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The G(ing)RI[N]CH who stole Christmas

Newt Says: Poor kids don't work "unless it's illegal"

“I think I’m going to be the nominee, proclaimed Newt Gingrich.” All I can say is “OMG.” Has the Republican Party totally lost its collective minds? Do they WANT to lose to President Obama?

With the holiday season upon us, the G(ing)RI[N]CH who stole Christmas boasted to ABC news "It's very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I'm going to be the nominee." Thanks, Newt, for spoiling all my post-holiday primaries fun.

Newt Gringrich is the G(ing)RI[N]CH who stole Christmas for a number of reasons but the one that irks me most are the comments he made at a pit stop in Iowa last week that: "really poor children have bad work habits and no knowledge of how to make an income unless it’s illegal." In case you missed it, here is the "best" of Newt. I’d say his comments are akin to an outtake in the screening of a movie but, I’m afraid, for Newt it’s truly an in-take.

Newt proclaimed that children in poor neighborhoods should be employed as janitors in schools and argued that "the best way to teach children in poor neighborhoods good working habits is to put them to work as soon as possible. Start with the following two facts, really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works, 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."

Gingrich said every successful person he knows started working at an early age in explaining his position that schools should hire poor children in their neighborhoods for part-time jobs as assistant librarians or assistant janitors. Seriously?

Newt, have you ever heard of Oprah Winfrey? She grew up in poverty. I don’t think she was a janitor growing up. Instead, she grew up in an abusive household and ran away at home at the age of 13. She worked hard in school aided by the Upward Bound program. Her story is one of going from rags to riches formed by hard work in school and a determination to succeed.  Born into abject poverty in rural Mississippi, Winfrey went from being a young girl clothed in potato sacks to the richest and most powerful female media mogul in the world.  She has been ranked the richest African American of the 20th century and the greatest black philanthropist in American history. YOU SEE, NEWT, POOR KIDS CAN RAISE THEMSELVES BY THEIR BOOTSTRAPS IF GIVEN THE CHANCE AND SUPPORTED BY WELL-THOUGHT-OUT  SOCIETAL PROGRAMS AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE!

Here’s a bit about Gingrich’s early years. He was raised in Hummelstown near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and on military bases. Today, the median family income in Hummelstown is about $53,000 while the national poverty level is $22,000. I don’t think Newt was a janitor growing up. In fact, at the age of 18 he graduated from high school and became interested in politics during his teen years while living in Orléans, France. That’s right – Orléans, France, not New Orleans.

He was disciplined in January 1997 by the House of Representatives for ethics accusations, although a full hearing was avoided. He resigned from the House on November 5, 1998, three days after being elected to his 11th term. Newt acknowledged that "In my name and over my signature, inaccurate, incomplete and unreliable statements were given to the committee." The House Ethics Committee concluded that inaccurate information supplied to investigators represented "intentional or ... reckless" disregard of House rules.

Now, I ask you: Who had a more privileged up-bringing? Who worked harder under more arduous circumstances? Who is a person of greater character – Oprah Winfrey the world- renowned-philanthropist or Newt Gingich, the greedy who was paid $1.5 million as a consultant for Freddie Mac, a government-sponsored entity that has drawn $72.2 billion from government funds for its bailout and has just asked for $6 billion more?

Newt has no right to criticize "really poor children." For the record, based on poverty statistics, children represent a disproportionate share of the poor in the US; they are 24 percent of the total population, but 36 percent of the poor population. In 2010, 16.4 million children, or 22.0 percent, were poor.

In his last speech, the late Hubert H. Humphrey said "...the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped." This was Humphrey’s version of a statement made earlier by Mahatma Ghandi: "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members."

Sorry, Newt, you’re not quite in the category of Oprah Winfrey, Hubert Humphrey, or Mahatma Gandhi. The fact that the Republican Party is seriously considering nominating you to be its “standard-bearer” says more about the Party’s view about character and ethics than anything else.

Let me close with the famous quote by Martin Luther King in his “I have a Dream” speech. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Newt, if you are reading this piece, have you gotten the message yet?

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on December 5, 2011