Newt’s War on Poor Children - NY Times
Newt Gingrich, American Republican candidate and professional blowhard, has recently decided that poor children’s primary problem isn’t economic inequality and a lack of access to quality education: it’s laziness.
After calling out US child labor laws as “truly stupid” and suggesting that schools employ poor kids as janitors, the Newt continued the line of thought at an Iowa campaign stop.
“Really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works so they have no habit of showing up on Monday,” Gingrich claimed.
“They have no habit of staying all day, they have no habit of I do this and you give me cash unless it is illegal,” he added.
Yep, that’s right: According to Newt Gingrich, poor kids are lazy bums. Unless they are selling drugs, in which case they apparantly turn into tireless hunters for that highly immoral buck.
Here’s an idea: I propose to Newt Gingrich that he visit Cambodia to get a glimpse at how awesome child labor can be. I’ll take him on a personal “child labor” tour of Cambodia, and I won’t even make him pay me.
Cambodia’s progressive and well-thought out child labor “laws” and lack of compulsory education mean that thousands upon thousands of poor Cambodian children work long hours, day after day.
Poor rural Cambodian kids work the rice paddies, tend the family cattle, make bricks, preserve fish, make salt, and perform hundreds of other menial and often dangerous jobs – which take precedence over school for families just barely scraping by.
(It should be noted that these kids often must work simply to survive—and a blanket prohibition of child labor could mean serious, serious problems for entire families).
Children in urban and heavily touristed areas work day and night selling trinkets, souvenirs, and flowers to Cambodian and Western customers, while others pick for trash by the riverside, along the streets, and at the trash-dump.
Tragically, some of these children sell their bodies—but I would like to imagine that kind of child labor isn’t the sort Mr Gingrich would condone.
What about school?
Well, Cambodia’s public schools (such as they are) are underfunded and underattended, and in Newt’s perfect world, I suspect American public schools in poor neighborhoods wouldn’t be getting too much assistance either.
Free school lunches, art classes, and music lessons? That’s just spoiling the little punks rotten.
Far better for those poor children from urban neighborhoods or poor rural enclaves to be selling non-illegal products on the street, picking the street for cans – hey, America has a litterbug problem too! – and using their tiny, nimble little hands to sew shirts in garment factories.
After all, poor immigrant American kids in the 19th and early 20th century spent their days in poorly ventilated industrial factories, operating dangerous machinery for little to no pay. Surely kids in 2011 can do the same if we repeal a few pesky laws – or just ignore them entirely, as Cambodia does.
I think Newt has got me convinced.
Child labor is exactly what is making Cambodia great – and it’s what can make the USA great again.
After all, Cambodian children may be poor, but they certainly aren’t lazy. Overworked, deprived of an education, and trapped in a cycle of poverty? Well, yes.
But they’re not lazy, and to Newt, that’s apparently the most important part of the equation. I hope Newt takes me up on this visit to Cambodia idea.
I’m certain it will give him lots of great ideas for using child labor to solve urban poverty in the USA!