Even though it is sort of my job to do so, I have a really hard time sitting through these GOP debates. First of all, there are thousands of them. These people have shared the same stage so often that are now all eligible for Tony awards. After sixteen of these things, what topics could possibly remain unexplored? Their favorite Pizza toppings? Which is their favorite Kardashian sister? With thirteen or so debates left, we may be treated to arm wrestling matches between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, or a Rick Perry karaoke version of “My Heart Will Go On (Theme from Titanic)” before this is over.
Second, they aren’t “debates” so much as they are contests to see who can best slander Barack Obama. Debating usually involves people having divergent opinions on the issues. As policy nuance isn’t allowed in Republican politics, everything becomes a question of volume. “You hate the Health Care Bill? Well I REALLY hate it. Nobody hates sick people as much as I do.”
This is how you wind up with Newt Gingrich coming out in favor of putting poor children to work cleaning toilets for their institutional betters. To be fair, it’s possible that Newt would have done this anyway. Newt Gingrich is a pretty big asshole, so it’s hard to tell. Think I’m joking? Check it out this quote from the man himself:
It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid … You say to somebody, you shouldn’t go to work before you’re what, 14, 16 years of age, fine. You’re totally poor. You’re in a school that is failing with a teacher that is failing. … 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.
Delightful. This idea has the virtue of being at the same time insulting, patronizing, and horrible on a level rare for even the likes of Newt Gingrich. The idea of making destitute ten-year old children work as janitors for the amusement of the wealthy is positively Dickensian. This is one of the reasons I look forward to the general election should Newt grab the nomniation. The commercials write themselves.
INT. Classroom – Day
(A young boy in coveralls pushes a broom down a hallway, probably in slow motion, while wealthy children laugh heartily and throw change at him. Audio of Newt’s asinine comments plays in the background.)
V/O (Cont.): Help Barack Obama put a stop to the Gingrich Education Plan. Tell Newt to leave the children alone.
See? It’s that easy.
The other thing about Newt’s idiotic statement is that it shows an almost perfect ignorance regarding how hard janitorial work actually is. That Newt assumes this work can be performed by children is wildly insulting to the many thousands of hard working and chronically underpaid janitorial professionals. His disrespect for working people shows a level of detachment and snobbery sufficient to brand Gingrich as the worst sort of privileged, arrogant aristocrat, oblivious to the lives the non-wealthy live.
When did Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty turn into a Republican war on the poor? $10,000 wagers are about half a step away from paying homeless people to fight each other.
Remember, before Newt Gingrich was a big shot political juggernaut, he was but a lowly Geography professor at the University of West Georgia. I expect he ran into a great deal of janitorial staff in his time there, and I can only imagine the condescension they must have endured from Professor Gingrich. The University of West Georgia, as it turns out, is looking for some help in the Custodial Services Department, and they have a very nice description of what janitorial work involves:
This person will work in academic buildings, administrative buildings and residence halls on a daily basis cleaning restrooms, offices, classrooms, gathering and disposing of trash and vacuuming. Duties and responsibilities include: maintaining the appearance of offices, classrooms, hallways, laboratories, lobbies, lounges, elevators, stairways and restrooms by dusting, vacuuming, sweeping and removal of trash; cleaning and polishing light fixtures, marble surfaces and trims; washing walls and woodwork, windows, door panels and sills; sweeping, vacuuming, dust mopping, wet mopping, scrubbing, stripping, restoring, buffing and waxing floors; restocking supply closets and restrooms; setting-up chairs, tables and other equipment in classrooms, meeting rooms, and public areas as required; performing other duties as assigned.
Does that sound like the sort of thing that a ten-year old could do? I’d like to see Newt hustle a few twelve-hour cleaning shifts, and then talk to me about how easy this work is. I know janitors don’t make much money, but it doesn’t make the jobs they do any less valuable or deserving of respect. Custodial staff actually work for a living, and they work extremely hard. Newt so easily demonstrates his contempt for the working class, probably because the last time he was part of it was during the Nixon administration. We can’t all be paid consultants for Freddie Mac, after all.
When did Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty turn into a Republican war on the poor? It’s sort of their theme this cycle. If it wasn’t Herman Cain telling poor people to blame themselves for their lack of employment and failure to be fabulously wealthy, it’s widespread conservative opposition to the Payroll Tax Cut, and cowardly obstruction regarding the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Republicans have finally found a tax cut they don’t like, and by what I sure is complete coincidence, it happens to favor the working class.
You even have Mitt Romney throwing around ten thousand dollar wagers on stage during presidential debates. I wonder if he is aware that there are millions and millions of people in the country for whom an infusion of ten thousand dollars would save their homes, or get them out of crippling debt, or help resolve the horrific financial straights they’ve found themselves in ever since greedy wall street bankers destroyed the economy. The GOP has a name for these people. They call them, “The Help.”
The concept seems clear: Government should be just big enough to protect “Job Creators,” (i.e. Rich People) but not so big as to allow for the protecting of anyone else. How long do they expect people to fall for this? Do they think they can beat a path all the way to the White House on the “Let Them Eat Cake” platform?
Here is my advice to the GOP: Try to look a little less like those two old guys from Trading Places. It’s hard to work that “Man of the People” angle when you are lighting your cigars with $100 bills. Also, consider cutting back on the $10,000 wagers a little. It’s about half a step away from paying homeless people to fight each other.
Benjamin Phillips is a Humor Writer, Web Developer, Civics Nerd, and all around crank that spends entirely too much time shouting with deep exasperation at the television, especially whenever cable news is on. He lives in St. Louis, MO and spends most of his time staring at various LCD screens, occasionally taking walks in the park whenever his boyfriend becomes sufficiently convinced that Benjamin is becoming a reclusive hermit person. He is available for children’s parties, provided that those children are entertained by hearing a complete windbag talk for two hours about the importance of science education, or worse yet, poorly researched anecdotes PROVING that James Buchanan was totally gay. If civilization were to collapse due to zombie hoards or nuclear holocaust, Benjamin would be among the first to die as he has no useful skills of any kind. The post-apocalyptic hellscape has no real need for homosexual computer programmers who can name all the presidents in order, as well as the actors who have played all eleven incarnations of Doctor Who.
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