Support for child-labor laws was taken as a given for much of the 20th century. Not anymore.
Newt Gingrich proposed a plan Friday that would allow poor children to clean their schools for money, saying such a setup would both allow students to earn income and endow them with a strong work ethic.
Speaking at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the former House Speaker said his system would be an improvement on current child labor laws, which he called “truly stupid.”
As Gingrich sees it, children who go to school but don’t take on part-time jobs get “entrapped” by poverty. The disgraced former House Speaker would prefer that school districts fire “unionized janitors,” and instead pay kids to maintain their own schools.
In Gingrich’s model, children would start earning outside income as early as age 9. He wasn’t kidding.
Let’s also not forget the larger context. In Maine, for example, Gov. Paul LePage (R) launched an effort to roll back the state’s child-labor laws, and a similar measure was introduced in Missouri earlier this year. As we talked about in January, a sitting U.S. Senator, Utah’s Mike Lee (R), has argued that federal child-labor laws violate the Constitution and shouldn’t even exist.
Remember when there were accepted political norms that helped define the American mainstream? Basic policy tenets that both major parties accepted, largely without question?
I don’t know when or if those days are coming back.