“Suffer the little children to come unto Me...” Mark 10:14, AKJV
A great many conservatives/Republicans claim to be pro-life, determined to protect the unborn. After a child is born, however, too many of them seem willing to let these children literally suffer, contrary to what Jesus meant. Under the subterfuge of promoting self-reliance, several Republican leaders have proposed hideous plans which would create a class society based solely on whether one is a member of the “lucky sperm” club or not. These plans actually promote contempt for those less privileged, while reinforcing the idea of the inherent superiority of those born to good fortune.
In 1994, Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., former Speaker of the House, proposed putting poor children in orphanages. These would not be actual orphans, but children born to unwed mothers. The idea was to make having a baby out of wedlock unattractive, since the mother would have her child taken away from her, and she wouldn’t get any government payments. This plan completely ignored the fact that studies have consistently shown that most children are better off being raised by their own mothers, instead of being put in an orphanage.
As far as cost savings, maintaining a warm, caring orphanage would cost over $100 per day per child, according to a 1994 study. That is over $3000 per month per child. Despite emails to the contrary, no one receives that much in welfare benefits. Of course, cuts could be made, reducing these children to subsistence living ala Charles Dickens. Orphanages would create a whole group of second class citizens, children taken from their mothers for no other reason than that they were poor. A Republican dream.
Gingrich also proposed getting rid of custodians from schools in poor areas, except for one head custodian, and having the poor children do the custodial work. In a 2011 CNN interview, Gingrich said, “These schools should...pay local students to take care of the schools. ... They’d begin the process of rising.” This comment reinforces the idea that poor people have no work ethic, when in fact, many are working two or three jobs. It also, again, punishes students for being poor.
If someone suggested having every student do some custodial work, that would be fine. No one would be discriminated against and everyone would have pride of ownership in the school. But having just the poorest students do this work, while the better-off students go play, sets them apart and emphasizes the idea that they are second-class citizens.
There is also the problem of child labor laws, but Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has that covered. He says child labor laws, in force since 1938, are unconstitutional. Either he has never studied the horrific conditions children endured during the Industrial Revolution, or he doesn’t care. Children as young as six worked 10-12 hours a day in unsafe conditions. Thousands died. Of course, the factory owners loved this plan since children were cheaper to hire. Once again, Republicans demonstrate their love of 19th century injustice.
The most disgusting plan was proposed by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. She would send immigrant children to work camps called “Americanization Facilities.” Just writing this sends chills down my spine. There, the children would work for half the day and go to school the other half. Her idea is that as these children grow up and leave the camps, the jobs they had been doing could be taken over by adults, thereby reducing unemployment. Two birds with one stone – free slave labor and no worries about deporting these children. Apparently Bachmann, lover of the Constitution, has never heard of the 13th Amendment. Sadly, not a surprise.
Republicans love to talk about “takers” and “makers.” All children are, by nature, takers. Very few children are required to earn money to pay their parents for food and shelter. By saying poor children should have to earn what well-off children take for granted further reinforces the idea that being born to wealth makes you superior and being born into poverty means you are of no value. This is totally contrary to Christian teaching and should be abominable to all Americans. This is not what we are about.
Republican policy toward the poor is basically to shred the safety net and force people to stand on their own two feet, even if those feet are old or crippled or very young. Children born to well-off parents are venerated by Republicans. Those born to poor parents should have planned better. Suffer the little children indeed.
Jeanette Strong is an LVN columnist whose column appears every other week. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.