Daily Archives: December 1, 2011

How the Gingrich insults poor people…

Newt Gingrich has a curious hobby. No, not his semiannual weddings but his habit of insulting poor people.

Recently, Gingrich suggested “that American school systems should fire their unionized janitors and let underprivileged children do the work instead, according to a report in Politico.” It’s worth noting that he made these comments to the countless underprivileged kids at Harvard University.

This was rejected as more of Gingrich’s typical, “are there no prisons?” nonsense — similar to his statements about orphanages back in the early ’90s. Dave Jamieson at The Huffington Post dismantled Gingrich’s argument:

Despite its relatively modest pay, a janitor’s job isn’t as easy as Gingrich seems to think it is. According to the Labor Department, a janitor needs to be able to carry out a long list of duties and repairs during a typical day: Mop and polish floors, handle dangerous chemicals, even perform basic electrical and plumbing repairs. At schools, they also need to interact well with children and, at times, clean up their vomit.

A janitor’s job is also more dangerous than most American occupations — and hardly fit for children, according to the Labor Department’s description of the work. Janitors, it notes, “may suffer cuts, bruises, and burns from machines, handtools, and chemicals. They spend most of their time on their feet, sometimes lifting or pushing heavy furniture or equipment. Many tasks, such as dusting or sweeping, require constant bending, stooping, and stretching.”

Gingrich did not skulk away quietly in the light of reason. He now claims his views were “spun out of control” by “the left” (yeah, those guys again).

“Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works,” the former House speaker told an audience at the headquarters for Nationwide Insurance.

Paris Hilton demonstrates the work ethic and value of a dollar her family fortune instilled in her.

This is demonstrably false and insulting. Poor children see their parents working sometimes multiple jobs in order to survive. He seems to have the poor confused with the idle rich, such as (Pick Your) Kardashian and ex-con Paris Hilton.

He then seemed to imply that a young, poor individual’s only likely source of possible income would be from breaking the law.

“They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’–unless it’s illegal.”

Again, I think he’s confused the poor with his buddies at Freddie Mac. True, no one has been arrested yet for bringing down the U.S. economy and quite a few people in poor neighborhoods are arrested because they live in poor neighborhoods.

Gingrich added that most successful businesspeople he knows started work “early” and made some kind of money when they were kids, whether it was by babysitting or mowing lawns.

He’s describing in a general sense what we call “chores” — a valuable, character-building concept but not technically “work.” I mowed the lawn myself (the backyard until my father trusted me near the front yard when I was in high school) but that was for comic book money. I never had to work to put food on the table. And I never had politicians suggesting that my father should lose his job and — if that wasn’t enough of a punch in the gut — his teenage son should replace him for a fraction of the cost.

“What if you paid them part time in the afternoon to sit in the clerical office and greet people as they came in? What if you paid them to work as the assistant librarian? And I’d pay them as early as is reasonable and practical,” he said Thursday.

What Gingrich isn’t addressing is that working-class jobs — be they clerical or janitorial — used to be something for which an adult could earn a living wage. Gingrich and his ilk have pretty much eliminated that. And, yes, technology has also done its part. However, if you wish to invest in children and their future, the key is education. After-school programs such as the Drama Club, yearbook, or orchestra instill responsibility, teamwork, and improve self-esteem. Let’s actually focus on putting these poor kids’ parents back to work. This doesn’t mean that after-school jobs for kids is a bad idea. I learned a lot working in a supermarket in high school. I was able to even open my first checking account. However, Gingrich does a disservice to everyone by insisting these “moral” lessons are exclusive to the poor. A rich kid can benefit from sweeping the floors of his school, as well.

Gingrich may be many things not printable in a family publication but he’s not stupid. The contempt he’s shown for the poor with these comments and also his comments about the Occupy movement implies that he believes a majority of U.S. voters think this way. We need to prove him decisively wrong.

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Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Political Theatre


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It’s still a bum deal, Ms. Richards…

It’s still a bum deal, Ms. Richards…

The great Holland Taylor is currently performing in a one-woman show about former Texas governor Ann Richards (“ANN: An Affectionate Portrait of Ann Richards“) at the Charline McCombs Empire Theater in San Antonio, Texas. This is essentially the chocolate and peanut butter of theatrical experiences as it combines two of my favorite people.

Ann Richards electrified everyone watching — including the 14-year-old me — when she delivered the keynote address as the 1988 Democratic National Convention. Every line was Julia Sugarbaker gold but the most remembered is her lament for “Poor George (H.W. Bush)… He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” One less recalled line but one that still rings true is, “And you don’t have to be from Waco to know that when the Pentagon makes crooks rich and doesn’t make America strong, that it’s a bum deal.”

Of course, beneath the sharp wit is the sadness of what came to pass: The Reagan Era that Richards says was soon to end obviously didn’t. I always thought it was because we sent a Dukakis to do a job best suited for a Richards.

Ms. Richards was governor of Texas from 1991 to 1995. She had struggled with alcoholism in her life but that battle helped inform a compassionate means of dealing with substance abuse and crime:

… the state of Texas, when I was governor, we built an awful lot of prisons. And to be frank with you, I made a deal, and the deal was that I would help pass the legislation and be for building a lot more prisons in Texas if I could get rehab programs for people who were alcoholics and drug abusers because I knew that over 80 percent of the crime committed in Texas was committed by people under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

And unless you treat that alcoholism and you treat that drug addiction, when they go right back out on the street, you got a drunk or you’ve got an addict that is going to commit a crime again.

George W. Bush defeated Ms. Richards in 1994. Karl Rove, the brains behind this victory, cynically stated that her loss was attributable in part to her opposition to a concealed weapon bill, which Bush later signed into law while also executing more prisoners than any other governor in history (he obviously did not see the cognitive dissonance here), and her warning to a Girl Scouts conference to beware of “Prince Charming on a motorcycle with a beer gut and a wandering eye.” That was actually pretty sound advice — not just for Girl Scouts but for the whole country. Rove is less upfront about the dirty tricks that were linked to him during the campaign.

In 1994, when Bush ran against Democratic Gov. Ann Richards in Texas, a whisper campaign began in East Texas that Richards had appointed gays and lesbians to state positions, which was true. The issue got little notice until Bush’s East Texas campaign chairman accused the governor of naming “avowed and activist homosexuals” to high offices.

I am impressed that 20 years ago Ms. Richards hired qualified people regardless of their sexual orientation (“avowed and activist” is usually translated to mean “not frightened and in a closet”). I also appreciated her inclusiveness — speaking Spanish during her keynote address in recognition of her state’s background.

Here is a clip of Holland Taylor as Ms. Richards in the play she painstakingly researched and wrote herself. If it eventually reaches Broadway, it will prove a worthy rationale for my brief return to New York.

And, because I love watching it, here’s Ms. Taylor accepting a well-earned Emmy for her work in “The Practice”:

“Overnight,” indeed.

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Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Political Theatre, Pop Life


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