better start earning their keep! Or else! And these beautiful babies better not come out gay or colored either! Let em starve!

      I am pretty tolerant of religious ideas as I want each person to have the freedom to think and choose for themselves. But I’m getting very very VERY angry at these evangelicals and their mongrel thought. First off, they know nothing of the religion they so fervently foist on the rest of us. I swear, I’ve never heard people so ignorant of the document they espouse to live by and take literally!! I grew up with no religion whatsoever being from a mixed home, and sweet jaysus, I know far more than these cretins who go to church 4 times a week. And as Dak mentioned earlier, when you ask them if they’ve heard of the apocrypha or “one Iota of difference” from the council of Nicene, they look at you like confused puppies. I can’t freaking take the stupidity! PLEASE make it stop!

      • dakinikat says:

        Most of them have no idea about the Nicene Council and what went on. Especially the number of votes it took to make Jesus divine. They also have no idea that the Horus and Mithras stories are the same as the Jesus story. Mithras’ birthday is December 25th even. It’s amazing how they can be so unaware of all the edit in the bible to. Especially all the late edits to the jesus family tree to when they were trying to convince several sets of Jewish communities to convert. There are many documented revisions to Mark. All this stuff is so easy to find in historical documents compared to anything remotely supporting the stories these folks accept as true now. Newt’s history credential only go so far, I guess.

    • bostonboomer says:

      A policy like this would also turn kids into criminals and probably violent criminals.

      Interestingly, the child labor laws developed after the Industrial revolution because so many adults needed work. Previously families had lots of children so they’d have extra hands for the farm work, but once the Industrial revolution pushed people into cities, the adults found themselves competing with kids for jobs. That’s when social workers and psychologists “discovered” adolescence as a separate stage of development. Previously girls were expected to get married by 13 or 14 years old. Remember in Romeo and Juliet, Juliet was 14 and Romeo was 16, I think. They were treated like adults.

      Anyway I’m totally outraged by this. Why aren’t Democrats countering it? Why isn’t Obama speaking out about it? And BTW, there aren’t too many unionized janitors anyway! What happens to their families when they get laid off for child workers? Someone needs to ask Newt about that.

      • In the 80’s, Most janitors in the Los Angeles were african american, and they were making a livable wage of somewhere around 12 or 13 dollars an hour. 20 years later and the hourly rate has dropped in half, and most of the janitors are not african american.

  5. In Japan, that’s how they do it in regards to custodial work, the students do it, there apparently are no custodians, or maybe there is a head custodian and that’s it.

    In Japan, there apparently is a lot less credit card debt, perhaps there is a connection?

  6. I’m also not tracking with the defense of lazy young kids. I’m also not tracking with the apparent of LOTS of lazy young kids either.

    it’s pretty much a known fact that the poorer one is, the more kids they have. There are valid reasons for this, but as the ratio of resources to those wanting the resources grow, having lots of kids is not that cute anymore.

  7. madamab says:

    The Party of Scrooge.

    “Are there no prisons? No workhouses?” keeps running through my mind. Are we really that surprised these “people” (and I use the term loosely) want to return to the heady first days of the Industrial Revolution, when women, children and other disposable non-persons like those with skins darker than theirs, were forced into sweatshops and factories, working in horrifying, life-ending conditions?

    Think about it – there were no environmental regulations, no unions, women couldn’t vote, there were debtor’s prisons…sounds like an Austerian’s paradise.

  8. freespirit says:

    The Republicans are off the chain! They’re going to blow what once appeared to be a good opportunity to beat Obama. Of course, Obama and cronies typically find a way to come up with the needed votes, no matter who’s running against him – often in very creative ways. Remember 2008… he wanted Hillary’s votes, he got ’em. He didn’t want Hillary supporters to vote in caucuses – they were locked out and scared away, It didn’t matter if folks were ineligible to vote, if they were dead, or if they never actually existed – he wanted their votes, and he got ’em.

    Even if the Pubs had a candidate who wasn’t batshit crazy, beating Obama would not be easy. Still, you would think that someone in that party would be smart enough to beat the clowns currently leading the pack.

  9. dakinikat says:

    One-in-four mothers with a recent birth were in poverty in 2008. However, only
    6 percent of new mothers received public assistance

    Actually, if you look at this table:

    It looks like the highest birth rates were in the middle incomes … $35,000 – $75,000

    This is from the fertility studies done in the 2008 US census

  10. Caro says:

    Prisons are the new poor houses.

    Carolyn Kay