Rolling back the minimum wage and child labor laws in order to help the poor

    Remember when, not too long ago, Michele Bachmann said, “If we took away the minimum wage—if conceivably it was gone—we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely“? Well, not one to be outdone, Newt Gingrich came out today, declaring that America’s child labor laws are, “truly stupid.” You know… those meddlesome laws that keep people younger than 14 out of our factories, where they could be realizing all of their dreams. Gingrich, in a speech at Harvard today, said that children in our poorest neighborhoods are “trapped in child laws” that keep them from earning the money they could use to change their situations, and make better lives for themselves. (Education might also be a route to that better life, but, if kids take that path, we wouldn’t get the “win-win” that comes with cheap labor.) Poor, inner-city children, in the opinion of Gingrich, it would seem, deserve the right to be in control of their own destinies (except when they’re pregnant, at which point the government should step in). And, how better to do that than working a few ten hour shifts a week in front of a deep frier at the age of 12?… At this rate, can an impassioned plea from Rick Perry concerning the reinstitution of slavery be far behind? After all, as we all know, blacks were better off back then.

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      46 Comments

      1. Posted November 22, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

        It’s worth mentioning thatvRon Paul is also a fan of allowing businesses to use child labor and allowing businesses to pay their employees less than the current minimum wages.

        So that makes three of the current republican candidates that support this.

        No doubt, it’s because neither they nor their kids will ever have to work under such conditions, if at all.

      2. TeacherPatti
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 9:06 am | Permalink

        I think it’s awesome. I’ve long said that we should go whole hog–no more Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, get rid of child labor laws…hell, let’s get rid of every voting law so that NO ONE can vote! Fuck that shit. I mean, maybe that’s what it will take to get people off of their asses.

        As it is, compulsory education in MI is a joke. All you have to do is–and I mean this literally–tell a truant agent that you are “homeschooling” and there is nothing s/he can do after that. You can be illiterate, a criminal, batshit crazy…but you can homeschool with basically no requirements (no lesson plans, no reports to the state) and you can even print your own diploma when your scholar turns 18. Let’s just GO FOR IT!!!!!!

      3. Edward
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

        There’s so much that can be learned out of school, in the depths of a coal mine, or leaning over a sewing machine in a dimly lit room full. That’s where character is built. Education just holds people back. It keeps them for reaching their full potential. Working long hours for pocket change is what makes men great. Look at Steve Jobs. He didn’t go to college. And the great Ben Franklin only went to school for a couple of years, and yet he discovered electricity!

      4. Edward
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        I did some fact checking to make sure I was right about Franklin only going to school for a couple of years. Here’s what I found.

        Benjamin Franklin’s father wanted Ben to be the son who became a preacher and so he sent him to grammar school when he was 8 years old. After less than a year, for financial reasons, Ben transferred to Mr. George Brownell’s school for writing and arithmetic. He stayed at the new school until he was ten, doing well in writing and badly in arithmetic. He then left school to work with his father in their candle shop. Ben’s further education came from his own reading and lifelong conversation and debate with his friends.

      5. Megan
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

        I’m not for 8 year olds working a 40hr/wk in a factory, but I had a work permit at 13 or 14. What’s the harm of a 12 year old stacking boxes for 10 hrs a week just to help the family out? I don’t think child labor laws should be repealed, but certainly there’s more that kids can do to earn some spending/help the family out than just mowing neighbors lawns.

        I had a work permit, signed off by the school, that allowed me to be a camp counselor (ugh!) one summer, and work in the local pool concession stand another summer. This was in Virginia, and before the age of 16, you needed a work permit to get a job.

        Do they have work permit laws in Michigan? Maybe they can be relaxed a little? Lower the age or something? I don’t remember if there was a limit on hours/week I could work. But both the school and the parent had to sign off on it – maybe you had to be getting a minimum gpa or something.

      6. Posted November 22, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        I started working (at Pizza Hut) when I was 13. I lied and said I was 16.

        The manager made me work every day and told me that if I ever took a day off, I would be fired. He paid me $2.80 an hour.

        That I had to work should be the greater crime. Ideally, households should be well off enough so that their children don’t have to.

        What’s wrong with kids working 10 hours a week stacking boxes to help the family out? The fact that his or her parents don’t make more than minimum wage, if they can work at all.

      7. Megan
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink

        So instead of allowing the kid to contribute, they should just go on welfare so the kid can play for another year or two instead? Sure, it’s a shame if parents don’t make enough, but keeping kids from working isn’t going to solve that problem.

      8. Brainless
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink

        Holy Christ, people. Kids can work. They can get work permits. They work all the time. What we’re talking about here is the desire of very powerful people to remove ALL restrictions on the exploitation of their labor – zero regulation. Please keep the discussion clear. These few comments alone prove that the powers that be have done a good job of changing the conversation. You’re all arguing about whether kids could or should work (which they already do, or can do, all the time) when you should be talking about, “Given that kids will work, what protections should we offer them?”

      9. TeacherPatti
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        What Brainless said. I am more concerned about what employers will do once they realize what they can now get away with (i.e. hire kids!, pay them less!) I think we can agree that, left unchecked, the Market will not protect us. (I know the government isn’t perfect at protecting us, but still).

      10. wetdolphinmissile
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        are there no workhouses, are there no prisons?

      11. Maria
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 11:20 am | Permalink

        Define kids who can work? Age, please?Jobs done?
        I was babysitting at 12, and doing odd jobs at 14, and worked through high school. It was a good experience overall, and lots of kids in my area worked too. You would have to have defined terms etc, but up to 10 hours a week during a school week is okay in my eyes.

      12. Posted November 22, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        For the record, I didn’t suggest that kids shouldn’t work.

        Where I come from, though, only one in 4 poor kids graduate from high school at all. Many of the 3 out of the 4 drop out to work to help support their families, which, to me, is a sad state of affairs and will only continue the cycle of poverty by denying kids an education.

        I don’t think that anyone is trying to make the argument that kids shouldn’t work.

        I do, however, think that people really have little appreciation for poverty in the US.

      13. Mr. X
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        If you followed the “people younger than 14″ link in the original post, you’d see what the current federal rules are, as well as the exceptions. I believe the point of the post was that kids over 14 can already work, and there are certain jobs that younger children can legally do, but that Gingrich is saying that even those are too harsh.

        The Republican party has gone nuts.

      14. j
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        In Connecticut, 14 year olds work the shade tobacco fields throughout the summer (at least 10 years ago anyway). Boys work in the field cutting and hauling, girls hang in the barns. Temperatures under the netting and in the barns easily top 100. Throw in some farm machinery and it’s the perfect job for kids.

        Pure exploitation. Only stupid 14 year olds with questionable parenting and undocumented immigrants would do that work for 8/hour. Hiring adults would have cut into the farmer’s massive margins (at least during the 90s cigar boom).

      15. Posted November 22, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        Only the most desperate or stupid would let their children participate in tobacco farming.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1497768/

      16. Mr. X
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        Lest anyone think that child labor is all babysitting and helping ones dad stack boxes in the family store, here are some photos.

        This is what child labor really looks like in practice.

        http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/childlabor/

      17. TeacherPatti
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, Mr. X.
        I read a book once–I should have written down the name…it was a “kids’ book” in one of the 6th grade rooms–that talked about a 12 year old boy who spent his work shifts in total darkness in a mine shaft. He basically had to wait for the elevator to come down and then light up his head lamp for the miners. When they were through, he would turn off the lamp and sit and wait. Won’t ever forget that story.

      18. Maria
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        Sure, the Republicans are way off base, and Newt wants to make it sound like he’s reasonable, when in fact, it’s horribly exploitative, and enriching to the already rich, who think they deserve to be rich because they are basically wily enough and unempathic enough to exploit those exploitable.
        He’s not going to win the nomination, at least I can’t see it. He’s a disgusting person, and he doesn’t need to be examined closely for that be obvious to people.

      19. TeacherPatti
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        It’s lunch for me and I just read most of the link that Mr. X posted. Okay so many of those jobs are obselete now, but I have to wonder what new uses for children could be found? I’m really afraid to guess :(

      20. Posted November 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

        I’ll get flamed for saying this but people who think that child labor is “babysitting and helping ones dad stack boxes in the family store” have never been poor.

      21. Maria
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

        Oh, don’t be so sure.

      22. Eel
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        I’m waiting for a Republican candidate named Jim Crow. It’s got to happen eventually.

        As for child labor not being an issue anymore, I’d encourage you all to read up on global child prostitution. Nicholas Kristof, of the New York Times, is one of the few people talking about it. It may not be something we see a lot of here, but you can be certain that the Johns involved are often American businessmen.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/17/opinion/kristof-the-face-of-modern-slavery.html?_r=1&ref=nicholasdkristof

      23. Maria
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        Seriously, if someone’s poor they never babysat? Or did odd jobs?
        Maybe it’s a generational thing…

      24. Thom Elliott
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

        The suggestion that the removal of such laws would amount to developing a good “work ethic” for poor children is prima facie hilarious. Where are the usual “conservative” suspects on this one? Could it be that we have finally discovered a bottom to the hitherto apperently bottomless abyss of cruelty “conservatives” are willing to entertain in order to “fix” our “economy”? Were are the “religious” fanatics to defend their “brother in Christ Jesus” and his pro-business/”free market” capitalist stance? Could it be that we have finally found a suggestion from out of Newt’s vicious maw that strikes fear into any thinking/feeling human being’s heart?

      25. Brainless
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

        Fuck all the freeloaders. If you have time to sit and collect social security, you have time to pick up a shovel and dig ditches. Dig for freedom, my brothers and sisters! Dig for America!!!

        Oh wait, old people vote. Nevermind.

      26. Posted November 22, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

        I worked at Pizza Hut too Pete. I was about 16 when I started, and living in New Jersey. It was my third job. I’d started working as a bag boy at the A&P when I was 15. I’d ride my bike about two miles to get there, and the job pretty much sucked. My second job, at a hardware store, was better. There was more responsibility and a few cents more an hour. Pizza Hut was just goofy. They’d just opened in our town, and it seemed like the thing to do. At any rate, I think working is important for kids. As much as we joke about it, I think it does build character. With that said, though, there’s a limit, and work shouldn’t ever interfere with education, and kids shouldn’t have to choose between the two. For Newt to suggest that the existing laws, which say that you can start working in some capacity at 14, is too “nanny state”, or whatever their catch phrase is now, is just ridiculous. And no 11 year old kid is going to pull his family out of poverty working behind the grill at Burger King.

        And I don’t think this is anywhere near the bottom of the abyss of cruelty, Thom. We’ve still got a year before the election, and there’s still a lot of abyss to explore.

      27. Posted November 22, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

        My Pizza Hut job was pure exploitation but an excellent introduction to how awful jobs at the bottom can be.

        The manager knew I was lying about my age, paid me less than anyone in the store and forced me to work every day without a schedule. I once asked for a day off and he threatened to fire me.

        Finally, I said fuck it and went somewhere else.

      28. Dan Richardson
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

        It’s tough for teenagers to do work and school well. Consider a typical 6-period day in high school, maybe 20-30 minutes of homework for each period. That’s 2-3 hours of homework per night. Maybe more reading. Not much time left for work. The kids I teach who work a lot always end up getting caught up in the game of making more money for more stuff, a better car, cooler phone, etc., and their grades end up suffering. I’m not saying that all work for student-aged kids is bad. It just often ends up being a hindrance to education.

      29. Posted November 22, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

        Given the number of adults who can’t find work, maybe we should be talking about pushing the working age back by a few years, so that these kids aren’t competing for jobs. Granted, the jobs they’re working likely aren’t the kinds of jobs that would pay enough to support a family, but it’s an interesting thing to consider… And I’m not saying that I think this should be done… I can just see someone making that case.

      30. dragon
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

        I take it nobody read the Gingrich quote that initiated this post. He wants exactly what you warn about Mark.

        Gingrich said that children in the poorest neighborhoods are “trapped in child laws” that prevent them from earning money.

        “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,” Gingrich said according to a CNN video. “The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they’d have pride in the schools, they’d begin the process of rising.

      31. Posted November 22, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

        I’m not sure I follow, Dragon. The current law, as I understand it, already allows 14 year olds to work at their schools, or anywhere else. That may vary a bit from state to state, but that’s pretty much the baseline. Newt is suggesting we go farther. That’s what caught my attention. I don’t care if a 14 year old wants to work cleaning up his school after classes end. I imagine that kind of stuff happens everywhere, and I think it’s a good thing. Newt, though, is suggesting that we go further.

      32. dragon
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

        The phrase that caught my eye was
        get rid of the unionized janitors
        I assume that means he wants to replace jobs being done (although probably low paying jobs) by adults.

        And since he also says “poorest neighborhoods” I don’t think it takes a big leap to the next step, that instead of actual pay the kids work for the provided subsidized lunches.

      33. dragon
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

        After re-reading your comment I see that we agree.
        Sorry for the confusion.

      34. Posted November 22, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

        Cool. That’s what I thought.

      35. Posted November 23, 2011 at 6:56 am | Permalink

        “the process of rising”

        What the fuck is he talking about? I love these conservative bozos that make everything seem so easy.

      36. Edward
        Posted November 23, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

        Saying it’s a “process” allows you to count it as a success even if people are still in poverty.

        “Sure, that kid is making 25-cents an hour for cleaning out furnaces, but he’s in the process of rising. When he was 5 years old, he wasn’t making anything at all.”

      37. Posted November 23, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

        Maybe he means that he’s just growing taller.

        Gingerich, anticipating eliminating food stamps worries that without that school cleaning job, he won’t be able to eat.

      38. Mr. X
        Posted November 23, 2011 at 9:01 am | Permalink

        Yes, he exudes compassion. In fact, I think its pretty safe to say that’s he’s only running because he wants to make the world better for the children of America.

      39. Eel
        Posted November 23, 2011 at 9:06 am | Permalink

        And I bet that he only lets young women on his staff blow him because he’s concerned about their nutrition. He’s all heart, that man.

      40. James Madison
        Posted November 23, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

        Not only should the United States allow child labor again — as was done in the 19th century before so-called labor advocates banned the employment of children in industry — the United States should repeal another unjust violation of everybody’s free market Rights: The 13th Amendment, which banned slavery. Everyone should have a right to buy and sell slaves if they want to — and some people should sell themselves into slavery, as a way to take advantage of their one asset in the market place.

        Before long, I trust that the Republicans running for president will open a full fledged attack on the 13th Amendment. It has restricted our freedom for far too long, and only soft headed emotionalists will continue to tolerate this constitutional restriction on our American freedoms! And once slavery is restored in this great land of liberty, prosperity for all will be assured.

      41. Eel
        Posted November 23, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink

        Servitude is Freedom
        Pizza is Vegetable
        Surveillance is Privacy

      42. Andy C
        Posted November 23, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

        Slavery in America would be a step back. That would require not only owning slaves but housing and feeding them too. It’s more economic to leave them in other countries to work. We also seem to have no problem with most of our clothes, etc being made by children in other countries but not children from here. It’s getting harder to hold on to the “all men are created equal” part of the Declaration of Independence. Most imply “all (American) men are created equal” but even that is stretching it.

      43. Posted November 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        The founding fathers were very clear in saying that only property owning white men were created equal, a position still favored by right wingers all over America.

      44. John Galt
        Posted November 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        Don’t treat the children too harshly.

        I might need their organs.

      45. Meta
        Posted December 2, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink

        Newt doubles down on child labor.

        Gingrich said, mockingly, that those on the left would oppose his idea because it might prompt the children to earn more money and eventually escape poverty, “and then who would rich liberals worry about?”

        http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-1202-gingrich-child-labor-20111202,0,439006.story

      46. Meta
        Posted January 30, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

        It turns out that Newt the Hypocrite did didn’t work in school.

        http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/768773/gingrich_wants_kids_to_work_as_janitors

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