Arguments using terms of humaneness are ridiculed, while others want to put poor kids back into the dark ages of sanctioned child labor and orphanages. Others think the way to save the cost of Medicare is to cure the diseases inflicting seniors.
All of these approaches have their supporters, and many reside on the right end of the political spectrum. In fact, the chief advocate for these positions is one in the same: Newt Gingrich. Credit him with schizophrenia when it comes to matters of a warm heart.
Both Newt Gingrich and Gov. Rick Perry had the fortitude to address the problem of what to do with the 11-or-so million illegal immigrants in this country. Perry's campaign was buried in the landslide of GOP right that cheered electrifying the border fences and zapping offenders, and deporting everyone who was undocumented. Gingrich escaped lynching by appealing to the humanistic culture, but his rise was in spite of his position on “amnesty.” He is the last, best known un-Romney left standing at this point.
Gingrich brings with him years of recorded pronouncements, but he is still capable of surprising us. His most recent sound bite, claiming child labor laws were “truly stupid” and proposing to put poor kids to work as school janitors to instill a work ethic, will haunt him as he takes his campaign forward. Charles M. Blow, opining in the New York Times (Dec. 3, 2011) captioned his piece as “Newt's War on Poor Children.” Blow cited statistics that shames Gingrich's rationale that poor kids need to have someone to give them a work ethic early in life because they all come from welfare households. According to Blow, 75 percent of poor adults are working and most poor children live in a household where at least one parent is employed.
As a parent and grandparent of working kids, I appreciate they are protected by the stupid laws that keep them from working with knives and dangerous equipment, or exposing themselves to toxic chemicals or working long hours that prevent them from succeeding in school. What does Gingrich want to do? Subject all of our kids to abuses for which those stupid laws were written? Or does he mean only poor kids should not have those protections?
This “war on poor children” is in character with Gingrich's past positions, too. Newt Gingrich will forever be identified with welfare reform proposals in the famous ‘90s “Contract with America”, of which he was the architect. While even Democrats embraced and enacted some of it, forgotten in the fine print was the proposal he made to take poor kids from dysfunctional families and put them in orphanages, later called children's homes, a political renaming because of the bad name orphanages had gotten. I thought conservatives have a thing about preserving parental rights. What were you thinking, Newt? Recently Gingrich has admitted he may have used the wrong terms, and what he meant was to call them “prep schools.” A rose is a rose is a rose.
What we ought to support instead is more of what cities are already doing: partnering with the private sector and nonprofits in summer work youth programs, mentoring, internships, and promoting their access to education or a GED. We not only need to give them income, we also need to give them tools to succeed. Tossing them in orphanages or making them janitors will neither not cut it nor warm many hearts.