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. Laura - St Louis

    Sure, stigmatize the poor kids. Make them work for a living, make them earn their keep at their schools. That free, public education thing ? Not for the poor anymore. And Republicans can't understand why people are using the term "class war".
    Why anyone votes for Republicans these days is beyond me !

    November 19, 2011 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  2. John patrick

    Pure idiot ....Let's go back to 1903... Another great depression in the making.

    November 19, 2011 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  3. YabaYaba

    What the hell is this idiot smoking?

    November 19, 2011 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  4. Jack Tx

    Another sick human. Let's take away other peoples jobs and train poor kids to work and get training for their future. While their rich peers can put them down and plan on how to invest their inheritance from their rich fathers and mothers for janitorial work is above them. Why not let all poor and rich kids do the work equally at no pay out of kindness I suppose.

    November 19, 2011 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  5. April

    Not much really needs to be said- Obviously this guy doesn't even understand what's wrong with what he's saying.

    November 19, 2011 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  6. Ray

    I can't imagine the stigma that these "worker" children will face when confronted by their peers at school.
    School is stressful enough for children much less having them clean the bathrooms and mop the floors.
    A child's main responsibility is to focus on their education not worry about helping to pay the rent.
    Adults need jobs not kids.
    Only a wealthy man would come up with such a ridiculous idea.
    I wonder if Gingrich's own kids would work in the school if told they had to for money.

    November 19, 2011 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  7. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    So, there should be no reason for kids to stay in school and have no chance at reasonable education? I guess that he doesn't care about advancing the country. There were plenty of reasons to prevent child labor. This gives them a chance to get an education and keeps companies honest because how many kids can really understand a labor contract/agreement. Developing a work ethic can also be done while doing school work. I guess that he doesn't understand staying with something... Or someone!

    November 19, 2011 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  8. clarke

    So, Newt wants to cut the janitors jobs. The poor guy is maybe trying to feed his family. Well I think Newt has lost his mind and is not in touch with reality.

    November 19, 2011 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  9. hallowrallo

    i see no reason children shouldnt work with industrial strength cleaning chemicals. they understand hazmat, i'm sure they know where to locate a material saftey data sheet, and what child couldn't be trusted to call the proper athorithies when an accident happens. i see no potiential for harm here...

    November 19, 2011 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  10. Bennett Carr

    This is a great plan. Personally I am an 18 year old aspiring chef, I started my work in the restaurant business when I was 15 years old. I know so many people my age that do not work, do not want to work, and if they do they have a poor work ethic. When taught things at a young age we really begin to understand the value of money and hard work. Believe me, I know. The restaurant business has some of the hardest jobs out there, I start as a busser/dishwasher. These kids would learn these values at a young age from one supervisor and would learn to take pride in their schools. When you care about something, you put forth the best effort you possibly can.

    November 19, 2011 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  11. Ramrod

    Hey Gingrich, here is another idea. Make poor kids slaves of rich kids so they learn early in life that rich people are superior to poor people. Or maybe poor kids could "work" for some famous coach in some famous University – like ball boys or "personal service" employee. Gingrich, do you have any other stupid ideas?

    November 19, 2011 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  12. Ron

    Gingirch: "Yes, and then we could get rid of those over paid (read: union) auto workers and put those poor kids on assymbly lines. And then those over paid (read: union) coal miners need to go. Those poor kids will fit in smaller shafts saving the companies untold mean teaching those kids good work ethics. Why, we could even get rid of those farm workers (read: illegals) and put those poor little suckers to picking tomatoes and cotton. After all, when did a 12 hour day in the hot sun in the middle of summer ever hurt one of us 1%ers? Well, I mean if we ever would do that."

    Yeah Newt....take us back to the 18th century. Idiot.

    November 19, 2011 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  13. Wayne

    This is merely part of his desire, and that of other "elitist" Republicans to do away with Union Jobs and livable wages, to put children back to work at less than minimum, let alone a livable wage just to help their families put food on the table, and return the Dickensian days of sweat shops and no publicly funded welfare programs because you can bet you life that if he was successful in implementing this policy the next thing he would do is abolish welfare programs with the excuse that those kids can get jobs swabbing out toilets at their schools.

    November 19, 2011 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  14. Sharman

    But of course he would never have to worry about his kids or grandkids having to clean toilets at school. How humiliating?

    November 19, 2011 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  15. Dave

    This is an excellent idea, if there weren't already so many getting paid something for nothing. I'm referring to welfare recipients. They should at least be required to do some of the jobs around the city, if they choose not to work. I'm not sure who allows it, but if you go to the required number of job interviews with earings hanging off your face, tongue, and wherever else, you're not getting hired. These are the people that don't choose to work. Put their butts out cleaning the streets and schools.

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

    I have a hard time believing that Mr.Gingrich would propose that a janitor should be laid off from his or her job, so that their child can earn a little spending money at their parent(s) expense. Or perhanps, Mr.Gingrich thought the janitor's child was attending a private school, so that would eliminate any conflict of interest between the janitors job and the student being prepared to replace the janitor. I don't think Hollywood could create candidates such as these. Even though I am not happy with the state of our economy and believe that our President can and should do more to improve it, hd at least has enough sense not to say things off of the top of his head just for a reaction. These G.O.P. candidates need to take a step back, and look at themselves through the eyes of the common man. They are saying some very wild and crazy stuff that would make Steve Martin pause for a moment to wonder if they are stealing his lines. If you want to be the next President then act Presidential, don't sit around a smoky room with your staff trying to come up with good sound bites. Your only biting the hand that should vote for you. Think about it.

    November 19, 2011 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  17. Jim

    Have the wealthy clean schools

    November 19, 2011 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  18. llmb

    This is wrong on so many levels. What an arrogant twerp.

    November 19, 2011 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  19. problemsolved

    Ahhh the power of thinking has failed to solve another real life problem; Who is going to clean the toilets... Poor people watch out, there is a new sheriff in town. I wonder if Gingrich ihad his children cleaning the toilets at his middle school. I just be he is hoping some poor kid will clean them for him!

    November 19, 2011 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  20. saranot

    Hey, newt............nothing and no-one could clean up the mess that is YOU.

    November 19, 2011 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  21. SouthTexasRich

    I didn't used to like Newt, but these comments bring him up lots in my book! The most important things about work I learned while working at Subway in the early 90s: Be on time, clean, and courteous. Do it right or do it again. If the boss is pleased, you make more money. Etc. Thumbs up for Newt.

    November 19, 2011 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  22. KatranM

    Child labor is okay by Newt. After all, all those expensive suits and luxuries he and his wife enjoy come from companies outsourcing jobs overseas so they can employ Chinese child labor at cheaper prices than American workers cost!

    November 19, 2011 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  23. AhhPures

    Any policy or idea that Newt doesn't agree with is stupid. He uses that word so much that I think he believes everyone is stupid except Newt Gingrich.

    November 19, 2011 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  24. Wordcatcher

    This is a joke right? This is wrong on so many levels it's hard to know where to begin. Doing away with child labor laws is not a solution to anything. Think it through Newt. You're supposed to be the smart one. Janitors deserve to make a living wage. I am all for young people getting jobs, which is perfectly legal, but it should be regulated, and it should not be the focus of a child's life. As the student ages, the amount of hours and days they are permitted to work is increased. Let's not throw adults out of work just so we can replace them with "cheaper" labor, vulnerable kids who will be taken advantage of.

    November 19, 2011 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  25. hollyberries1980

    Wow, seriously? The solution to the plight of the poor is going back to allowing child labor? Welcome back to the Gilded Age indeed. And never mind the massive stigma of a child basically having to be a janitor at their own school, I'm sure that will make them want to go even more!

    But hey, once America has a permanent multi-generational underclass of uneducated laborers think how smoothly things will go for the permanent upper class!

    November 19, 2011 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
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