Newt Gingrich calls child-labor laws "stupid"

If you've ever seen the musical Oliver!, chances are you didn't walk out of the theater thinking that the main character was a lazy, entitled asshole who didn't need another helping of gruel as much as he needed a swift kick in the shorts. Well, apparently, there is one person in America who thought that, and he's currently fucking running for fucking President. During an appearance at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, GOP candidate Newt Gingrich called child labor laws "stupid," arguing,  "it is tragic what we do in the poorest of neighborhoods, entrapping children in... child laws, which are truly stupid."

But wait! Maybe that just seems horrible out of context. Maybe he said "entrapping children in child laws, which are truly stupid... if the children in question appeared in Baby Geniuses, because damn, that was a stupid movie." Or maybe he followed up his statement by tugging on a cord, releasing a giant shower of Smartees from a trap door, and gleefully tossing them to the audience.

However, it seems like none of these things happened, and Newt does, in fact, believe that child labor laws are stupid:

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... you're going to see from me extraordinarily radical proposals to fundamentally change the culture of poverty in America.

So correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like Gingrich is proposing that poor children — presumably under the age of fourteen, which is the minimum age for minors to work under the Fair Labor Standards Act — get off their poor, tiny asses and start scrubbing urinals for a few bucks an hour, or perhaps run for district superintendent. Clearly, this man has read the Wayside School series enough times to think that it serves as an appropriate model for public education; of course, it does not, and the Industrial Revolution similarly does not serve as a template for modern-day child labor laws. 

Commentarium (48 Comments)

Nov 21 11 - 7:05pm

I think you need to calm down and get some more information before you go presuming that Gingrich intended children younger than 14 to work as janitors.

Nov 21 11 - 7:10pm
There is

plenty of information regarding the walking hypocrite known as Newt Gingrich. Nobody should "calm down" considering he is seeking the highest office in the United States.

Nov 21 11 - 8:08pm

So he'll put poor kids to work taking over the janitorial jobs their dads got fired from. Brilliant! It looks so much better to pay kids crap wages than it does an adult trying to support a family. Though if he just outsourced janitorial jobs to staffing companies that hire illegal immigrants he'd get even CHEAPER (still possibly child) labor!

OR just introduce a janitorial sciences class in every school. That way, you'd have seven classes of 40 kids per day scrubbing the toilets and mopping the halls for school credit. Fuck home-ec, shop, and study hall.

Lots of people have been saying we should follow China's model in boosting our economy. Child labor is the logical first step. Happiness through work!

Nov 21 11 - 9:06pm

Fwiw; maintenance personnel get paid pretty decently.

Nov 21 11 - 10:03pm

Sounds like a bright future then.

Nov 22 11 - 12:41pm
@There is

Sut up fuckstick. Everyone knows you are an idiot.

Nov 22 11 - 2:20pm

Ok, conservatroll. Try typing when you're not drunk.

Nov 22 11 - 5:03pm

Yoo ar stoopid.

Nov 23 11 - 1:27pm


Nov 21 11 - 7:44pm

Well, he's already fundamentally changed the culture of marriage (just ask any of his exes) - why not this too?

Nov 21 11 - 8:59pm
John Son

Hey Publius, did you not watch this video? I know your shtick is to just come to the defense of those poor Republicans every time they get horribly attacked on this website, but your buddy the Newt says it himself: "You say to somebody you shouldn't go to work before you're what... 14, 16 years of age."
So what exactly did he mean by that which escapes our deprived liberal brains? Enlighten us once more, Publius, with your amazing trolling powers.

Nov 21 11 - 9:42pm

Ask politely and I'll respond. Call names and I'll pass. It's up to you.

Nov 21 11 - 10:41pm

o.k. Publius, please tell us what Mr. Gingrich means when he says that child labor laws should be relaxed. Please defend, explicate, or clarify this conservative view toward children.

Nov 21 11 - 11:55pm
John Son

And surprisingly, he says nothing.

Nov 22 11 - 1:33am

Gingrich said what he said. Students of some age - 14 and up, maybe? - would be given the opportunity to accomplish some of the needed tasks around the school in exchange for an equitable wage. Presumably, this would be voluntary.

I need not defend Gingrich's idea; judge it on its own merits. The author's overreaching contention that it would mark a return Dickensian london is moronic.

Do you work with at-risk kids who might be affected by something like this plan? I do and the impact would be, in my opinion, significant and laudable. Not only would the kids earn some money, they would also, ideally, have role models that could show them the satisfaction of a job well done and gain some pride in controlling their own destinies. We are in the midst of losing an entire generation of kids.

If that's a "conservative view" on children, so be it. It would be interesting to know what the countervailing "liberal view" would suggest that we do.

And surprisingly, I did answer. You needn't be in such a rush, Son. Sometimes it takes me more than an hour to get back to nerve.

Nov 22 11 - 11:24am
John Son

The main problem here is that this would work "ideally." In reality, this is not how child labor ever works, and that is the main problem. I think a good many of us, if not most, did work before legal age, under the table as lolwut mentions, more or less happily or voluntarily, and got more or less out of it. I don't deny that many kids could benefit from it, and not just at-risk kids. In fact, I could see privileged kids benefiting from it too. The kind of apprenticeship Gingrich describes is indeed laudable, but he makes it sound like it hinges on lowering the minimum age requirement. How exactly is 14 such a big obstacle to Gingrich's apprenticeship idea? Child labor laws already provide for these scenarios, for kids of 14 years of age, or under if working on family farms.
There are actually good reasons those laws came into effect in the first place. I'm not really surprised that Gingrich would ignore those reasons, since he's sold to the very interests that would abuse the kind of space repelling child labor laws would give them. They ( any sportswear corporation will work here) do it all over the Third World, and the main reason they don't do it (too much) here is child labor laws. You don't have to go as far as Dickens to see how badly kids fare without labor laws; those laws were only passed at the federal level in 1938 in the US.

Nov 22 11 - 12:02pm

Do you really think the evil corporations would want the publicity that child labor would endure? School districts? Why is 16 a magic age in many jurisdictions? I don't think anyone is suggesting that this be an open-loop process.

Nov 22 11 - 1:00pm

Sorry. Stopped reading. Posts too long for cave man brain.

But is that guy actually trying to defend that shit! haha

Just have a good laugh with the rest of us and pray to whatever you pray to that that man does not continue to hold public office!

Nov 22 11 - 2:22pm

Publius, the corporations already have child labor forces. You think they really give a shit what people think if they finally get to enslave American kids too? Please...

Nov 23 11 - 1:15am

All corporations, Um? Wow, who knew! And, yes, I do think people care if "corporations" enslave kids.

Nov 23 11 - 1:27pm
No they don't care

because they all wear clothing manufactured by child labor and use electronics manufactured by child labor, etc. They don't give a fuck as long as it's not *their* kids.

Nov 25 11 - 3:26pm

So it's safe to assume that you patronize companies that use child labor? After all, they're not your kids?

I don't and assume most others won't either.

Nov 27 11 - 1:10pm
Don't try

to distract from the point: US Corporations already use child labor. You can't escape this unless you live in a fucking cave and grow your own food.

Nov 21 11 - 9:00pm

Why do American let these people ascend to power (granted, bureaucratic power, but still)?

Nov 21 11 - 10:05pm

When I was 13, I worked at a local bookstore. Everything was under the table - I filled out a timecard every day, and I got my money in an envelope every other Friday. I didn't work too much (a couple days a week for a few hours at a time), but I earned enough to buy a few packs of Magic cards (from the same bookstore, hilariously enough) and bottles of Yoo-Hoo from the bait & tackle shop down the block.

Newt Gengrich is still a douche though.

Nov 21 11 - 10:48pm
I Guess He Doesn't

I guess he doesn't want the soccer mom vote.

Nov 21 11 - 11:23pm

In Japan kids clean their schools for no pay. They also spend less per student and kick our ass in academics.

Nov 21 11 - 11:52pm

And they also have an extremely high suicide rate due to extreme societal pressures generally revolving around school/work... soooooo... KAWAII DESUUUUU.

Nov 22 11 - 2:55am
Bruce leeA

Actually, the suicide rate in Japan for young people 15-24 is lower than you'd think. Sure, the country is high stress but changes in academic policy and changes in the societies attitudes towards work have made a significant dent in the suicide rate. These days, the elderly and people over 50 are the highest numbers.
And yes, they are still kicking our asses in academics.

Nov 22 11 - 10:01am

So shut up and move there, America-Hater!

Nov 22 11 - 1:02pm

School is taking seriously in Asia. It's not in North America and good luck importing their cultural habits here. It won't happen.

Nov 22 11 - 6:19pm

American's value Huckleberry Finn style "learning" it's a cultural thing. Oh and what's with the "KAWAII DESUUUUU" ? :/

Nov 21 11 - 11:57pm

Why doesn't he just come right out and say it? Newt has been marathoning "Toddlers and Tiaras" and if those little girls get paid for being beautiful, then why the shit can't everyone else get off their tiny butts?

Nov 22 11 - 12:02am

I had to chuckle for a moment. When I was in college back in the late 60s I cleaned the college's restrooms as part of my scholarship... nothing wrong with a little honest work. On the other hand does Newt's "Clean Sweep" advocation only involve poor students at poor schools or will see the more affluent schools shanghai their students for the purpose of actually doing work, having their own cash,and taking pride in their schools. You know what... the guy's a puff piece crook.

Nov 22 11 - 11:25am
John Son


Nov 22 11 - 3:28am
question authority

did gingrich ever do "real" work in his life? i would gladly advise for the failed mac/mae's for 100s thousands too (i actually worked in the field unlike the Esteemed professor of history of at least his version thereof. But I also worked as a stockboy, in a factory, as an infantry combat vet, as an officde temp, as cook and bartender as I worked my way thru to be a bona fide scientist. Difference between me an ging: I know work and suffering..... doubt he does unless u ask about all the exes. Theoretician with advice for the poor masses he would never take himself.

Nov 22 11 - 9:06am

Ah, the "you're poor because you're not working hard enough defense"

Nov 22 11 - 10:20am

As opposed to the "you're poor because others haven't given you enough" offense?

Nov 22 11 - 11:27am

As opposed to "you're poor because you're getting fucked over left and right and not paid enough for your work" argument.

Nov 22 11 - 2:23pm
For someone so blind

to the truth, your name betrays you, "Observer".

Nov 22 11 - 6:21pm

Our current system needs poor people to keep things they are, if you haven't noticed. Besides there is nothing wrong with being poor in America.

Nov 22 11 - 6:46pm

So what's your solution, fssb? "Living wage" laws that drive business from the jurisdictions in which they're implemented? Not much help there, is it? How about job training - real job training - that allows those you suggest are being mistreated to improve their lot? I could get behind that. In fact, the real job training centers should be high schools for those who want to work in a trade and universities for those who seek a professional career. Limit student loans for the humanities while making it available for the sciences and engineering.

I'd like to see us maintain our aircraft industry, bring back our non-defense shipbuilding and make maintenance of the national infrastructure a WPA type training/building priority.

Give a man unemployment and he eats for 99 weeks. Teach him a viable skills and he'll work forever. (yeah, yeah, it could be "she" as well).

Nov 23 11 - 1:25pm
My solution

is that you go educate yourself.

Nov 25 11 - 3:27pm

You first, My solution.

Nov 27 11 - 1:08pm

No, you first. Learn some basic punctuation.

Nov 22 11 - 11:25am

Kids go to school or face arrest for truancy. At school, they are forced to do tasks that amount to clerical work. If they don't, they are disciplined. We're all in favor of this form of uncompensated student labor. Why does paying kids to work somehow come off so wrong?

Nov 27 11 - 11:05pm

In my opinion, this guy is a joke. Obvious enough. I don't see a problem with children working, as long the job takes account for their age. Better than them sitting at home watching Jersey Shore, and having nothing else to do but learn how to be ungrateful and fully controlled by the social media. I am only 21, but the generation below me is rapidly declining. One of the main reasons behind this... NO ONE CARES!! parents would rather sit their kids in front of a TV than actually develop their children because everyone is so busy trying to stay ahead. I don't believe that children should be FORCED to work, but if they choose to why deny them that right? It only teaches responsibility and work ethic, which I'm sure most of you have also observed has been on a major decline.

Dec 08 11 - 7:48pm
Mia B

well all those people saying that this is a good idea need to be slapped when there are ADULTS with no jobs. ADULTS need money to provide for their kids, not the other way around