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. Peter van der Kort, the Netherlands

    Gingrich's stupidest comment sofar. Why not raise the standard of education in the US? It's clear that the former Speaker of the House lacks a bit in his own education. A good education is the key to a fulfilled life. Not abolishing laws that prevent exploitation of children. Shame on you Newt!!!

    November 19, 2011 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  2. Javares

    I am not fan of either side but I am with you when you right! Ginrich hit the mark with this one.

    November 19, 2011 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  3. ahetch

    Hey Newt, I can't believe you actually said that. You are even worse than I thought. Wait, I'll bet that goes over real big with the republicans. That kind of thing is right up their alley.

    Can you imagine what the other students would toss just to get the poor kid to clean it up? Yuk

    November 19, 2011 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  4. 1benza

    Oh my. That's an interesting proposal. Many on the right will embrace it, but will not win Gingrich nomination.

    November 19, 2011 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  5. Pimpson

    Great idea. Kids who work young develop an ethic.

    November 19, 2011 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  6. Claudio

    I guess he just sealed his campaign with a "LOST" label.

    November 19, 2011 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  7. 4sanity

    The only work 9-14 yr olds should be concentrating on is homework for school. Now if Newt Ginrich's plan were to call for making janitorial services mandatory for rich kids, I'd be all for it. It might give them a sense of perspective and empathy for what is means to be part of the working poor in this country.

    November 19, 2011 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  8. Not a Repub

    It is so easy to talk about the poor when you have no idea what the poor face daily. I've not come across anyone's opinion that is worth $1.6M dollars. Maybe he should clean a school or two to reconnect with real Americans.

    November 19, 2011 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  9. Jeff

    Agreed totally. No different from chores and allowances, only this would feel more real for the kids, and like Newt said, would give them a sense of pride in the result of their product. Among many other positive results.

    November 19, 2011 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  10. David

    Are you kidding me?? you just want a cheaper way to teach the poor that they are gonna be janitors whan the grow up. Newt ,you are so out of touch with the real people it is sickening. You just want it to go back too the old days of child slavery for the rich, disguting. Your mom should have named you Dick!

    November 19, 2011 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  11. SER

    Gingrich nobly suggests getting rid of unionized labor and giving their jobs to their kids for peanuts - and that's not a euphemism, he would literally pay them peanuts.

    November 19, 2011 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  12. sharky

    While that is really not a bad idea at all, I am sure someone would scream child abuse and slave labor. This proposal would be a lot better than having them hang out in the streets or with gang bangers.

    November 19, 2011 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  13. Paul

    He makes a good point. I won't vote for him, but I think he's right on this issue.

    November 19, 2011 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  14. NikiV

    Hmm, I don't know how many ways this is wrong, but let me point out one:

    He wants to put janitors out of work and have students in poor schools take their jobs?

    The worst form of 'class warfare' has got to be killing the middle class and replace them with underage labor.

    Please GOP... please vote for Gingrich over Romney... please I beg you! I need a something funny to laugh at until next November.

    November 19, 2011 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  15. Independent_me

    Wow! So let me see...

    according to:
    Herman Cain, if you are poor in America it is your own fault...
    Michelle Bachman those occupy Wall Street protesters just need to "get a job"...
    another Republican Senator we don't have a job problem – there are 3 1/2 million jobs that Americans just won't take...

    and now we can just take jobs away from poor families and give them to kids...

    Please God, don't let me be standing next to a Republican on Judgment Day! I promise...I'll be good from now on!

    These people are heartless!

    November 19, 2011 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  16. mkmChicago

    What an idiot. I guess he missed the entire chapter of American history where children as young as 6 were cruelly exploited for labor exactly such as this, and worse. It's the ADULTS responsibility to ensure the cleanliness of schools, not the poor kids who attend them. He and his retroactive, cruel, heartless ideas disgust me

    November 19, 2011 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  17. Kris

    So he's a socialist after all.

    November 19, 2011 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  18. Debbie

    Gingrich must still be living in the Industrial Revolution...He thinks child labor is opportunity vs oppression. Wow!

    November 19, 2011 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  19. Dirty Sanchez

    and why not? Seems logical to me.... oh, that's right, becaus emost of the workers will be minorities..... PLEASE..... stop it and just work your way out of poverty.....

    November 19, 2011 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  20. Matt the Bat

    That is, without a doubt, the single most truly stupid idea I have ever heard, and if it weren't coming from a mouth like Gingrich, I wouldn't take it seriously. But he's no Jonathan Swift, and this is no satire akin to "A Modest Proposal." No, thiis windbag is serious, people, and if you want to keep a dangerous, truly stupid windbag from having a shot at the highest office in the land, DON'T GO TO SLEEP THIS ELECTION. Here ended the lesson.

    November 19, 2011 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  21. Jason B.

    And that sound you hear are his presidential hopes crashing. Hard.

    November 19, 2011 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  22. gammay

    I sure don't remember him saying this. Throw out the unionized janitors, who are probably supporting a family, give the jobs to the kids for a cheaper wage and give unemployment and food stamps to the janitors and their families. Make sense?

    November 19, 2011 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  23. CBR

    Would Newt Gingrich allow his child to clean schools? Does he truly believe that young people can do the job of a custodian? Could he be any more belittling to those who work in our schools and keep them clean and keeping all systems working!

    Children do not have a work ethic because parents do not encourage them to help at home. They do not go out and help shovel snow from yards. They do not rake leaves, etc. We have lawn companies, plowing companies, etc. to do that work. Children are not asked to put things away in their rightful places. There is always someone there to do it for them. Of course, the tv and video games take up a lit of time.

    Having children work in the schools is just another example of how little Mr. Gingrich about custodial work, how little he knows about work ethics, and how little he knows about American History. Child labor laws were established for a purpose and as a historian he should not make light of that fact by calling them stupid.

    November 19, 2011 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  24. Beadles

    Is he serious??? Sorry, but I don't see how a bunch of 10-year-olds (or whatever age – maybe even 5 years?) could be an effective work force – under a single "master" janitor. Are you going to have them work with hazardous cleaning chemicals? When would they do the work? Before school, after school? How about transportation? Do away with child labor laws? What would they get paid? Oh, I know – find out the going rate for a 7-year-old in Bangladesh. What a blasted IDIOT.

    November 19, 2011 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  25. James PDX

    How about you propose a way to stop so many schools from failing, Newt? That would be a much better solution than training the children of the poor for the career of janitor you're trying to set aside for them.

    November 19, 2011 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
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