Conservative lawmakers are often out-of-touch when it comes to the class divide, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to find backwards solutions to supposedly “help” the economically disadvantaged. Some of their suggestions pertaining to children are particularly appalling. Here are 5 of their not-so-great ideas:
1. Poor Kids Should Work to Pay Their Debt to Society
Just last week, lawmaker Ray Canterbury shared his thoughts on free school lunches with the West Virginia House of Delegates. “I think it would be a good idea if perhaps we had the kids work for their lunches: trash to be taken out, hallways to be swept, lawns to be mowed, make them earn it.” He’s also not opposed to them missing class to complete this work. “They might not, in that class that afternoon, learn to add, they might not learn to diagram a sentence, but they’ll learn a more important lesson.” Yes, because completing menial tasks is far more valuable than getting an education. Surely such a system where kids lose class time will not disadvantage poor children further.
If this suggestion sounds familiar, that’s because Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign included the bright idea that poor kids should work as custodians in their schools because they lacked a “work ethic.” They can justify it however they want, but the real end goal is to train less fortunate kids to be subservient to the elite at an early age.
2. Hard Labor Keeps Poor Kids Fit and Trim
Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is also not a fan of banning child labor, particularly when it pertains to young kids working on farms. In protesting the legislation, Grassley tried to paint Democrats as hypocrites by saying, “It’s interesting that this child labor bill goes against Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity initiative. How can kids be active if they are limited by this law?”
Yes, Grassley, how on earth can children stay skinny if not working the field? That’s the kind of exercise that playing and sports could never provide. Surely these child laws have nothing to do with preventing cheap, exploitative labor… if you really care about the health of poor kids, you’ll send them out to pick our crops!
3. Do Well in School or Lose Your Benefits
Earlier this year, Stacey Campfield, a Republican State Senator for Tennessee, proposed that a family’s welfare benefits should depend on the kids’ performance in school. If students did not score well on state standardized tests (which we know always accurately measures a child’s learning), then their families would lose 30% of their welfare allotment.
Sure, the idea may be to help incentivize children to do better in school. However, if you take children in poverty and limit their access to necessities like food and clothing, you’re kidding yourself if you think these kids’ grades and test scores would magically improve. Fortunately, even an 8-year-old girl could see the flawed logic and helped put a stop to this counterproductive measure.
4. Don’t Feed the “Animals”
Gabriela Saucedo Mercer, a Republican candidate to represent Arizona in Congress, mused on her Facebook page that while the National Park Service discourages people from feeding wild animals because it teaches them to not take care of themselves, the U.S. government has no qualms about handing out food stamps. Get it, get it? Poor kids are like dumb wild animals, guys. Go ahead and laugh now. Sigh. Fortunately, Arizonans chose not to vote for the animals, either, and Mercer lost the election.
Unfortunately, however, Mercer is not the only one to choose this dehumanizing type of analogy. Andre Bauer, then-Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina and Republican, said the following in a speech: “My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”
Bauer later claimed his statement was taken “out of context” and did not apply to impoverished children, even though cutting off funding to adults who “breed” (eek!) these kids would most definitely affect quality of life for such kids. At any rate, deeply sorry to hear you’re no longer in office, Bauer!
5. Okay, Fine, Feed Poor Kids… Just Not As Well As Rich Kids
Officials at the Webster, Missouri school district developed a “better” solution for dealing with poor kids who expected free lunches… by serving them an inferior meal. We’re not talking the usual subpar cafeteria fare, but the nearly 50% of the student body that can’t afford lunch are given a cheese sandwich and milk instead of the standard hot meal. What a great opportunity for kids to learn about the class divide at an early age!
One kind cafeteria employee gave a student the nicer lunch despite the fact that he was poor and should have been getting a cheese sandwich every day, so, of course, she was fired. Never mind that Missouri schools receive federal funds to ensure that every student can be fed properly and this class segregation is pretty much illegal – I’m sure school officials found a better use for that money than giving back to less fortunate children as it was intended.
Each of these concepts shows a severe lack of empathy. There is no way any of these politicians would want any of these laws to apply to their own children. But as long as we’re talking about someone else’s kids… make ‘em work and let ‘em starve!