Friday, November 25, 2011

Gingrich: Children Can Clean Schools, Elderly Can Depend On Markets

In conservative circles, Newt Gingrich is known as an “idea man.” In reality, his supposed innovations amount to regressing to an era when the social safety net didn't exist. As president, Gingrich would dismantle child labor laws and Social Security, harming both young and old. He would throw janitors out of work, enabling them join the 9.1 percent unemployed, and have poor kids scrubbing floors and bathrooms. Perhaps some of the student janitors can replace their fired parents. See how well it works?

In poverty stricken K-12 districts, Mr. Gingrich said that schools should enlist students as young as 9 to14 to mop hallways and bathrooms, and pay them a wage. Currently child-labor laws and unions keep poor students from bootstrapping their way into middle class, Mr. Gingrich said.

...Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called Mr. Gingrich’s proposal “absurd.”

“Who in their right mind would lay off janitors and replace them with disadvantaged children — who should be in school, and not cleaning schools,” Ms. Weingarten said. “And who would start backtracking on laws designed to halt the exploitation of children?”

Perhaps poor children as young as 9 can also hire themselves out to scrub schools in affluent areas, populated by students who have the financial backing to devote all their energies to education. An added benefit is that both poor and affluent students will realize their proper stations in the plutocracy that Gingrich wants to perpetuate. So much for "bootstrapping"–or mopping–one's way into the disappearing middle class.

Gingrich also has plans for the elderly. Let’s dismantle Social Security and have them depend upon the fluctuations of the stock market for stability during the golden years. The financial crash at the end of the Bush years, brought about by the deregulation Gingrich favors? A mere trifle, I suppose:

Rather than raising the age to receive benefits, Mr. Gingrich argues that Social Security’s fiscal challenges can be entirely met by personal accounts. They will pay higher benefits than the current system, he says, thanks to the appreciation of stocks, bonds and the like.

But won’t benefits be subject to the ups and downs of markets? Would a worker want to give up a defined-benefit program like Social Security after seeing stocks lose nearly 40 percent of their value after the financial crisis? Mr. Gingrich argues in his 48-page position paper that a long-term investor would still come out ahead.

By the way, how a public program's "fiscal challenges can be entirely met" by withdrawing money from it into a privatization scheme eludes me. But I'm not the "idea man" that Gingrich is.

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