Yes, sir. That's what we're afraid of . . .
Here's the well-reported gem from the Perfesser's comments at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government:
"It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid. 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."The story being highlighted in the media is, of course, the one about children acting as junior janitors at public schools in the "poorest neighborhoods," what we might call the "Newt Gingrich P.S. America Schoolchild Janitorial Initiative." Yet, that's not all that's there - contra Gertrude Stein, "There's a lot of there there." Closely read, Gingo's comments reveal a cornucopia of bigoted and often downright wrong perceptions about these "poorest neighborhoods." His underlying conceptions about the poor and the not-so-poor reveal his well-known failure to dive very deeply into facts and their consequences. He creates a mishmash of facts and not-even-conceivable non-facts like wake behind a cruiser going full speed through a small marina.
Here are four items to consider from his three sentence backwash:
1. "first of all, child laws. . ." The Perfesser starts out his observations with a perception that we entrap children in the poorest neighborhoods. My guess, he's referencing African American and Hispanic urban neighborhoods. Surely, it would be difficult to negate the not merely metaphorical entrapment these children face. Yet, look at what Gingo picks as the first way in which we entrap these children - "first of all, child laws." That first: Laws that benefit and protect children.
Gingrich neglects the 16% and 13% unemployment rate for African American men and women (respectively), with an underemployment rate that approaches 25%. Also unmentioned is the 11+% unemployment rate of Hispanic men and women. Add to that the low wage status of those who are employed in primarily dead-end jobs. The Census' September 2011 publication, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010, reported that household income for African American ($32,068 ) and Hispanic ($37,759) families distantly trailed white family incomes ($54,629), and in urban areas the margin is far worse. Poverty rates approach 27% in urban areas for African American and Hispanic families. Moreover, a recent study found that poor urban neighborhoods are rapidly growing in population and becoming more isolated from other neighborhoods.These tidbits, far from a complete array of those available, are missing from the Perfesser's just-throw-it-out-there "analysis" of urban education and labor issues, they always have been. He often simply lofts these half-baked "ideas" into the mediasphere seemingly without fear of pushback, although pushback always comes (today, he tried to revise his statements at Harvard). For a self-admitted genius, he doesn't seem to learn much from experience. Perhaps, with more time at MENSA . . .
Tackling the historic trend of inequality in the United States would take a 1960's type effort. The attack would be aimed at strengthening, not weakening, laws that helped end child labor and other labor abuses. We've been there before. Yes, Perfessor, times have changed since the Gilded Age, some nibbling around the edges of minimum age laws may be in order. Unfortunately for most of us, Gilded Age standards are what you and the GOP have in mind. You're a certified "Historian," Perfesser, how did you miss U.S. child labor history?
|Remember your mantra, Perfesser: |
"Words have consequences."
2. "the poorest neighborhoods . . ." There is more to just suggesting that children work as janitors, or in any other occupation, during their school years, particularly when speaking of kids in the "poorest neighborhoods," as Gingo put it. The federal and state programs that support these children of the working poor are primary targets of Gingrich's "anti-poverty" proposals. For example, he once proposed disallowing children of legal immigrants access to federally subsidized school lunches. He favors block granting education funds to the states. One can only imagine what Texas or Arizona would do with those funds. In reply, I suppose that the Perfesser would point to the wages the children would earn as part-time janitors and suggest they spend that pittance on their lunch. Again, another brilliant idea, but no thanks. And Gingo's ignorance goes much deeper than opposing school lunches, pushing draconian workfare programs, etc. He simply makes no connection between a child of poverty and his or her environment, particularly the lack of sustenance that begins in utero for many inner city children.
3. "ought to get rid of the unionized janitors . . ." Next, let's turn to the Perfessor's mini-lecture on labor, in particular, his reference to union labor. He begins (and ends) with this, "Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors," and, of course, hire one "master janitor" and his pre-pubescent minions. This is nothing new for Gingo, he's long detested unions. In any event, this small parenthetical gives us a look into Gingo's . . . heart. His plan is as we've read, for schools to, first, fire all but one adult janitor and then hire school children as his work force, and all non-union. In general, why do people like Gingrich advocate union destruction? Freedom of contract? As they say, "not so much." Destroying unions is all about reducing negotiating powers that can only be found in workers' numbers, and, most importantly, then having the corporate power to reduce benefits, safety expenses, allied costs, and wages. So, under the vaunted Perfesser's "P.S. America Janitorial Initiative,"
Once again, although with due respect for your braininess, Mr. Gingrich, I disagree.
- Adult janitors would be fired right and left, presumably to take positions at Goldman Sachs,
- their unions, should they exist, would thereby be weakened or destroyed,
- young children at each "retooled"school would then be employed in their stead, and,
- the entire janitorial staff could then - and would then - be paid a pittance for their labor, thus helping drive down labor costs throughout the industry.
4. "they'd begin the process of rising. . ." Next on the list of Gingrich's hit list of "thoughts" is work qua work. When going on about how much his national cadre of child janitors would benefit from his Janitorial Initiative, Gingo's final words point to the future of these children, "they'd begin the process of rising." Here he reveals a prejudice as old as our nation's earliest days, derived from its unfair economic advancement through the labors of enslaved persons, particularly in the south. The notion that people of color must have an incentive to "begin the process of rising" is still afoot, assuredly in Gingrich's world view.
The work "incentive" he implicitly references is not merely an add-on to an individual's natural propensity to work. The "work ethic," according to the longstanding prejudice, is missing in some, particularly in persons of color. By dismantling Gingo's phrases for their genesis in racial bias, it's clear he's not talking about wage or promotion "incentive" here. He's talking about force: forcing a naturally indigent population to, as he says, "actually do work."To push children into the work force who are already disadvantaged by the poverty of their elders, and the concomitant undersupply of nutrition, health, and emotional resources that their poverty brings in its natural wake is certainly enough to commend Gingrich's idea to the rubbish. But, still dissatisfied, the Perfesser - his presidential contestants, and the GOP base - then propose gutting or rendering fictional through block grants the federal programs that help mitigate the real disadvantages among school children and their families.
That's not inspiration Mr. Gingrich, that's plain and simple ignorance driven, as it ever is with you, by your inherent nastiness, and the racial and class bias you are not smart enough to shed. Perfesser, just like when you were denied tenure at West Georgia College in 1978, you are dismissed, with prejudice.