Nov 21, 2011

Newt’s Solution on Income Inequality: Child Labor

Guest post by UFCW Assistant Director of Communications, Politics and Advocacy, Tim Schlittner: 

One of the best things to come out of the Occupy Wall Street movement has been a growing public awareness about income inequality.  The staggering gap between the super-rich and everyone else was highlighted in a recent report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The report showed that since 1979 the richest one percent of households have seen their income rise by 300 percent. The rest of us, meanwhile, saw our incomes rise by an average of 19 percent. 

So it is little wonder that former Speaker Newt Gingrich was asked about this important issue during a campaign appearance at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. What did he propose in response? Higher wages for workers? Repealing tax breaks for big corporations? A plan to put people back to work? Nope. His answer was a head-scratcher—even for this Republican presidential field.

“The 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,” he said.

So what is his plan to fix our broken schools? Fire the janitors and replace them with children. Really.

“It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in child laws which are truly stupid,” Gingrich said. “I tried for years to have a very simple model. These schools should get rid of unionized janitors, have one master janitor, pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work; they’d have cash; they’d have pride in the schools. They’d begin the process of rising.”

There is something stupid here and it’s not the “child laws.” Forget for a second that Gingrich hates unions so much that he’d rather have child labor than organized labor. What about all the janitors that would be fired under his plan? Does he really want the hard-working men and women who clean our nation’s schools to collect unemployment checks instead of paychecks? What about their children? Will they replace their mother and father at work?

“You’re going to see from me extraordinarily radical proposals to fundamentally change the culture of poverty in America,” Gingrich said. Clearly.

In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act which placed limits on many forms of child labor. This wasn’t to protect unionization or bureaucratization—it was to protect children from exploitation and injury. The low-income kids Newt Gingrich is claiming to care about should be learning in their schools, not cleaning them. Education is the key to their future in an economy where you earn what you learn.

But in Newt Gingrich’s world, child labor isn’t just a chapter in a history book. It’s a work-study program. And a plan to close the gap between the rich and the rest. Ladies and gentleman, this is your Republican presidential front-runner. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so sad.  

Here's the video - you have to see it to believe it!

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