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. abtime

    This is great. Child labor for the poor. Rich children don't need their work ethics tweaked. Slavery worked something like this.

    November 19, 2011 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  2. danielle78

    Heaven forbid, these underage children concentrate on their studies to actually become something instead of basically making them workfare slaves. This system would in all likelihood teach these kids that their life is only going to be as good as a janitor, which i think is really ignorant and doesn't allow these students to see their potential

    November 19, 2011 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  3. Jose Wan Sekiavich

    So this is going to solve all our problems. Maybe instead of calling it 9-9-9, it could be a catch phrase of kids-kids-kids. After all, its those catch phrases and slogans that really help our country, now isn't it?

    November 19, 2011 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  4. usualone

    Today's children will have to work until they are 80, so let them be children while they can. Who says all people who clean schools are union people? And so what if they are, they are the working poor or the middle class and need the monies for their own children.

    November 19, 2011 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  5. cmosupport

    So if our African-American population tends to be of lower income on average than those of European descent, then does that mean that Gingrich wants to further drive a wedge of segregation against a population still fighting against modern day racism? Great, just great. . .

    November 19, 2011 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  6. roro

    OMG! Is this guy for real? Actual adult janitors trying to support their families on poverty level pay should lose their jobs to poor 9-year-olds? Child labor? This is the 21st century, not the dark ages. This man is unbelievable. I don't normally believe in torture, but Newt needs to be water boarded for this horrendous idea.

    November 19, 2011 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  7. knightforx

    Good advice – flip burgers when you're 15 so you don't have to flip burgers when you're 25. He has to be very careful with this though, as the only way he's going to avoid the predictable backlash is to keep harping on the millionaires that started working when they were 10.

    The other idea we need to throw out the window – which has been a total disaster – is this notion that EVERY kid should go to college. Not only do we need *some* real workers, but you're also telling people that they are failures if they put in a hard, honest day's work. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    November 19, 2011 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  8. G. I.

    "allow poor children to clean their schools for money"

    .... I'm sure cleaning up after their classmates will be SO confidence boosting and the others students will surely be more careful with their school/environment knowing their classmates are clearning it.

    YEA. I'm SURE.

    November 19, 2011 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  9. Michael

    Worked for the janitor after school. Paid me less than half minimum wage. Took me an hour to do the job per day. I left before school was out for another low paying job during the summer. The kid that got my old job was paid minimum wage and he took twice as long as I did to do the job. I've been on the bottom of the ladder most of my life.

    November 19, 2011 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  10. Jamez Madness

    Yep, we can fire the union janitors and then hire their low income children to do the work for less than half the pay. Sounds like a win-win, of course with Daddy now unemployed the low income child is now the only income in the household. Hmmmmmm, thanks Newt!

    November 19, 2011 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  11. Me in MN

    Wow, GOP, you've got a bunch of clowns - Gingrich, Cain, Bachmann and one sane candidate, Huntsman, but you let the inmates run the asylum. Child labor laws are stupid?

    November 19, 2011 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  12. Ted E

    Growing up...those of us on free & reduced lunches had to work in the lunch room once we were in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. It wasn't horrible...and gave me an amazing work ethic. I've been teaching for 15 yrs & have a masters it didn't screw me up! ha ha

    November 19, 2011 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  13. dadguy

    lol Newt you loony nut you!

    November 19, 2011 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  14. 7Se7en7

    Newt is a moron. Children of parents with little money should not even have to think about providing for themselves or their household through labor, they are under enough stress as it is. The fact that this guy is "surging" in the polls is either out of lack of options for a decent Republican candidate or there has been a recent influx of sweatshop lobbyists in Washington.

    November 19, 2011 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    Giny- That's fine that you thought of enstilling work ethic for teenagers. But what about training for those adults you just fired and replace with lower paying labor. Why does that sound so corporate America.

    November 19, 2011 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  16. Troy

    I am not a fan of Newt Gingrich, but .... the man has a good point on this one. You always here of the older generation having jobs at a young age. Let's stop being pansy's about letting kids learn about what life is all about after school. I would never vote this nut into office though. Dinner would be OK.

    November 19, 2011 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  17. matthew

    Another "truly stupid" idea. That generation Newt is talking about (in which children went to work at 9 to 14 years of age) could also get middle class jobs without a high school diploma. Newt, why can't you and the rest of your embarrassing excuse for a political party accept that the world has changed. Americans of all demographics need an education to succeed in this world, not a paper route nor a job scrubbing their own middle-school toilets. And you were selling this pseudo-intellectual garbage at Harvard? I can't believe anyone showed up.

    November 19, 2011 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  18. SMFL

    Hmmm, why just the "poor children"? I think having the kids doing the cleaning of their schools is actually a pretty good idea, but why not ALL THE CHILDREN? Could you imagine the abuse "the poor children" would be made to endure by the "well off children"? Make it a requirement for all students who want to graduate, everyone has to put in their time cleaning their school. Of course a financially secure person whose own children wouldn't have to clean the schools came up with this idea...and he wants to be our President.

    November 19, 2011 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  19. Mike


    Oh my god... so guys, I had this great idea, we can pay children to clean the school and fire janitors! LOLOL

    I never thought I'd see such a stupid comment from Gingrich... Hell, you know what? We need to get rid of the minimum driving age too, kids could be truck drivers!

    Kids can work around the house if they don't want to be lazy.

    November 19, 2011 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  20. disgusted taxpayer

    Unfortunately, in this economy, with the job market being what it is - you would be putting adults out of work. Like the poor children's parents!! Also, with millions of illegal immigrants in the country - something Newt did NOTHING about when in Congress, and which he turned a blind eye to industries using illegal labor - no jobs in my state for teenagers, much less younger kids.

    November 19, 2011 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  21. kymell

    this guys is insane period.

    November 19, 2011 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  22. Chester

    You could've assumed this. Advocating child labor fits perfectly into the Republican platform, which is built off the cultural and social ideas of 1875.

    November 19, 2011 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  23. Dan in Atlanta

    That's a new way of getting rid of unions. Lay off adult workers getting decent wages and hire kids at minimum wage. That's nEWWWt's America, folks.

    November 19, 2011 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  24. deb

    One of the main points of the child labor laws was for the kids to get an education. If they can't do their homework, or participate in extracurricular activities, then it sets them back. I think kids, once they turn 15 or 16, can work on weekends, but after school sets up a hardship when it comes to getting ahead. Newt needs to be re-educated on history.

    November 19, 2011 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  25. Buzzard


    November 19, 2011 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
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