Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is the latest anti-Mitt Romney Republican candidate to surge in the polls, has some interesting ideas about child labor. On Thursday he said at an Iowa campaign stop that poor children have no idea what it’s like to actually earn money, unless it’s for doing something illegal.
"Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and nobody around them who works," Gingrich said. "So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of 'I do this and you give me cash,' unless it's illegal."
He also defended a proposal he made last month in which he suggested they be put to work as janitors at their schools.
"[I received] letters written that said janitorial work is really hard and really dangerous and this and that. OK, fine. So what if they became assistant janitors and their job was to mop the floor and clean the bathroom. And you paid them," he said.
His sentiment could be applied to all children from a variety of backgrounds who could stand to a lesson in the value of hard work, but because he targeted the poor, Gingrich gave some people the impression that he was speaking in coded language to appeal to his right-wing base.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, was outraged.
“I grew up very poor. I lived in public housing until my high school days and I resent any suggestion that I and others who grew up like me had no role models and that we didn’t know how to earn money unless it was involved with crime,” he said.
Cleaver said he’s not certain Gingrich intended to appear racist, but said his message had “subliminal, racial overtones.” He also said that Gingrich’s comments could hurt his presidential aspirations in the future because there are a lot of poor Republicans and conservatives who also won’t appreciate his remarks, especially coming from someone who has boasted about earning $60,000 per speech and considers himself a celebrity.
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(Photo: Brian Frank/Reuters)