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The Other Side of the Tracks blog by Word Press

Making Policy On the Fly

The Other Side of the Tracks: A Socially Speaking commentary

December 6, 2011

By Perry Redd


You wanna talk about improbable?  I was going back over my commentary from May of this year.  I am not going to eat my words, but they are a bit haunting right about now.  Do you remember what I said about a certain Republican presidential candidate?  Let me refresh your memory:

Remember when the latest polling said that, “if the election were held today, President Obama would lose to at least two of the Republican hopefuls.”  Well, you’re not hearing that now; not this month.  That’s because Republicans made the unwitting choice of grooming nitwits for a no-nonsense job.  It’s hard to get elected to the most visible job in the free world when you’re wearing dirty laundry.

Well, when I said this in May, I also followed up by naming names.  I said, The likelihood of Newt Gingrich winning the presidency—much less, the Republican nomination—is as likely as an ice cube’s walk through hell…it ain’t happenin!  But he’s poised to make a run in 2012 anyway.”  I haven’t changed my prediction.  Though he’s leading in the polls, Gingrich is still Newt…and Newt is still Gingrich.

What I’ve watched him do during this run is something that conservatives live for: a personality who’s willing to risk it all by throwing the most offensive, improbable and even insane policies against the wall to see what sticks.

After saying recently that child labor laws are “truly stupid,” Gingrich last week told an Iowa audience that children in poor neighborhoods have “no habits of working” nor getting paid for their endeavors “unless it’s illegal.” Of course many people—especially poor people—took exception to Gingrich’s perception of a huge constituency of Americans.  This is a public stereotype assault that is usually spoken only inside the safe confines of conservative talk radio.

Gingrich went on to clarify himself: “Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works,” the former House speaker said at a campaign event at the Nationwide Insurance offices. “So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash,’ unless it’s illegal.”

Many of us trying to make sense of Gingrich’s purpose realized immediately that he has never been poor nor lived in a poor neighborhood.  Though he may conduct himself as “poor, white trash,” he’s anything but.  Newt’s net worth is obscene—in respect to the people he’s seeking to serve.

More to the point, this a calculated method of policy-making.  Conservatives literally throw out an insane proposition and wait for either public praise or public outcry and then throw it out or run with it.  You may say, that’s the way policy is done!  You may be correct in some instances, but I argue, this is not responsible policy-making procedure.  What is responsible is listening to the needs of the people you shall serve.  Why is that so hard to understand?  That’s why Occupy Wall Street is alive and well today.

What’s so scary is that Gingrich is serious!  Doesn’t he know that our country has outgrown that stage of it’s primitive past?  That we enacted child labor laws because of the barbaric, irresponsible and exploitative nature of it’s premise?  In 1916, the NCLC and the National Consumers League successfully pressured the US Congress to pass the Keating-Owen Act, the first federal child labor law. The Supreme Court struck it down in 1918. It took the Great Depression to end child labor nationwide; adults had become so desperate for jobs that they would work for the same wage as children. In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which, among other things, placed limits on many forms of child labor.

In reality, why would a candidate running for president even suggest children working when our country has an unemployment rate over 8%–for adults!  In a country where our children are effectively under-achieving in their education as compared with the rest of the world?  He’s running as a candidate that wants to de-fund the department of education and under-employ children?  Then, keep adults out of work?

I imagine Gingrich would also support gold production in artisanal mines using child labor and unsafe refining processes…not in Africa, but here in the good ol’USA?  Thank goodness such mines aren’t a booming US industry; though coal is still around! Newt Gingrich will be remembered as one of the most hated and insensitive politicians in my lifetime. Despite his adeptness as a tactician (having led the Republican Revolution of 1994), Gingrich will come into office and ruin the lives of millions. Dr. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who benefited from Gingrich’s skill, recently stated that he “just found his [Gingrich] leadership lacking.”

He’ll legislate as a social and ethics leader, but the truth will unmask the hypocrite (3 marriages, two ending in affairs; an affair while crusading for Clinton’s resignation under the Monica Lewinsky cloud; a paid lobbyist for Fannie Mae). Eventually, he’ll be run out of office as he was in 1999 when he was sanctioned, fined, and eventually resigned.  Let us not forget…

I implore you to learn and then do not forget Gingrich’s history.  Social policy is a serious and thoughtful element of American reality.  Never trust a politician that, like Herman Cain tried to make policy with the 9-9-9 tax plan modeled on the SIM City video game, …Gingrich will create policy on the fly and pass off hair-brain ideas as urban policy and expect you to live by it. Don’t be fooled.

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