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. 4merRepubCT

    Is this man out of his mind??? Does he really believe that what "poor kids" need to do is take time away from academics to do custodial work? At the age of 9? His 15 minutes as the top Repub candidate is getting shorter every time he opens his mouth.

    November 19, 2011 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    This guy is a Republican? When did it become "conservative" to take tax payer money and create worthless jobs with it? I'm all for high school kids working, but in that case lower the minimum wage.

    November 19, 2011 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Just say you want to get rid of union labor and stop all of the lying and nonsense.

    November 19, 2011 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  4. CathyinK

    Yes, let's take more of these children's childhoods away. Are they going to get benefits? No, probably not. What about the new poor children you are creating when you are putting the adult janitors/heads of households out of a job. Typical Republican evil.

    November 19, 2011 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  5. brown

    Gingrich is/was part of the problem in Washington, D.C. !!!

    We need to get rid of all of these corrupt politicians!

    November 19, 2011 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  6. Kevin O.

    OMG and what if a kid pukes? You're going to have a child licensed in Bio/Chem cleanup?

    And the toxins in the cleaners. Most kids can't even handle a sparkler on the 4th of July and you want to give them industrial grade chemicals to play with?

    Newt, have you contracted syphilis? Is your brain riddled?

    November 19, 2011 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  7. Satberry

    Now if this is not enough for Americans to revaluate the repukes then i don't know what it will take . They want children working.where is this country headed .I guess next we will be allowing nine year old children to fight wars.this fat clown is crazy.

    November 19, 2011 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  8. tamarinds

    If I were a poor kid living in an urban area, I would definitely take more pride in my school if I were giving the privilege of cleaning its toilets.

    November 19, 2011 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  9. timz

    So now the janitor, who probably has kids of his or her own to support, is out of a job so we can pay some kid even less. Good thinking, Newt! I'm sick and tired of seeing those janitors rolling by in their BMWs and Mercedes.

    Maybe we should let the poor kids do Newt's job, instead . . . if anyone can figure out what it is. Apparently Newt isn't any too clear on what he does for money or how much he gets paid to do it. But, whatever it is, I'm sure the poor kids will be able to do it for less and probably get it done at least as well.

    November 19, 2011 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  10. r112650

    OMG, here let the poor children work to clean the schools instead of after school activities, playing with friends and studying ... I guess that is only for the rich children to do.

    Another division between the haves and the haves not ...

    November 19, 2011 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  11. grizzly

    OK Mr. Gingrich why dont yiou givve back to the Government what you stole in consulting fees. You are a sleezy calculating politiicans and America does not need your unethical character. We have already too many of you in Government.

    November 19, 2011 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  12. Ashley

    So then more adults would be out of work...brilliant, Newt.

    November 19, 2011 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  13. RXB

    I guess these phonies realize that saying you want to screw over all workers won't go over so well.

    I didn't know unemployment of 9 year olds was such a problem.

    If this doesn't motivate people to get an education I don't know what will.

    November 19, 2011 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  14. Nevis

    Why not just ship them off to the Gingirch plantation and force them to pick cotton?

    November 19, 2011 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  15. Kevin

    Ah yes, the mind of a Republican. So simple. So naive. Gingrich doesn't have a clue what janitorial staff actually do in our schools and businesses. They don't just sweep floors and clean the bathrooms. They're often on ladders, in lifts, in the boiler, fixing pipes, fixing electrical, etc. How are kids going to do most of those jobs? But more importantly, how is one "master janitor" going to supervise them all? "Jenny, you clean the girl's upstairs bathroom, and please use the hydrochloric acid. Kyle, I need you to shut down the boiler and clean it. Tim, I need you to find the broken light bulb in the east corridor stairwell and replace it, you'll find the 20' extension ladder in the shed. This is all routine, folks. Let's go!"

    November 19, 2011 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  16. Livermore Joe

    So the plan here is to fire their parents and put poor kids to work? My mother was the lunch lady for years at my school. She had the job because it allowed her to provide health insurance for her children. Way to go, Newt. If your plan had been in effect in the 1990s, then I could have spent my school years impoverished and working and instead of studying and applying for scholarships and eventually becoming the first member of my family to go to college. Also, my now retired mother, who worked her way up into an accounting position after a decade of serving lunches, would be without a pension. You are a genius.

    November 19, 2011 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    I had every intention of voting Republican this presidential election, but the Republican braintrust is doing everything they can to steer me away. Seriously, abolish the child labor laws in poor areas which have poor schooling... Teach kids to give up on their schooling and enter the job force with no high school degree... This would set a precedent to revert back to olden days where families sent their kids to work to generate income for the family rather than send them for schooling... Absolutely repulsive that a future prospective leader of Our country would pine for this...

    November 19, 2011 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  18. Graham Krueger

    Work study functions well for college age students like myself, largely because we have flexible schedules that can handle the extra workload. Not so for young children, who spend the entire day in classes. Giving poor students extra duties would create even more of a class system, cutting down on their chance to take advantage of after-school programs which supplement learning, or requiring them to come early. Then you come to the ethics of putting a 9 year old to physical labor, and in a position of vulnerability to other, more fortunate students, and I'm pretty uneasy with this idea. A final point-NOT EVERY PROBLEM IN THE COUNTRY CAN BE SOLVED BY UNDERCUTTING WORKERS' RIGHTS. We're in an age that values money more than work, and those who have money have ceased to be equated with those who work. Forcing the few surviving unions to compete for jobs with children from even poorer families will just accelerate the race to the bottom that's been dominating our economy for the last thirty years.

    November 19, 2011 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  19. jackie

    I see there is no response to Mr. Gingrich. It could be that he used the word poor kids, instead of just kids. So we should only instill a work ethic in poor kids. What an idiot. I guess those kids that aren't poor don't need a work ethic, they can just get rich by stealing from the public, and become a politician.

    November 19, 2011 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  20. Robin Baneth

    How about ALL students (rich and poor, private and public) assist current janitors in labors in prideful clean-up? Call it community service. Why just teach poor kids about the value of work? Seriously. Rich kids slack off much more than poor kids except when they fail they get a free rental across town till they get their act together.

    November 19, 2011 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  21. Chris Wilkie

    Oh, really, so we turn poor kids into wage slaves, just so Newt and the other Republicons do not have to raise taxes on wealthy people. Gee, if there are not enough school jobs, maybe some of the kids can shine shoes in the mens rooms of expensive hotels and clubs. And the poor gals can clean houses in the afternoons on Rich St. Of course, that means they would not have enough time to study, do homework, or participate in schools sports or other activities. But, that is right, schools are cutting music, sports and clubs, due to cost constraints.

    November 19, 2011 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  22. imp

    WOW! This is a great example of what the republicans really want – sweatshops, child labor, the rich getting richer & who cares about the poor or our children. Utterly bankrupt morally. I'm sure they'd love to see slavery become legal again. Anyone who votes for this clown belongs in an insane asylum & will, most certainly, have a LOT of explaining to do to God!

    November 19, 2011 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  23. Anon

    I'm sure there are plenty of coal mines, textile mills, meat packing plants, and sweat shops that could also use their help.

    November 19, 2011 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  24. Danny Hanning

    Newt wants a return of CHILD LABOR? Have we forgotten about the horrible spectator of children working on assembly lines and as chimney sweeps early in the industrial era? Bachmann advocates "No work, NO FOOD!" (What about disabled people, the elderly and infirm?). Newt wants elementary school children to give up study time and work instead of being educated. What is next advocating the return of slavery? These ideas a based in the horrors of the past and are immoral. "Put poor children to work" says Newt. Not ANY children, POOR CHILDREN. I may vomit!

    November 19, 2011 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  25. Coffeehead

    Oh my God..... Im gonna do it.....Here it comes..... I AGREE WITH NEWT GINGRICH !!!!!!

    November 19, 2011 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
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