The Audacity of No Shame: Gingrich/Santorum EditionPosted: November 19, 2011
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.
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:
- Maine State Sen. Debra Plowman (R) introduced a separate bill that would extend the number of hours employers can require a minor to work. Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) backs this proposal.
- Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) delivered a lengthy lecture where he claimed that federal child labor laws violate the Constitution. His Republican colleagues in the Senate rewarded him with a seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee — the committee with jurisdiction over constitutional questions.
- Missouri State Sen. Jane Cunningham (R) introduced a bill which would “eliminate the prohibition on employment of children under age fourteen. Restrictions on the number of hours and restrictions on when a child may work during the day are also removed.”
- Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s (R) most recent brief attacking the Affordable Care Act relies heavily on a discredited Supreme Court decision striking down a federal child labor law that was overruled decades ago.
- Judges Roger Vinson and Henry Hudson, the two outlier judges who struck down the ACA, also relied heavily on this discredited anti-child labor decision in their decisions.
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?