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Newt's Cruelest Campaign: Replace School Janitors With Child Labor

By       Message John Nichols       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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It has been suggested that the Republicans who would be president are determined to turn the clock back seventy-five years and "rescind the New Deal."

Now, Newt Gingrich has gone his rivals one better.

The former Speaker of the House, and sudden contender for the 2012 GOP presidential nod, is not about to stop with the New Deal. He wants to turn the clock back 100 years and rescind the progressive era.

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This is no small threat. While the New Deal brought a measure of economic security to the American experiment, along with a bolder vision of what government could do to tame the wildest excesses of bankers and speculators, it was the Progressive Era that introduced measures of basic humanity and democratic aspiration to the project.

Gingrich goes to the heart of the matter with his new proposal to attack public-sector collective bargaining rights with a proposal to fire school janitors and replace them with child laborers.

Blaming "the core policies of protecting unionization and bureaucratization" for "crippling" children," Gingrich told a Harvard Kennedy School of Government seminar that "it is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, in child laws, which are truly stupid."

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"I tried for years to have a very simple model," the former Speaker of the House continued. "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'd have pride in the schools, they'd begin the process of rising."

Even in a party where cruelty is now considered a political virtue, there is something unsettling about a man who collected $30,000 each month to offer an hour of historical counsel to Freddie Mac administrators attacking elementary and secondary school janitors who, according to fresh Bureau of Labor Statistics data, earn a mean wage of $13.74 an hour, or $28,570 per year.

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