Thursday, June 20, 2024

Newt Gingrich speaks in October at the Western Republican Leadership Conference in Las Vegas. He visited Cambridge on Friday and advocated ending some child labor laws. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

The antics of the Occupy movement apparently crowds out a Republican suggestion to rethink child labor laws.

Newt Gingrich’s visited Harvard on Friday to screen his film, “A City Upon A Hill: The Spirit of American Exceptionalism,” and hold a Q&A. He is, perhaps not so coincidentally, running for president as a Republican and (among other things) wants to privatize Social Security.

Most coverage of the event focused on his heckling by Occupy protesters, with The Harvard Crimson saying “Many audience members were frustrated by the protesters. ‘Go back to your tents!’ shouted an audience member, prompting laughter and applause from many spectators. But Gingrich was unfazed by the interruption.”

Most of the Crimson’s coverage chided the protesters, summing up the rest of the event as follows:

Audience members pressed Gingrich on his stances on the issues of illegal immigration, female inequality, the educational system, and even beer.

It went into the most detail (three short paragraphs) on the topic of beer.

Unmentioned by the Crimson, and apparently uncovered by The Boston Globe, was Gingrich’s suggestion to eliminate “stupid” child labor laws. Politico quoted Gingrich at length:

“You say to somebody, you shouldn’t go to work before you’re what, 14, 16 years of age, fine. You’re totally poor. You’re in a school that is failing with a teacher that is failing … 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 would have pride in the schools, they’d begin the process of rising. You go out and talk to people, as I do, you go out and talk to people who are really successful in one generation. They all started their first job between 9 and 14 years of age. They all were either selling newspapers, going door to door, they were doing something, they were washing cars.”

“This is something that no liberal wants to deal with,” he said, referring to the laws as “core policies of protecting unionization and bureaucratization against children in the poorest neighborhoods.”

“It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid,” Gingrich said.

It was unclear what sort of pay the young janitors would get or what, under his plan, would happen to the adults holding those jobs now, some of whom are likely to be parents of poor children.