A couple of weeks ago, Newt Gingrich described existing child-labor laws as “truly stupid.” As the disgraced former House Speaker 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.
Yesterday in Iowa, the Republican presidential hopeful was asked if he could elaborate on this point. Unfortunately, he did, arguing, “Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits for working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday.”
Gingrich added that poor children are probably criminals. “They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’… unless it’s illegal,” he said.
Over at the Monthly‘s Ten Miles Square blog, Rick Ungar said the far-right Republican went “way over the line,” and I couldn’t agree more.
Could it possibly be that the self-professed, master of the big idea managed to miss the fact that there are more than 10 million low-income (earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level) working families in this country — representing 45 million Americans, 22 million of which are children?
These are the very people who live in the poor neighborhoods that Gingrich is talking about -the communities where Newt seems to believe that people don’t understand working for a dollar unless it involves doing something illegal.
I’ve been closely following politics for much of my life — and, in my case, that’s a pretty long time — and I am comfortable in saying that Newt’s speech may well be the most offensive political speech I have ever heard spoken by an American politician.
Ungar added that Gingrich’s comments are the kind of “utterings one might expect from an imbecile who grew up in a community so shielded from the poor that such a person simply could not know any better.”
Exactly. Gingrich’s assumptions are the kind one might expect from someone who not only has a personal disgust for low-income families, but also has never met or talked to low-income families. He’s popping off on a subject he doesn’t understand, about communities he’s never seen, all in the hopes of justifying his contempt for child-labor laws that have been a standard part of American life for generations.
Gingrich’s perspective is as wrong as it is morally repugnant.