Newt Gingrich has created a really unnecessary stir for this observation:

"Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and 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."

I've said pretty much the same thing myself. Of course, there are exceptions: the people who lift themselves out of their circumstances through grit, willpower, determination, and of course we need to throw in a little luck and occasional help.

Now let me be clear about something: I'm a lifelong Democrat and the chance I might vote for Newt, should he be the Republican Presidential candidate, is pretty close to absolute zero.

At the same time, I can see the dysfunction involved in welfare programs which essentially pay people to stay home and watch TV. I feel that money needs to be tied to something done in return. Some sort of public service, for example, except in those cases of people who literally can't work.

When kids grow up in households with parents who don't set the example of getting up at a certain time in order to be at work on time and who work set work days (even if they are part time), what is the kid learning?

And in the poorest neighborhoods, the main way for a kid to make money is to break into cars or houses, engage in prostitution, or deal drugs. (At least accepting a monthly welfare check is relatively honest.)

If we react negatively to what Prof. Gingrich is saying, it's probably because we feel it's grist for the racist mill. The racist will wrongly read into what he's saying that it's because "those people are lazy and shiftless and don't deserve public money" whereas even Gingrich is saying that we need different incentives when we give people public money.

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Uh...No. Studies show most children in poverty have parents that are working one OR more jobs. Seems you've succumbed to FOX Think.

It still applies to the ones whose parents are not gainfully employed. Also, I think your point applies to a lot more white parents and children than minority parents and children. In addition, Newt was CLEARLY talking about the poorest of the poor areas where very few people are gainfully employed.

The problem here is that children who grow up in those environments will not be changed because Uncle Newt has them cleaning toilets at school.  Part of the problem is that politicians on both sides of the aisle either lack the understanding and/or the willpower to truly tackle the issue of generational poverty.


And to asset that the main way for low income children to make money is through illegal means reads to me like an off the cuff assumption based on stereotypes.  Do you have something of note to back up that claim?  I'd be interested to know.

Most stereotypes are based on enough truth not to be dismissed out of hand, and only need to be qualified with the notion that they are sometimes false.

I don't think I need a statistic to refute the obvious fact that if you're unemployed and want extra income without actual employment, most of the options available do not involve legal activities.

I didn't dismiss it out of hand; I asked for more validation for your assertion.  You followed with another assertion with out anything to back it up along with an unestablished premise.  So far this is so uncompelling that I am now dismissing it out of hand.  I was genuinely curious if this wasn't just arm chair speculation, which it now appears to be.

There is, unfortunately, a nugget of truth in this, though not to be taken as a universal rule. It becomes a vicious circle where unfit parents have children they provide little support for, these children go to underfunded schools with second rate teachers, and receive neither the appropriate parental support or the education required to improve their situation. Since they are uneducated, unknowledgeable, and untrustworthy no business will hire them, and the only "professions" open for them are those criminalized by society.

I agree that some sort of forced national service a few days a week in return for welfare and/or unemployment benefits would be in its place, i.e. if no gainful employment has been achieved 6 months after first receipt/graduation there is compulsory work training or random tasks. Thatcher once remarked something in the lines of people standing in two foot tall grass complaining about nothing to do don't need support, but rather a push.

Good old Newt can take a long walk off a short pier!  A lot of poor people are honest and hardworking.  The fact that he is insinuating poor people (including poor children) are lazy makes my blood boil.  And, yes, that is what he is saying!

I didn't read him as implying poor people are lazy and he certainly never said that. He said something which is simply true: a lot of poor kids in the most down and out areas, where almost no one has a job, aren't given good work habits to emulate, and often end up in criminal activities in order to make money. This is rather obviously true. I hear many people pointing out that plenty of poor people are white and that plenty of poor people hold down one or even two jobs to get by. He never denied that. He's talking about the rest. Visit the most down and out areas and you'll see that the vast majority are minorities. And I'd wager a much higher proportion of the working poor are are white than the proportion of whites you'd find in the most down and out neighborhoods.

I'm not writing because I'm a fan of Newt. I'd never vote for him in a million years. This is just a case where I find most of the response to this particular statement is of the knee-jerk variety.

I haven't heard him mention poor people who are holding down one or two jobs.  I have heard him mention poor children who need to be taught a good work ethic.  I'm sorry, but when he mentions paying poor children to mop the school floors instead of union members, it makes me see red.  The entire thing stinks of racism!

Happy to hear you wouldn't vote for him.

In fairness to him, he did later say that well maybe not all janitorial work (nothing too strenuous or dangerous) and that the work could just as easily be assisting in the library or school office. He has a habit of making statements he probably knows will curry outrage (and get his ideas attention) which he then softens later. He is an A-hole in that regard. However, I do agree with him that it's a good idea to at least try to instill work habits in the minds of kids who may not be getting a good example at home of getting up at a specific time, being somewhere at a set time, and staying for an entire day, all the while proving one's value to one's employer. Welfare payments don't help much in that regard.

I agree with the A-hole

Actually.. Looks a bit like Newt was wrong, though I can empathize with his observation is valid for my country. There is a good article in TNR regarding it:

This kind of deterioration of work ethic is presumably what Gingrich had in mind. But he neglected to mention that this crisis is increasingly a historical matter. In 1996, Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which limited welfare payments to five years and required recipients to begin working after two years. This was how Clinton fulfilled his promise of ending “welfare as we know it,” and as it happens, Gingrich was key to making PRWORA a reality, even working one-on-one with Clinton in hammering out the details of its formulation and passage.

As a result, welfare is now time-limited. This has had an immediate impact on black child poverty, and while its effects on the poor black community have varied from state to state, overall, welfare reform has restored work as a foundational element in the backdrop of inner-city lives.


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