A lot of interesting news stories have broken since I last posted at the Turley Blawg nearly a month ago. I’ve kept a running list of them. The story I decided to post about today is one that I placed under the heading “Asinine and Inane Ideas of the 2012 Presidential Candidates.” Now, truth be told, I had a plethora of stories from which to choose…so it wasn’t easy. I finally selected one about the new Republican frontrunner, a man who has worn many hats—former professor, author, ethically challenged Speaker of the House, serial adulterer, historian, covert lobbyist, king of bling—the one and only Newt Gingrich!
I have often heard talking heads on television refer to Newt Gingrich as the “Ideas Man” and the “intellectual” of the Republican Party. It may be true that Newt has a lot of ideas—but I have to question whether the talking heads consider all of his ideas to be good ideas. I admit that even I was surprised when I heard Newt’s recent pronouncement that child labor laws are stupid when he spoke at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. I was truly taken aback when he suggested that school janitors should be fired and that poor kids should clean the schools that they attended.
Newt’s Poor Kids Can Clean Concept
“It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid. Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they’d begin the process of rising.”
“You’re going to see from me extraordinarily radical proposals to fundamentally change the culture of poverty in America.”
That’s one radical proposal for sure. And one for which the “Ideas Man” received quite a bit of criticism. Newt bowed “to concerns that janitorial work is dangerous.” He then decided he needed to clarify his proposal and provided more specifics. He said poor kids could mop floors and clean bathrooms after school. He also suggested that they could sit in a clerical office greeting people.
I’m not sure where Newt thinks school systems will find money in their strained budgets to pay pupils to work after school hours. Has he thought about the valuable time school janitors and secretaries would have to spend training the children? And wouldn’t adults at the schools have to supervise the child workers?
I wonder what the little clerical school greeters might say to visitors. “Hi, my name’s Tommy. I’m poor and I got this job because I want to earn honest money and develop good work habits. I don’t want to grow up to be a lazy lump like my parents. Who are you?”
Do you think parents would be happy to learn that the bathrooms at the schools their children attend were being cleaned and disinfected by some of their fellow classmates?
Is this the kind of radical proposal that could actually change the face of poverty in America? Does putting poor children to work cleaning bathrooms and greeting visitors at their schools sound like a good idea to you? Is Newt Gingrich really an “original or rigorous thinker?” David Boaz of the Cato Institute doesn’t think Newt merits that description “because he doesn’t drill down on ideas, integrate them into a larger philosophy or bat them around with peers.” Boaz said: “He strikes me as a guy who thinks of lots of ideas and never runs them through a sanity test before spilling them on a stage. I think he has had a tendency to just have idle thoughts occur to him as he’s reading the newspaper and then announce them without even running it by a colleague.”
According to an article in Politico, a number of conservatives think that Gingrich “is more idea impresario than idea generator, a bright and savvy politician who uses a facade of deep intellectualism effectively — but not authentically.”
Roderick Hills Jr., a constitutional law professor at New York University who’s active in the Federalist Society, said of Newt: “Nobody thinks of Gingrich as a wonky type. Nobody thinks of him as someone who has serious positions, white papers, policies on a wide array of issues coming from deep knowledge and experience. I don’t think of him that way, and I don’t know of any professor who thinks of him that way.”
The Republicans have been claiming that the Democrats are guilty of class warfare when they propose that people who earn $1 million dollars or more a year can afford to pay higher taxes. Do they think Newt is guilty of class warfare when he proposes that poor kids should mop floors and clean school bathrooms?
Newt’s Poem to Poor Kids
Go fetch a bucket
And grab a mop.
Now get to work.
Clean up that slop.
Scrub the bathrooms
From stem to stern.
Don’t be a slug.
It’s time to earn
Your living, kid.
You’re poor. Boohoo!
I have no pity
For kids like you.
Newt Gingrich, Pseudo-Intellectual Free-Trade Kool-Aid Drinker (Huffington Post)
Newt Gingrich: Child Labor Laws Are ‘Stupid’ (Huffington Post)
Newt Gingrich is an Idea Man (Quality of Ideas Not Guaranteed) (Huffington Post)
Is Newt Gingrich as smart as he thinks? (Politico)
Newt Gingrich’s child labor plan cleans up (The Guardian)