Des Moines, Iowa — Responding to controversial comments he made about child labor in late November at Harvard University, Newt Gingrich today told a crowd in Des Moines, Iowa, that children in poor neighborhoods have “no habits of working and nobody around them who works.”
Gingrich was asked by an audience member to clarify the comments he made last month in which he called the current child labor laws ”stupid” and would replace janitors with schoolchildren to work in the community school.
“They have no habit of showing up on Monday and staying all day or the concept of ’I do this and you give me cash,’ unless it’s illegal,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich said that successful people he knows started work early by doing small jobs like babysitting and shoveling snow.
“You have a very poor neighborhood. You have students that are required to go to school. They have no money, no habit of work,” Gingrich said. “What if you paid them in the afternoon to work in the clerical office or as the assistant librarian? And let me get into the janitor thing. What if they became assistant janitors, and their job was to mop the floor and clean the bathroom?”
Gingrich talked about a program around while he was in Congress called “Earning While Learning,” which paid students to read books. He said it was the same concept of students gaining money for doing acedemic work that he would like to see students to invest in.
“They wanted the money. The kids were showing up saying, ‘I demand you let me read. You can’t keep me from this program,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich said there would be a lot of details to work out, but the general principle was “exactly the right direction for America’s future.
“If we are all endowed by our creator with the right to pursue happiness, that has to apply to the poorest neighborhoods in the poorest counties, and I am prepared to find something that works, that breaks us out of the cycles we have now to find a way for poor children to work and earn honest money,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich speaks at the Polk County GOP dinner tonight and campaigns in New York on Saturday.