Gingrich: Laws preventing child labor are 'truly stupid'
November 19th, 2011
07:38 PM ET
11 years ago

Gingrich: Laws preventing child labor are 'truly stupid'

(CNN) - 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."

"It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in child laws which are truly stupid," Gingrich said. "Saying to people you shouldn't go to work before you're 14, 16. You're totally poor, you're in a school that's failing with a teacher that's failing."

Gingrich then proposed a system he said would help those students rise from poverty.

"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."

Gingrich pointed to successful acquaintances as examples of the benefits of beginning a job early in life.

"Go out and talk to people who are really successful in one generation," Gingrich said. "They all started their first job at 9 to 14 years of age. They are selling newspapers, going door to door, washing cars. They were all making money at a very young age. What do we say to poor kids in poor neighborhoods? Don't do it. Remember all the stuff about not getting a hamburger-flipping job? Worst possible advice to give the poor children."

Gingrich said his idea would be "making work worthwhile" for children.

Filed under: 2012 • Jobs • Newt Gingrich
soundoff (528 Responses)
  1. Blessed Geek

    Fire the janitors – put them out of work.

    November 19, 2011 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  2. Dan5404

    How about instead: pass the Obama jobs bill and do a true compromise with serious spending cuts plus tax increases, including letting the 4 trillion dollar Bush tax cuts benefitting mostly the rich expire. That way, the parents of many poor children could finally get a job and we wouldn't have to resort to child labor of the 19th centuryas the rich lobbyist/Tea Party shill suggests. Typical GOP. Keep the corporations rich and let the poor manage on their own.

    November 19, 2011 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  3. ScadBigEye

    I can't see Neutered Get-rich getting nominated, much less elected. Unfortunately he has too much money to just go away.....pity.........what an idiot.....

    November 19, 2011 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  4. Sailingwindward

    Sure thing Newt, China has 6 year olds making sneakers for Nike, why can't the 1%rs have child slave-labor right here in the US too. Picture an America under control of this guy.

    November 19, 2011 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  5. emsbot

    Newt Gingrich has no idea what he is talking about. I'm not even sure he is listening. This is not the 1840s and children do not work in this country for many reasons. Going to school for eight hours for 5 days a week is there job. He wants to effectively create an even bigger gap in the experiences of children of different classes in society. I cannot imagine how cleaning toilets at 9 years old instead of focusing on school is going to help anybodys self esteem. Think about what you're saying Newt.

    November 19, 2011 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  6. Karl Jonas

    Unbelievable. Get rid of janitors and pay the kids a pittance.

    You go Newt.

    November 19, 2011 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  7. jtt

    He is a total nightmare. I dont think he understands what janitorial work actually involves. Its hard to believe the republicans couldn't find one decent qualified person without baggage.

    November 19, 2011 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  8. Duke Lawyer

    Why stop there Newt? Why not let the poor kids in West Virginia and Western PA work in the Coal Mines? Then lets beat the crap out of union workers and take away the minimum wage. Heck, by 2013 we can completely negate 100 years of hard fought for employee rights. Is anyone REALLY stupid enough to vote for any of these clowns? Here's a very rational synapses for those of you considering it. These Republicans aren't Ronald Reagan. They aren't even George H.W. Bush. If you are making less than $200K a year, they don't care about your well-being. You are a parasite to them and they will exploit your religious views and deep concern over minuscule issues like the right to own automatic weapons to run the country into the ground. By the time they're finished, 3% of the population will be incredibly wealthy and the rest will be serfs. Look at South America to see how well that works...

    November 19, 2011 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  9. Lee Russell

    Not a new idea. The Neighborhood Youth Corps has been doing just that since the 70s, unless the Repubs have cut the program.... why does anybody take this relic (Gingrich) seriously??

    November 19, 2011 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  10. Steven K. Phiri

    Not surprised. Republicans always think that poverty is a curse. Why only the poor kids. All kids are poor. Dads money isn't necessarily kids money. All kids can clean restrooms regardless. Lets find ways of ending generational povety, other than giving tax breaks to the rich, which will in turn create the society that we have now. REPUBLICANS, PLEASE DONT REMIND US OF HOW POOR WE ARE. WE ALREADY KNOW OUR MISERY.

    November 19, 2011 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  11. lib4ever

    This sad excuse for a human being is a virulent narcissist and a veritable museum of psychiatric personality defects.....his comments are truly disgusting....

    November 19, 2011 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  12. TRUTH

    Sure. And all the financial stable kids, in rich schools, can keep studying and leave the janitorial jobs to janitors. And the Dems are supporting class warfare?!?

    November 19, 2011 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  13. Brian

    Sounds good to me... and I'm a democrat

    November 19, 2011 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  14. Mark

    Sounds like a great idea Newt...then what's next old friend? First school yard work crews then sweat shops. That's right...let's send our kids away from the books and into the workplace. Since we owe so much to China, we might as well look like them too.
    Better idea...put their poor parents to work in living wage jobs so they can earn a respectable living doing something respectable. End poverty not laws to prevent abuse.

    November 19, 2011 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  15. kggk

    Sooooo.... the poor kids have to stay late after school to clean for a pittance while everyone else goes off to be kids? Yeah... no socioeconomic issues there at all. If you really want them to be able to work and help their families, which most kids will want to do, let them choose what job they want.

    And what does he do... give different advice to "poor children" as opposed to "rich children?" Yeah... this guy's a jerk. He's not even a frontrunner and he's already talking about 'us' and 'you people.' Rich kids and "poor kids," they're all kids and they deserve a childhood that doesn't include having to stay late to clean the school because their parents are poor. He might actually be on to a decent idea but you'd never be able to tell with all the nonsense it's wrapped in.

    November 19, 2011 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  16. Peace

    And the rich kids won't have to clean their schools, thereby continuing A LACK OF a work ethic. Then, when those rich kids grow up, they hire those poor kids-turn-adults to clean their homes/fancy offices and/or cheat white-collar workers (ie. Enron). By the way, it's not the schools and teachers who are failing–it's the parents raised in a society that values sports over academics, fame, violent video games, and promiscuity.

    November 19, 2011 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  17. Karl Jonas

    Newt's after school program:

    Black kids – janitor
    White kids – soccer

    November 19, 2011 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  18. Andrew

    This coming from a guy who went to a top notch school payed for by his father's military service. He was never poor – read his wiki file and you'll find that he is 100% politician and never really held a REAL job. He is disgusting to say that poor kids don't work. Of course kids who are poor probably start working at early years then the wealthier kids – that may result in better work ethics but it doesnt matter. Its about the money you have – that will get you into college. College will become only for the wealthy and the poor will become slaves. That's exactly what Newt wants – slaves to work for cheap and be forever stuck in their class.

    November 19, 2011 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  19. darkguardian1314

    I would think Newt Gingrich would provide a better example than that. Making poor kids clean up after rich kids isn't the right message. How about having poor kids work in business and technology to earn money and learn skills instead of training them to be janitors.

    November 19, 2011 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  20. Leroy Love

    It is very apparent that Mr. Gingrich has no knowledge or understanding as to why child labor laws were put into place in the first place. I am amused by the fact that Mr.Gingrich thinks that only poor students should have the priviledge of cleaning up the schools for money. He says they would "begin the process of rising" at the expense of their education. I suppose "rich" students have a work ethic that is unparalleled among children. I personally could really care less who wins the G.O.P. nomination. I just hope it is someone who at least "sounds" smarter than a 5th grader.

    November 19, 2011 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  21. Book samurai

    So not a supporter of Gingrich, but I really like this idea. I remember when I was young the kids who got free and reduced lunches helped out in the cafeteria for a bout 15 minutes of their after-lunch recess. No one made fun of them, we just thought it was normal because that was the way it had always been. Good incentive for the kids to actually eat their lunches too, I hope.

    November 19, 2011 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  22. sahari

    Interesting. It makes me nervous coming from Newt, but very interesting. I agree that the maturation process of kids has been extended way past what is healthy. Let 'em work the cafeteria too. And in fact, have ALL the kids work the schools, and forget about the money. Let's get off this money-as-God mentality and discover how to care for 'free.'

    November 19, 2011 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  23. tesor

    Actually we should have the rich children do it for free and give them a sense of worth. What an Arrogant idea, so out of touch.

    November 19, 2011 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  24. Elizabeth

    At a time when we don't have enough jobs for all the adults, Newt wants to fire some more and give their jobs to children. I don't think so. There are traditional kid jobs and family chores. That is where the parents can teach the children a work ethic, not at the expense of school custodians.

    November 19, 2011 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  25. Bill

    Don't like it, too many opportunities to go wrong. What's next? Factories like China where our 10 year olds can work for sub minimum wages? It would just lead to cheap labor for business owners to take advantage of. We made child labor laws for a reason. Children need to have these early years to go to school, learn, and play. They'll be working for plenty of years. It doesn't surprise me that he thinks this is a good idea.

    November 19, 2011 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
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