During a public address at John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich slammed what he believes to be economically suffocating child labor laws, calling it an issue that "no liberal wants to deal with," writes David Teich at Talking Points Memo.
After announcing his desire to roll back Social Security, Newt Gingrich has stepped up his quest to tackle decades-old New Deal policies. Gingrich blames child labor restrictions for doing "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 inâ¦child laws, which are truly stupid," said Gingrich.
"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," he added. "The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they'd begin the process of rising."
In poverty stricken K-12 districts, Mr. Gingrich said that schools should enlist students as young as 9 to mop hallways and bathrooms, and pay them a wage, writes Trip Gabriel at the New York Times.
"You say to somebody, you shouldn't go to work before you're what, 14, 16 years of age, fine," Mr. Gingrich said.
"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. 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."
These comments are reminiscent of Gingrich's 1994 proposal of bringing back orphanages for children on welfare. After the Harvard event, Gingrich was quickly labeled "Dickensian" by people commenting on Twitter.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called Mr. Gingrich's proposal "absurd":
"Who in their right mind would lay off janitors and replace them with disadvantaged children — who should be in school, and not cleaning schools.
"And who would start backtracking on laws designed to halt the exploitation of children?"
Despite Gingrich's propensity for touting his credentials as a historian, Teich points out that America's first major federal child labor restrictions were enacted amidst an economic crisis even worse than today's:
President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act during the Great Depression, because many adults were so desperate for work they were willing to take low-paying jobs normally reserved for children.