The Republicans’ “Ideas Man” & The Junior Janitors of America

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

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

Newt Gingrich:

“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)

Gingrich Doubles Down On Child Labor: Poor Kids Should ‘Clean The Bathroom’ (ThinkProgress)

Newt Gingrich says poor kids have no work habits, suggest janitorial work (Global Post)

Newt Gingrich’s child labor plan cleans up (The Guardian)

97 thoughts on “The Republicans’ “Ideas Man” & The Junior Janitors of America”

  1. Gingrich Wants Kids To Work As Janitors, But Refused To Work Himself
    By Alex Seitz-Wald on Jan 30, 2012

    Newt Gingrich has made headlines and raised eyebrows on the campaign trail for proposing to make poor children work as janitors in their school, saying it would help them understand the value of work and money.

    But apparently, even on child janitorial work, Gingrich is employing a double standard. As Karen Tumulty notes, in a 1995 Vanity Fair profile, Gingrich seemed to refuse to get a job as a student. From the profile:

    Newt, who avoided Vietnam with student and marriage deferments, resisted taking a job. During his college years, Newt called up his father and stepmother to ask for financial help. His stepmother, Marcella McPherson, can still hear his exact words: “I do not want to go to work. I want all my time for my studies…Bob Gingrich told me he will not help me one bit. So I wondered, would you people help me?” Big Newt began sending him monthly checks.

    Dolores Adamson, Gingrich’s district administrator from 1978 to 1983, remembers, “Jackie [Gingrich’s first wife] put him all the way through school. All the way through the P.h.D…He didn’t work.” Adds Adamson, “Personal funds have never meant anything to him. He’s worse than a six-year-old trying to keep his bank balance…Jackie did that.”

  2. Gingrich Suggests Illegally Firing Federal Employees Over Liberal Views

    Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich suggested at a Fox News forum hosted by Mike Huckabee in South Carolina on Saturday that it would be a good idea to fire federal employees for being too liberal. Federal law, on the other hand, says Gingrich’s plan would be illegal.

    “I think an intelligent conservative wants the right federal employees delivering the right services in a highly efficient way and then wants to get rid of those folks who are in fact wasteful, or those folks who are ideologically so far to the left, or those people who want to frankly dictate to the rest of us,” Gingrich said in response to a question from a federal employee at the forum.

  3. TPM2012
    NBC/WSJ: Gingrich At 40% With GOP, But Would Be Crushed By Obama

    In the most pronounced contrast between former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s position within the Republican primary contest and his standing in a matchup against President Obama, Gingrich has taken a commanding lead in a new national poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal. Newt gets 40 percent of the GOP vote nationally, the highest total for any candidate in the past few months. He’s currently 17 points above his main competitor, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney.

    But the data also shows that Gingrich is a much weaker candidate against President Obama nationally. While Romney is only bested by the President by two points within the poll, Gingrich is crushed 51 – 40, showing the expansive disconnect between the GOP voters’ desire to have a non-Romney candidate and the chances that candidate has in the general election.

    “Why the difference between Gingrich and Romney? Look no further than their favorability ratings,” MSNBC wrote in their analysis of the poll. “Gingrich enjoys strong numbers among Republicans (46 percent positive vs. 21 percent negative), conservatives (42 percent positive vs. 23 percent negative) and Tea Party supporters (54 percent positive vs. 16 percent negative). In fact, they are higher than Romney’s numbers among these same three key Republican groups.”

    But that’s as far as the Gingrich appeal goes, according to the data. “Gingrich struggles with other important voting blocs — like women (20 percent positive vs. 38 percent negative), independents (16 percent positive vs. 40 percent negative) and suburban residents (25 percent positive vs. 41 percent negative),” MSNBC continued. “By comparison, Romney fares better among women (22 percent positive vs. 31 percent negative), independents (21 percent positive vs. 29 percent negative) and suburban dwellers (29 percent positive vs. 30 percent negative).”

  4. Elaine,
    if Newt was really a Patriot, he would admit that he is a buffoon and walk away and work on paying his Tiffany bill.

  5. “You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.” Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 5


    Newt Gingrich exemplifies the soullessness of materialism. He’s too dumb to realize he’s in a box of his own purchase and construction. But he’s on the downward slope of life. On that day when he lays dying, if the fear of his own mortality has awakened any kind of sensibility or sense of connection to humanity in Gingrich, he’ll know just how empty and harmful his life was and he’ll feel regret for how shabbily he treated his fellow travelers. Knowing him, he’ll likely think that he was a winner in the game of life. His failure to recognize that being known for the good you did for others expecting nothing in return far outweighs the services rendered to self or for profit will be complete. Nothing will have been learned. A life will be over and nothing of true value will have been lost other than potential wasted. Potential every human child has. The potential to make the world better for everyone, not just yourself. Or you could shop at Tiffany’s and send children off to work instead of being allowed and encouraged to be children.

  6. While working in a psychiatric facility, someone once told me, “The eye of the newt is not reflected in the moon.”

    So there it is in a nutshell. Literally.

  7. raff,

    You are correct and I must humbly and completely apologize to all newts and greater and lesser amphibians everywhere. Mea culpa.

  8. CEJ, Rafflaw, & Gene,

    Newt a lousy and disgusting human being? He only cheated on his wife because he’s a patriot and loves his country so much. And, besides, kids who have the misfortune to be born into poor families should learn early how to earn a few bucks by cleaning up after their more fortunate peers.

  9. raff,

    I submit that Newt would be a disgusting actual newt, much less a human being.

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