Thursday, December 15, 2011

Some stuff I didn't have time for #2

I've remarked on a number of occasions that I often find that it's the little thing that gets me, the little thing that others don't seem to be pointing to.

An example of that is something I talked about on this week's show, the fact that the day before they moved in to break up Occupy Boston, the police barred food from entering the site. No one seemed to take notice of that - but I immediately thought "By what authority?" What empowers police to simply say "you can't bring food there just because we said so?" And why is that assertion of unfounded authority seemingly regarded as unworthy of comment? What does that say about our media and our society?

Here's another example I wish I'd had time for:
The audience at Saturday night's Republican presidential debate gave their loud seal of approval to the idea of removing restrictions on child labor.

For over a week, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been suggesting that poor children should be in the workforce. He has said that janitorial jobs are appropriate for children, and has lauded the idea of 5-year-olds working.

"If you take one half of the New York janitors, who are paid more than the teachers. An entry-level janitor gets paid twice as much as an entry-level teacher. You take half those janitors, you could give lots of poor kids a work experience in the cafeteria, in the school library, in the front office, in a lot of different things. I'll stand by the idea young people ought to learn how to work."

With that, the Republican audience erupted with applause.
So why is the idea of revoking "stupid" child labor laws popular among GOP primary voters? Because of the adjective which they clearly hear but which has been overlooked in most commentary: "poor." They're not applauding the idea of children working, they're not applauding the idea of five year-old children working, they're applauding the idea of five year-old poor children working.

What's more, Grinch specifically referred to New York. You think that when he talked about "young people" learning "how to work" that folks in the audience were conjuring up images of the children of some white dirt farmer in Appalachia or Mississippi? Or even some down-on-their-luck white family in Indianapolis? You know damn well they weren't.

Because, y'see, it's them. It's those people. Those other people. The "not us." You know who we mean. They have no work ethic. They don't know how to work like we do. They are all shiftless, lazy. And so their kids are the same; they, Grinch claims, "have no habit of working ... unless it's illegal."

One of the few who I noticed addressing the "poor" aspect of this directly was Jesse Jackson, who pointed out that "83 percent of poor children live in households with at least one adult who works" and that poor working parents often work more hours than wealthier counterparts. Then there is the fact that according to David Cay Johnston, the average number of hours worked yearly by folks in the poorest fifth of the population has gone up by 26% in the past thirty years.

Jackson called Grinch's statements "ugly and stupid." I'm more than a little surprised that he didn't also call them what they were: transparently racist. And the response of the audience, the same.

Footnote: I expect the fact that Lizard Grinch's plan would also involve firing a lot of "unionized janitors" was icing on the cake for that audience.

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