Transcript for the Piece Audio version of Newt's Wacko Idea
"Nuts, vicious and wrong." That's what the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees thinks of Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's wacko idea of putting kids to work to clean our schools in place of unionized janitors. AFSCME is correct, of course. It's a nutty, vicious and wrong idea.
But, gee, putting the kids to work would save money, notes Gingrich. Sure would. And nothing's more important to politicians like Gingrich. To them, government is not primarily a vehicle to provide essential services to people. It is, as they complain, a vehicle that gobbles up taxpayer money, especially rich taxpayers' money.
Providing services is secondary to them, however needed the services might be. Saving money is their concern, whatever the consequences of the savings might be.
In case you haven't heard the details of Rep Gingrich's outrageous suggestion, let me recap what he's said about it over the past week or so. Honest, I'm not making this up.
You know those child labor laws that were first enacted in the 19th century to protect children from serious exploitation . . . the laws that limit their working hours so as to give them time for school and a decent education . . . laws that protect them from workplace dangers that could very well cause serious harm?
Those laws are still in effect, on the state and national level. The federal law limits the working hours of children under 16 to three hours a day or 18 hours a week when school is in session and to eight hours a day or 40 hours a week when school is not in session. Some states limit the working hours even more.
Ah, But that's too much for Newt Gingrich. He calls the child labor laws "truly stupid." That's right: "stupid." That surely puts Gingrich right where he belongs, squarely in the 18th century.
Anyway, let me get back to Gingrich's 18th century ideas. He wants us to, quote, "get rid of unionized school janitors " and hire poor school kids to clean the schools in low-income neighborhoods." Let me reassure you again that I'm not kidding. That's what the man said. Just think of that. And he wants to be president!
But Gingrich is right on one thing. Yes, as you say Representative Gingrich, kid janitors "would be dramatically less expensive than unionized janitors." But obviously the difference is well worth paying to us, but maybe not to Gingrich.
But let's not be too hard on the man. He's only talking about working the kids a mere 20 hours a week. And this, said Gingrich, would empower them to succeed. He actually said that kids in the poorest neighborhoods are trapped by the child labor laws that prevent them from earning money.
So what should the schools do? "Get rid of their unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school…the kids would actually do work."
Why, says Gingrich, that would give them "pride in the schools." And the students "would begin the process of rising."
What next? Have classes in janitoring? Put teachers to work with brooms, too?
AFSCME is asking people to add their names to an on-line letter that says Gingrich's idea "is outrageous, dangerous and downright hogwash." You can add your name to the letter at www.reallynewt.com. That's www.reallynew.com.
The letter notes that "doing janitorial work in a school entails sanitizing toilets, handling hazardous cleaning chemicals and scrubbing floors hunched over a mop for hours. It's hard to imagine a nine-year-old doing any of those tasks. Come on."
The union cites another important point that Gingrich ignores: A lot of those unionized janitors he'd replace with kids are parents. And the janitorial jobs "puts a roof over kids' heads, food on the table, and provides them with health care and the chance to get an education.
"That job is the only thing between a kid and poverty. Firing someone's mom and hiring the kid for less money, isn't exactly the 'process of rising.'"
Could it possibly be that Newt Gingrich is willing to exploit children 18th century style in order to boost his campaign for president? You make the call.
This is Dick Meister.
Thanks for listening.Back