Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega
Chicago, Illinois, USA
September 11
A (Sometimes) Respectable Negro
Editor and Founder of the blog We Are Respectable Negroes He has been a guest on the BBC, Ring of Fire Radio, Ed Schultz, Joshua Holland's Alternet Radio Hour, the Burt Cohen show, and Our Common Ground. His essays have been featured by Salon, Alternet, the New York Daily News, and the Daily Kos. The NY Times, the Daily Beast, the Utne Reader, Washington Monthly, Slate, and the Week (among others) have featured his expert commentary and analysis on race, politics, and popular culture.

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DECEMBER 29, 2011 5:13PM

An Open Letter to Newt Gingrich From the Son of a Janitor

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Newt Gingrich has repeatedly shown that he is an existentially ugly person. Therefore, his repeated comments about the black poor, and “inner city” communities, where people “don’t have a work ethic” are not at all a surprise. Time has demonstrated that “compassionate conservatism,” an oxymoron if there ever was one, is not particularly kind, just, or humane.

As demonstrated by his Wednesday editorial on the website Human Events, Newt Gingrich is apparently wedded to the idea that young black and brown kids should have the “privilege” of becoming janitors in their schools in order to learn about the value of “hard work."

There are any number of problems with this argument.
Primarily,Gingrich is recycling the ugly and deeply racist belief that black people are inherently lazy: poor children who don’t see people around them working apparently grow up to be lazy adults, who are on welfare, dependent on the state, and have no understanding of how to put in an honest day’s work. He gives no consideration to the stigma that child janitors would experience, and the taunting and bullying that would inevitably result from being one of the students who carries a pail, mop, or broom around their school.

Newt Gingrich is also blindly ignorant of the issues surrounding structural unemployment in poor inner city communities, and where it is not a deficit of work ethic or drive, but a lack of desperately wanted job opportunities—especially for young people—that drives urban poverty. Given the Right-wing’s assault on unions, and the social safety net, more broadly, Gingrich’s smearing of school janitors as an enriched and craven class of greedy public employees is just more red meat for an agenda that wants to destroy the American middle and working classes.

In all, Newt Gingrich is offering up a Dickensonian fantasy of workhouses in which African American wastrels and street urchins learn the value of hard work from benevolent white folks like him.

Of course, Newt Gingrich’s children, and those of the moneyed classes who he represents, would never be asked to pick up a mop and broom at their schools—as their kids’ responsibility is first and foremost to prepare and study for college, and the bright future which awaits them.

And I must wonder, what lessons have the children of the financier class, the trust fund baby and inherited money types who brought about the Great Recession, been taught about the value of hard work from observing the destructive behavior of their parents during this time of economic calamity?

Over the years, I have developed a pretty thick skin regarding these matters. However, there is something particular offensive about Newt Gingrich’s repeated insistence that poor black kids become janitors in order to learn about the merits of “hard work” that demands engagement. It would seem to his eyes that janitors are disposable people with easy jobs. Moreover, to him, a janitor's job is so simple that anyone, even an elementary or middle school student, could do it well.

As the refrain goes, the personal is political. I am the son of a janitor. I try not to break kayfabe, or to drop the mask too often. Nevertheless, sometimes it is necessary to speak up for yourself, as well as for the many other people who may not have either the privilege, or opportunity, to speak truth to power.

In that spirit, please take this as an open letter of sorts to Newt Gingrich (and the particular brand of compassionate conservatism that he represents). 


My father was a hardworking man. He was not perfect. He took his job seriously and worked for many years as a janitor. He did this with pride, integrity, and self-respect. My father rarely took a sick day, and worked in this job for several decades, retiring only in his late 70s. Work meant a great deal to him, and he would eventually pass away about a year later. I warned my father that without a sense of purpose, and isolated from the many people he befriended at his job over the years, that he would not last long. I was (sadly) proven correct.

These are not details designed to elicit a tear; they are details of a full life, the human experience that stands behind words such as “janitor,” “teacher,” “unions,” and “working class.” These are perennially good titles, now transformed into slurs, by people like Newt Gingrich and his conservative brethren.

My father was a boss, a confidante to his coworkers, and advisor to the men and women he affectionately called his “crew.” His work was at times dangerous, involved long hours, and a good amount of responsibility.

No elementary, middle, or high school student could do my father’s job.

Growing up, I was embarrassed that my father was a “lowly” janitor. His job title was technically “senior maintenance supervisor.” I used that whenever I had the chance. When one’s friends are the children of doctors, lawyers, and white collar professionals, you learn to improvise.

There would be many awkward moments, when my father, the janitor, would have one of his three or so pagers go off in the company of my friends. We could be at a bowling tournament, a movie, or a birthday party, and inevitably one of those beepers would ring.

Those who did not know the facts of the situation would ask if “he was a doctor.” I would answer “no, my father just has an emergency that he has to take care of.”

Unlike in Newt Gingrich’s twisted dream, janitors and their families are not rich. My family had good Christmases, an occasional vacation, and nice Sunday meals. My father’s pay kept me in nice clothes, indulged my hobbies, and helped me (with some hefty student loans and grants) to go to college. My father’s work, in combination with my mother’s, kept us comfortable. We were not middle class, or even solidly working class by most measures. Somehow, we were okay.

A janitor’s job is also about personal relationships. I will not pretend that my father’s position as a janitor at a large Ivy League university was typical. He made sure that I met interesting people; I could take the day off of school, follow him around, and go to the library. He would leave me with different professors or graduate students so that I could talk to them about politics, history, or philosophy. Because my father worked there for many decades, he was part of the university community. My father took that role seriously.

For example, there were many occasions when he made sure that international students had a place to eat and go for the holidays (at times, this welcoming space was our home). My father, the janitor, was a union man and took great pride in how he always fought for the rights of the part-time staff—a group that he felt was always “getting a bum deal.”

When people needed jobs, oftentimes young men who were recently released from jail, or career ex-cons, they could come to my father. He would size them up. If they passed his personal test of being honest and direct about their situation(s), my father would go with them to human resources, vouch for their reliability, and put them on his “crew” so that they would learn how to do “right.”

My father also had some fun times at his job. He loved to talk about how, on one afternoon, he had to show a student from ruralChina how to use an American style toilet. My father joked that “the young man made it this far, I didn’t think using one of our toilets would be so complicated.”

There were sad times too.

On more than one occasion my father, a janitor, had to take up a collection for a student to send home to their family, to help them buy a ticket if there was an emergency, or to subsidize the funeral expenses for one of his crew, or the part-timers, who didn’t have his years of seniority, and pay.

No child could do that job.

My father only wanted me to get a job where my hands would be clean, and I would not have to pick up other people’s messes. I have, fingers crossed, more or less gotten that far. It has taken some years, and a bit of growth. But now, I am finally proud to be the child of a janitor. Those millions of us who were taken care of, provided for, and raised by working class folks such as maids, home health care workers, and janitors, have much to hold our heads high about.

These people are the real “job creators” in this country: they pay bills, provide for their families, and donate to churches, mosques, synagogues, and charitable organizations.

Working class people like my father help to sustain communities and neighborhoods.

Whenever Newt Gingrich and his brand of 1% percent plutocrat conservatives besmirch the working people of this country, people like us and our kin, we need to speak up. There is no shame in our lineage. And all of us need to say thanks, to acknowledge those janitors, maintenance people, and the like who work in our schools, office buildings, apartment complexes, and take care of our aged and sick parents and relatives. They deserve our respect; unfortunately, they rarely receive it from the American people.

Once more, I am proud to be a child of the working class. Are you?

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Wonderful post. Your father, in addition to the many things you mentioned, raised a good son. I wish I could rate this more than once.
A great piece of writing. Some jobs are very difficult, some very easy. The work has to be done, whatever the difficulty, to maintain our civilization. There is no virtue in it being either hard or easy but conquering difficulties does donate a sense of accomplishment.
Without people to do these jobs the world would fall apart.
That a man such as Gingrich should be able to reach his current status is one of the shameful aspects of our culture.
Thanks for the writing.
Brilliant post. Gingrich is so out of touch with the non-elite classes that all he can cling to are hackneyed cliches about the "lazy" working class. I saw an article in the NY Times today featuring pbotos of the Republican candidates' homes. They all live in palaces compared to an average working man or woman and probably never soil their hands. We cannot expect them to relate to the rest of us. Rated.
I swept up the wooden floorboards, folded clothes and hung others on hangers as an assistant to my grandmother who ran the Salvation Army store on what is now MLK Blvd.
I was 6 years old. Marbles and comic books were my wages.
Six years of college were not enough to make me forget my respect for blue collar workers. I gave up career direction and toiled by choice the same way.
I was taught the value of hard work, but I do not believe him.
That's not what he is doing.
Newt is speaking down. From a fool's perch.
A masterpiece!
Sad that his job is better than many of the new jobs we are creating. Unions made this country and unions will yet save it.
Thanks for sharing your story and that of your father. Unfortunately, Newt has neither the compassion nor understanding to learn from it.
We need more of the kind of working class pride expressed in this article. Keep those thoughts coming.
Wow, if only that asshole really would read this. If there are any shreds of humanity left in him he would be properly shamed. His attack - like most he does - was particularly vicious and galling, always using a veneer to hide what you so rightly call "ugliness".

Newt is an acidic bomb thrower, reckless and out of control. Your words are wonderfully written, human and sincere, straight from the heart. Well done.
Great writing! And a loving tribute to your father and the working class as well as a powerful answer to Newt's crap. The man is an agent of evil.
My grandmother said in 1994, "I don't like that Newton!" She's 97 today and still saying it, but thank you for saying it louder!
Amen, Chauncey. Your father was a man of character and dignity. His life was a success, not a failure. He kept is self-respect. He respected and helped others while degrading and exploiting no one. Whatever happened to respect for the dignity of labor? It feels like it has disappeared and been replaced by the attitude that if you are not rich and a media celebrity, you are a "loser." (My own father was a motor repairman who intended to retire at 62 but died at 61.)
Kathy, what exactly are unions going to do to save the country?
How will it work? This country is a wreck and needs some serious fixing. How are unions going to fix it?
Chauncey - it seems to me that you had a proud father and were raised with a good work ethic. To answer your question, yes I am a proud child of the working class. And I was raised to have a good work ethic. I never was a janitor in my school, but I was a kid who was a janitor. I was proud the day I got a job at a pizza joint at 15. I had done various other odd jobs before that, but this was like an interview and a real job with taxes and all that stuff. I could not wait to tell my father I was going to mop the floor and wash dishes at a pizza joint. And he was happy. Happy because he saw that I was willing to work for what I wanted. And that attitude would serve me well. And it did.

I don't care to defend Newt's comments because I don't think or speak for him. But I am not sure what your complaint is.
The point was not whether or not a kid can do your dad’s job (which you pointed was not really his job description, but maybe more like the person that worked for him). The point was WOULD a kid do your dad’s job or whatever job offered.

There are many jobs that teenagers can do and a lot of teenagers that won't do them. Newt was not degrading your father because he picked a his job description as an example. He was pointing out that kids should be motivated to take jobs that a kid can do. And parents should motivate them.

Seems to me you are the point Newt was making. Your father is/was the better man for the work ethic he had. And I assume that ethic made for a better you.

There are jobs that adults do that can be done by teenagers and there are teenagers that will stay in those jobs forever for whatever reason. Maybe we would like all kids to aspire to and accomplish more, but even if they do it for life it is better than doing nothing.

Everyone, regardless of their job, could conclude that that job is not what they wanted out of life and become unmotivated and just decide to quit and do nothing.
Newt’s point is you can’t have that attitude and it should be learned as a kid.

There is something wrong if a young adult looks around at the job opportunities he has and concludes that it is better to do nothing. That is a lack of something fundamental that this person has not gotten.

And some people are born with a potato between their ears instead of a brain. Chauncey is too polite to tell you, but you are too stupid to get his point.

No one is obligated to educate you on why NG's remarks were so offensive, so why come here to spread your own ignorance? As if there isn't a world full of lazy poor white teenagers who aren't working either, but NG isn't pointing at their color to push a broom.
My dad worked for the gas company going in people's basements and fixing their heaters, it's surprising how many things are involved in what Newt thinks are lowly jobs. My dad loved his job and took pride in his work also. I glad you told your father's story.
Thank you for writing this so eloquently today, NG is everything that is wrong with our country today.
Chauncey,thank you so much for this beautiful article.I have actually been waiting for a post coing from you.
When reading about your father,I imagined him walking around in the building.Janitors in schools are very important persons.They are in a way the only constante,the only reliable person the children can rely on.I would consider your father's job a quiet one,very observing and always on the alert.For all who have met your father,he was someone to respect and love for his integrity.
It is such contrast to N.G.
What we have here is a conversion;all the trying to point out about the dark people ,reflects on him.
Wonderful insight. Wish it were an OP-ed in the Times.
Bravo, Chauncey. Yes, I am proud to be a child of the working class. My grandfather, my major father figure, drove a coal delivery truck for many years. When he finally made it home in the evening, he was covered in coal dust from head to toe. It was hard, back-breaking work that he did with as much pride as the doctor who lived next-door did his. He taught me that there was honor in all legitimate work; that it was not beneath me to scrub a toilet, if that's what I would be paid to do. And he, along with his daughter, my mother, provided me with the work ethic that drives me to this day.

Newt Gingrich usually does a better job of disguising his disdain for the poor and the black and the brown. This time, using language that was indisputable, he showed his true belief that "inner-city = poor role models, criminal, shifty, lazy and non-white. He is a world-class bigot.

@Joseph Cole: You make some valid points in your second comment, and I don't agree with the commenter who said you were too stupid to get Chauncey's point. I believe you are just too inflexible to admit that Gingrich framed his "suggestion" in a most racist manner. You see, ANY child, poor or otherwise, must learn work ethics; it doesn't matter if that child is in the inner-city or in the gated community Newt lives in. He chose to make a very clear distinction.


@Maggie – I think Chauncey can respond for himself. I doubt he needs your help. I don't perceive him that way, why do you? He will respond if he wants to. If you want to get into a mode of name calling of good for you. My potato head has served me well.

But until I get a response, all I can do is read what was posted. And what I got from that was that Chauncey was not necessarily against kids working but he was somewhat offended that Newt used he father's occupation as an example of what a kid can do. Chauncey also pointed out that in fact his father did more than a kid could do and Newt actually said a similar thing. He said the kid could be the assistant in case you didn't listen to the video.

I said nothing derogatory about Chauncey or his father. But the fact is there are jobs that adults do for a living that can be done by teenagers. Whether that is the exact comparison in Chauncey's case it really not in my control nor did I make any point to say it is or is not. Nor did I call it a lowly job even if a kid could do it. Others here did.

You are assuming that Chauncey should or is offended by my post. Since I have no intention to be offensive (read my post again carefully) I assume he is not unless he tells me so. I asked a question.

You are the potato head for assuming he is offended.
I find it amazing when a 3rd party can decide for 2 others who, if anyone is being offensive or is offended. It is not like you are protecting him from a physical assault. It is a forum or opinions. If I was as thin skinned as you assume Chauncey is you would have sent me into a spiraling depression of insecurity. Is that what you intended to do?
Seems like it. But I had no such intentions.

But you are also correct. He has no obligation to respond at all.
@L and others – I am not too inflexible to admit the context of Newts comments. I watched as many videos as I could find and the words are the words. I am not the one that set the context of the poor. And neither Newt nor I referred to these jobs as lowly. Some hear did. So I will get long winded here to make a few points.
Newts mistake was referring to the poor, which then automatically means minorities. Thus automatically makes him a disdainful racist. Newt did not offend me. Not because I am white, but because he didn’t ask anything that my parents did not ask of me. Part time jobs or not, my parents required me to mop, wash dishes and clothes, mow, dust etc for no pay. Newt was suggesting kids get paid and learn the responsibility and reward for working.

I worked the following jobs as a kid, high school and college student in the order I can best remember.
Delivering paper advertisements door to door, mowing lawns, painting, pizza joint, Chinese food, supermarket, machine shop, light construction, box making factory, micro filming, on campus computer center. I am sure I am missing something.

None of these jobs were lowly to me. They served a purpose. The direct payoff was money. The bigger payoff was that each taught me work ethic.
I bugged the manager of the Chinese place every 2 weeks for the job even though it was filled when I first applied. After several months he called me on day and said he had new work and I got it because of my persistence.
In the pizza joint I got tired of moping and dishes so I asked to make pizza. I was told keep mopping for a while and I would get my chance, and I did.
And there is a reason that I knew how to do dishes and mop. Because my mom made me do it at home.

Another example. In college as a CS major I did well. A month before graduating I applied for grad school and a teaching assistantship to make money. I was offered the deal. Now when I applied for that I was working in the computer lab handing out print outs to students. Did the magic graduation all of a sudden make me capable of teaching freshman how to code. No. I could have done it during my whole senior year. But I spent that year waiting on students. Why, well that was the rules and I needed a job. If I had no work ethic I would have seen waiting on other students as too lowly.

Also, why is to OK to have an on campus student job in college, but not in high school? I am sure I was waiting on rich CS students in the computer lab, but I didn’t let that make me feel I was the object or ridicule as the OP says it would to a high school student. What would be different about me making pizzas in the school cafeteria at 15 rather than the Domino’s. No difference. In fact I got the pizza job because another student told me he worked there. And if I remember correctly, the constant buzz was “you got a job, where? Do they need more kids?”

Maybe a kid would take some hazing for being the toilet cleaner in school, but maybe he would rise above petty hazing and maybe the kids doing the hazing might after a while get it the toilet cleaner had something going for him they did not.

I take hazing as an adult for driving a 20 year old car and never having owned a new one. Having a pathetic flip phone instead of a smart phone. The fact is I can afford as fancy a car, house and phone as I want. Well one night when playing poker the trust fund, superficial, materialistic AH gave me some crap about the car and phone. He made a pathetically low guess at my income and used that to explain my satiation. I have never corrected him an told him my income is far beyond his guesses because I don't need to. Finally one guy in the group., that also teased me regularly looked up and said. “There is something to say or a guy that drive a paid for 20 year old car even though he can afford whatever he wants”.

The point of that is to say just like work ethic, self esteem is also learned. I don’t have to show up at the poker game driving a 50K car with iPhone in hand talking about my new McMansion to know my self worth. I KNOW that my self worth has nothing to do with my income. And at the moment my income is about 0. Who I am has not changed because of that. It just means it was a smart decision on my pat not to piss away my money just because I could have.

So a teenager working can learn many things in life. I would think, work ethic, self esteem and ability to ignore the taunting of insecure idiots are good things to learn.
Thank you all for your kind words. Much appreciated and as I said this is for working class folks who are being insulted on a daily basis by the false white populism and anti-working and middle class rhetoric of the Tea Party GOP.

I will respond given your time spent on your post. I am not offended. My skin is thicker than that. I simply believe that you willfully misunderstand Gingrich's point either because of a priori allegiance to him and the neo-liberal agenda he offers or because of a naivete about his agenda, as well as misreading of what he said there and elsewhere.

1. He has explicitly said he would replace those "overpaid" janitors with kids. This exacerbates the very economic problems he identifies.

2. He is ignorant, or just lying, or dishonest, about the tons of sociological research on the "urban poor" that he so smears. People want to work, are in fact desperate to work. Poor black and brown communities, especially urban ones have been in a Depression while white America is complaining about a Recession. Structural unemployment is not fixed by Dickensonian opines about lazy people.

3. He is a racist. His guidance and suggestion is directly at "lazy black people." That is bigoted, ahistorical, and not a surprise. It is funny too coming from a person who is of the moneyed classes. I don't need the great white father giving black and brown folks like me advice. sorry. He is just like that fool at Forbes giving advice to black kids about how to "improve their lives." Utterly disingenuous and designed for an entitled white conservative audience to reinforce their own sense of superiority.

4. He wouldn't tell his kids, or white kids, to pick up mops and brooms by the way.

5. His plan is part of a larger agenda to destroy the State, the social safety net, and any type of job--read the few union jobs we have--in the interest of flexible accumulation, the creation of a permanent class of semi-employed and temp workers, and to complete the full redistribution of wealth upward to his cohort. Context matters. This has been a plan long in the works by the Right.

6. Finally, if you read carefully, no kid could do my father's job, or those of people like him. Thus, the root of the smear against working people that is the basis of Gingrich's policy suggestion.

7. And most obviously, he is a repellent human being--any advice he offers has to be processed through that screen.

Thorough enough?
@C - Thanks for the response. Yes it is more than thorough. And I think it confirms that we just disagree.

First this is just not true - "I simply believe that you willfully misunderstand Gingrich's point either because of a priori allegiance to him and the neo-liberal agenda he offers or because of a naivete about his agenda,"

I have no such priori allegiance to NG.

I have to admit to a mistake on my part. I responded based on the video response of NG. I knew there was video because I heard a brief bit of it on TV. I failed to actually read the article you linked because I overlooked it. Now that I have read the article I respond to your points.

1. You never mentioned your father’s is salary and that is not of concern to me. But if the numbers in the article are correct, then we just disagree. They are overpaid. Where can even most college grads get an 80K starting salary. The fact that they are paid higher then teachers says it all to me. I can see your point about displacing adults jobs with kids. If too much of that went on it would be a problem. But that does not justify high union wages for unskilled work. In fact unions have nothing to do with it really. If a kid is going to replace an adult, it wouldn’t matter if the adult is highly paid union or moderately paid non union. The kid would still displace him.

2. I have no idea about his research. I am not an NG groupie.

3. I did not notice anything in the article about lazy black people. Did he say the union guy was lazy? All I read was overpaid.

4. How do you know what he wouldn’t have his kids pick up a broom or mop? Assuming he would not, I could speculate that neither would Obama, Gore, Pelosi, Kerry or a bunch or other rich politicians that maybe you don’t have a problem with. To me that is not a political problem. That is a their specific problem. My belief is that all kids should at least do house hold tasks. I am providing a real life example of this at the end that does not involve the wealthy like NG but still is a problem in my mind.

5. I have no response to NGs plan to destroy the world. But yes it makes me understand your point of view more. This and some off the other were no the subject of you post. I was not responding to NG overall. Just this issue about kids and jobs. You were responding to NG in general and about other things you know and feel about him. That's fine.

6. Yes you pointed out that no kid could do your fathers job. So why would you assume your father would be replaced by NGs plan. He specifically pointed out jobs teenagers “can” do. He said clerical and janitor. Depending on the job description, maybe a kid can do it and maybe not. The title does not define if a kid can do it. The kid and the job does. And as I pointed out there are jobs a kid can do that adults do. Whether you or I like it or not that is true. Are you saying al the kids working at McDonalds should be put out of that job and give it to an adult in a union? And what about really precocious kids? Some of them could put me out of an engineering job. Should they be denied to do computer programming if they can. Should I have been denied the chance to work in a machine shop at 17? I could to the job. Maybe I displaced an adult. And what was I supposed to think at that time. I was only thinking about they offered me a chance to work and I was being paid less because I was a kid. I was pissed because I thought I should make as much as anyone else that was doing the same work as me. Would you have me think I was taking a job away from an adult for being willing to work? Should I have felt guilty?

7. Well I cannot tell you how to feel about him. If he is repellant to you he is.

My whole point was it is a good thing for kids to get work experience. And by definition any work a kid does usually pays less than an adult and has the potential to put an adult out of work. But can you tell a kid NOT to work. Here is why I think the answer is no.

Some years ago I started dating a woman with an 8 yr old girl. She was not doing well in school and had behavior problems at home. No doubt the divorce had a lot to do with it. The parents constantly fought and the father really didn’t care to see the girl. During grade school years I helped her with studies, but the mother and I stopped seeing each other as she entered high school. Somehow she got motivated. Her mom tells me it was anger at her dad and the desire to prove she did not need him. Whatever it was, she got straight A’s and a list of honors at graduation from HS. She also learned to play flute which also surprised me. Being in music classes required she march in band. She had a birth defect that could have exempted her but she marched anyway.
I am very proud of the young woman now as she has gotten a full ride to a major private school in TX to study bio-mechanical engineering. But I am also concerned.

She never has had a part time job. Her mom never required her to household tasks. She will not work in college. I know this because I know the financial situation. The birth defect was the result of doc negligence and she has a solid income for life starting at 18. Not enough to live on but enough to not work in college especially with a scholarship.

So she has something in her that got her motivated in HS, but she has never worked a day. Most likely she will go to grad school and finish at about 26. Then lets say she gets a wonderful job as a BE. She has no idea about what reporting to a boss is like. No idea of work hours. Never seen a pay check at age 26. Never filled out a tax return or has any idea about income taxes or FICA withholding.

Now I am not saying this girl will have a problem life. I just think it is crazy that a highly educated 26 yr old had never flipped a burger. And she may have a problem. Some other kid next to her will have the same grades and education. But that kid worked mowing lawns at 12 and flipping burgers at 16 and on campus in college. That kid is prepared much better than her for the work place.

I know I am giving an example of a highly educated person, but the same holds for all young adults. HS educated, community college or graduate school. Work experience will give all of the an edge both in their own eyes and the eyes of the potential employer.

If Pelosi had said this somehow I don’t think you would have the same problem. But there would be 2 things different. She would most certainly have the poor minority at heart and trying to help them learn work ethics and earn a few bucks too. But you don’t believe NG can think that way. You say sarcastically he is implying these kids should have the privilege of working. Those are your words, not his. In my mind it doesn’t matter if you or I can know NGs motive. The result is what matters. Kids would get work experience. That is a good thing. And some overpaid union people would have to lose that union guarantee. I don't think that is a "good" thing. I think that is life. I m not a union supporter.

And Pelosi would do one other thing. She would still pay the adult workers the same union wages even if kids were doing some of there work for them.
I think it comes to this. You probably favor unions and I don’t. You despise NG for many reasons and I probably dislike him for fewer reasons. This particular issue taken as a single thing is not offensive to me.

As for unions I don’t understand what it would accomplished if everyone joined a union. If an electrician makes 50K and then joins a union and gets 100K, then it follows that a programmer making 100K would get 200K, an accountant making 75K would get 250K, a doc making 300K would get 600K. How does that change anything? It just makes bigger numbers for everyone. Unless you believe that all along with unions we should have pay regulation that basically devalues professions that pay more and over values professions that pay less in the current market.

I am not willing to have a union of computer programmers. Why, because I have worked harder than many of my piers and I expect to be rewarded for that. Equal pay and retirement would have been a disincentive my whole career. Do you think Apple could crank out new versions or their nifty technology we all love in short order if programmers were unionized?

Not a chance. The day Apple gets a union is the day Google or whoever takes over their market.

Very long winded I know. Just my 2 cents.
Thanks for the debate.
Joe, since you responded, once more.

1. Track down the narrative Gingrich has developed. Google is your friend. I don't play games. You are not even reading embedded links. He said that inner city kids don't know about hard work. If you don't know what that is code for you are either in denial or very dim on purpose.

2. You wrote. And this is the big reveal about your investment in this narrative: "I am not willing to have a union of computer programmers. Why, because I have worked harder than many of my piers and I expect to be rewarded for that. Equal pay and retirement would have been a disincentive my whole career. Do you think Apple could crank out new versions or their nifty technology we all love in short order if programmers were unionized?"

You are anti-union. Your job is a produce of a neo-liberal, post-Fordist moment. You are inside the beast. You got to think systemically because as folks like you are learning in the U.S. even you are expendable to folks like Gingrich and the shock doctrine Ayn Rand crew he belongs too. I am not. Me, and others like me, are standing in the door against their assault on progress and the American middle class.

You also wrote:

"If Pelosi had said this somehow I don’t think you would have the same problem. But there would be 2 things different. She would most certainly have the poor minority at heart and trying to help them learn work ethics and earn a few bucks too. But you don’t believe NG can think that way. You say sarcastically he is implying these kids should have the privilege of working. Those are your words, not his. In my mind it doesn’t matter if you or I can know NGs motive. The result is what matters. Kids would get work experience. That is a good thing. And some overpaid union people would have to lose that union guarantee. I don't think that is a "good" thing. I think that is life. I m not a union supporter. "

More proof. At least you are honest. They are coming for you too friend. It may be too late before you wake up. But, I hope not.

And again, be a critical thinker. Ask yourself would he suggest white people are inherently lazy and need to learn a work ethic? You and I both know the answer.

Track down my writing and interviews on radio and elsewhere. I am not friend of Pelosi or the Democrats--I know that is easy for folks of your apparent ideological bent to believe, that we are all some cabal. I call nonsense out when I see it.

Gingrich is no friend to my people, the poor, or working classes, or the middle class. Sorry, I have followed him for years. I can't afford to play games and give aid and comfort to my enemies.

All opinions are not created equal--despite what this lazy, cowardly, narcissistic Fourth estate Right-wing moment would have folks believe. Newt's position is under-formulated, on the wrong side of history, and based on specious assumptions. To the degree anyone agrees with him, they share his error.
Yes. You honor your Father. None born are Perfect.
I think of my Father. Humor Thy Father & Mother?
Or - Is it - Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother? Yes.
I see you post with Colt 45- Malt Liquor @ Alter/Net.
Today @ Democracy Now Amy Goodman Interviews.
Juan Gonzalez speaks with 2- combat tour Scott Olsen.
Scott O. got shot in the head by cops in Oakland. OWS.
Your question? "Are you proud to be a member of workers?
Yes indeed. My Father fell in Love pot WW2- and married.
He was a Union Steward. I became a IBEW local wireman.
I was a Vice-President (I have vices) of a US Postal Union.
I was charged with a crime punishable by imprisonment.
It was a Trumped-Up Lie. I was exonerated. No cowers.
It's a painful life trying to be honest and true to Heart.
I use to hang with a 80 + black Janitor named Percy.
He Sang Blues with Sax Musicians -Armstong etc.,
He told real Life stories. I attended his burial.
I could tell more. He was a Janitor in Charge.
Percy swept and mopped in a college setting.
Honor . . .
He's missed.
He's Present.
He's Honored.
Before he died-
He pre-taped a `Well. Wow. Thanks to You!
He went on and on by tape after he croaked!
Percy was an amazing personality. We wept!
We also smiled. We toss him some whiskey!
We stills get together in December to toast!
Oops. typo. My Father pot WW2?
No. Post WW2. He no do any pot.
Pop liked 'Papst Blue Ribbon Beer.

Yesterday Newt Gingrich wept.
He mentioned his mother's ills.
He was an emotional ill-wreck.
Discern. Politicos are so sick.
He wept self-guilt as crybaby.
That to shed crocodile tears.
Crocodiles shed fake tears.
They tears as they devour.
Politicos are sick critters.
Crocodiles eat the flesh.
Then - They shed tears.
Then - They gorge`gin!
bbd just rated you. Barry Doyle and I bumped on Open Salon's activity Feed.
Your Bride cook?
You ate garlic stick?
Your breath is sweet.
You best kiss bride.
You a blessed man.
No be drunk `gin.
Gulp raw goat`gin.
You'll go goo `gin.
Goo Goo goodnight.
Sorry for the following non sequitur Chauncey, and I enjoyed the post very much though Joe should discover some things about William of Occam.

(Art, it's nice when we bump on the feed, but to answer your question, no, the bride doesn't cook, in fact I'm convinced she could burn water.)
Did Newt actually say "lazy black people." ? If so, please cite source, if not, you should not put it in quotes, journalism 101. And L in southeast, I don't think there are many poor kids in gated communities. Me thinks some here are reading their own subjectivity into Newt's suggestion, which was, if I've read it correctly, that kids simply be made/encouraged to do the EXACT same sort of jobs we all did after school long ago, black or white, rich or poor. Just thinking.
@scott - all I tried to say is what you summarized. Teenagers all over this country work and always have. Neither did I find that NG said these kids would have the "privilege" to be a janitor. As you already know you will not get any answer to explanation to the questions you pose.

@bbd - what exactly should I learn from Occam? Is he some brilliant guy to you because of his silly cliche? If you needed him or someone else to tell you about his "razor" and you had not figured it out yourself by age 12 then then I guess he is a genius to you. And the simple explanation is often correct , but not always by a long shot.

In my experience my intuition far out weighs his razor. Many many times I have had intuition about software bugs even in code I did not write. Many times my co workers tried to tell me that my assumptions were overly complicated and I had no basis for assuming so. Especially since none of us wrote the code or wer familiar with it. They always wanted to chase the simple explanation. And they wasted countless time going after the next simple explanation after the next.
And I told them it was obvious the symptoms could not be explained by a simple bug. And exactly where I suspected the complication be. I had no factual or logical basis for my suspicions. Just intuition. But hen they finally would agree to humor me I would be right. Thus I find Occam's razor an unimpressive and obvious, but possibly misleading occlusion that is not true nearly as often as cliche quoters would like it to be.

And no I have read none of his other work. There are plenty people I have not read and never will. So does he have something unique to say about unions. big gov, economy etc that is pertinent to this conversation. Or does he have something to say about the obviousness of NGs disdain and racist comments.

If I take anything from him it would the the simplest gov would be the best, not the overreaching, over regulating, over "fix everybody's problems" gov.

Simple is someone offers a job, someone takes a job. The conditions are agreed upon by the 2 parties. Simple.
Complicated is unions involving many workers and many employers.

Simple is taking NGs point. Teach a kid work ethic and let him earn a buck. Complicated is letting yourself be offended by his language and missing the point. And the point is not is NG is an asshole or not. The point is he made a logical suggestion.

I still contend that if his suggestion would have been made by a different politician , more politely and more PC the reaction would not have been what it is. In fact I can imagine a liberal/progressive/democrat (whatever the PC term is) writer here on salon suggesting it and I doubt they would be called the names NG has been called.
@Scot. It is new years I am feeling generous. As for journalism 101, you are correct, I assume to much about the public these days.

No, you are not thinking. Gingrich said lazy inner city kids where there is no work ethic. Now, who could that be Scot? Be serious and be mature. That isn't even a dogwhistle it is a flat statement--a blindly ignorant one--about lazy black people.

I would love him to say that about poor whites in Appalachia or the former white middle class now living in hotels and cars in Red State America.

I never would have thought I would miss the good old days of Bush 1, buckley, and even that crank Nixon. Conservatives were far smarter, and to some degree, more honest back then.

The good old days!
Chauncey - I read the article and watched several videos. Clearly NG was talking about poor inner city black kids. He did not ever use the word lazy. I do still not understand your issue.

Do you not want funding to encourage these kids to do a job and get paid? I get it you don't want the funding to come out of public sector union workers salary.

I mentioned the girl now in college for a reason. I think she also has no work ethic and it is the fault of her mother. But I would not send tax money her way because she doesn't need it. She did not suffer from any socioeconomic ill that caused her to be disillusioned, unmotivated or feel left behind or discriminated or any of that. Her situation could have been fixed by simple parenting, not funding. Her mom should have MADE here clean toilets and mop floors at home. That simple. And any kid that can do it at home con do it for work without it being a demeaning task.

NG never said thee kids should be made to do anything. He offered to a group of people that this society has determined (for good or bad) to be in need of help. Forget about NG comments and the money coming from union worker's salaries.

Are you against funding these kids to do the same jobs that many many teenagers do anyway? I hope not.
If you disdain NG, fine. It is your post. But it seems you are mixing the issues. There are 2 issues here. NGs behavior and kids getting to learn to work. You mix the two and I try to separate them because I don't care about NGs behavior.
I want to know how you feel about a program to help the kids NG identifies.

And I agree, NG should have mentioned Appalachian kids.
But it is not correct to do so. Not because either of these group of kids are lazy, but because our gov has only identified minority kids as needing help. When in fact there are Appalachian and other kids that are similarity disadvantaged and also need help. But out gov. does not provide affirmative action for such a poor backwoods white kid. That is wrong.

The young woman I mention is a prime example of affirmative action gone wrong. I did not mention another point in my story about her. She is 5'9" blonde blue eyed with a Scandinavian last name. And she clearly had no financial hardship. But guess what? She is a double minority.
Huh? Yep. Hispanic female. Mom from Puerto Rico. But you would not know it. Very fair skinned. Her ancestry mostly northern Spain. Dad was blonde blue eyed and mom had recessive gene and she got it. Now how the hell does this clearly white girl get Hispanic status. Did it help her get that scholarship? You bet it did. I know that or fact.

That is the stupidity of the system. It takes skin color/race into consideration instead of exactly the status of the person.

I work with black couples that both work at the same place. They are knocking down 300 - 400K between them and are clearly intelligent and educated. But their kids will be befitted by affirmative action. Obama's kids will have the same status. Does that make sense.

It is politically incorrect or NG or anyone else to suggest aid or any white kid. And I don't mean things like food stamps. I mean special status to be placed in front o others. Schools and employers have no quota for poor white kids.

come on. now you are being silly. my patience is almost spent. Gingrich said inner city kids who don't see people around them with a work ethic need to be janitors.

last chance. be real. play your hand. what do you really want to say about race? about class? you revealed much with this.

"I work with black couples that both work at the same place. They are knocking down 300 - 400K between them and are clearly intelligent and educated. But their kids will be befitted by affirmative action. Obama's kids will have the same status. Does that make sense.

It is politically incorrect or NG or anyone else to suggest aid or any white kid. And I don't mean things like food stamps. I mean special status to be placed in front o others. Schools and employers have no quota for poor white kids."

You are a racism denier. A polite white victimologist. I have said that about folks like you many times. I am an expert at reading you and your kin. Be honest. Just drop the mask and the game.

And yes, you can be a person of color and still be invested in whiteness--anticipating your deflection and denial.

I like smart, honest conservatives and libertarians. If you want to swim w. the big kids be honest and don't play games. Then we can chat.

I missed this, more racism deflecting--and a clear need to do some real homework on the realities of white supremacy, racism, and institutional discrimination in this society. I can give some suggestions if you like.

"That is the stupidity of the system. It takes skin color/race into consideration instead of exactly the status of the person. "

This is great stuff-white privilege 101. Thanks, I will use it in a workshop or lecture!
Chauncey - Unbelievable comment. You are the one that needs the soul searching , not me. I am not a racism denier. There are racist out there. Are you calling me a racist? Sorry I am not. No racism to me means totaity color blindness period.
Incomplete post. More coming.
Chauncey - BS. I am not a racism denier. There is racism still at work. All one has to do is go to youtube and find some skin heads. Nor am I a racist.
But you get no special privilege to make such an accusation of me.
Did I not make it clear that the white girl abused the system. I certainly did not celebrate it. Did I not say that disadvantaged situations should be determined by the exact situation and not the color/race.

No where in this conversation have I made a derogatory comment about you at all. I see no skin color in my debate with you. You are a guy with a point of view that I am responding to.
But it is obvious you are the one that sees the color.
If you are calling be a closet racist that does not know it, you have crossed the line.
Your own words to Scott:
"I assume to much about the public these days."

You are assuming things and mind reading.
I don't have to play my cards, they always were on the table. You just revealed yours. It is not where I wanted it to go.
I wanted an honset disagreement and to know how you felt.
Well you just told me how you have felt from the start.
I am sorry is is that way.
You have passed false judgment on me based on internet blogging. If you spent week shadowing my life in southern rural Louisiana Near New Orleans you would learn differently. I don't know where you live but I can tell you what I overwhelmingly see here. Blacks an whites treating each other with mutual respect.

You have still failed to answer my simple question. Do you want these kids to get a chance to work or not?

More New Years fun.

I said you were a racism denier. That is not exactly the same as a racist. Pretty close though. If you can't see Gingrich's deeper motives given what I have shared and explained that is on you. As I said, we live in an age of what is called "colorblind racism." There are some good books on it; you should check them out.

I don't care about your life's work or cv. Doesn't matter to me. There are many well intentioned liberal racists. One of the biggest mistakes in the post-civil rights moment is how many folks have bought into the lie that conservatives are the only racist, bigots, and prejudiced types. Not true. There are many liberal white racists afoot as well.

You are playing games again. If you read what I wrote carefully you would clearly see my appreciation for hard work and that kids could have jobs. That is different from saying only some kids, those lazy black kids, from those communities where people don't have a work ethic, can then pick up mops and brooms, putting other people out of work by the way, and then do tasks that privileged white kids would never have to.

Again though, with your racism denying on full blast, you did not respond to my observations about your nonsense claims about white victimization. Put your real cards on the table please.

White folks are hurting that much and those rich black folks you know are somehow representative of the macrolevel disparities in wealth in this country--precisely along lines of race?

Please. I deal in aggregates, those interesting outliers are fun stories; interesting; useful; but rarely so much as to call into question millions of other examples.

Sorry. Try again. What is your real agenda.
My real agenda has to ask this question from my first post and get an answer. Nothing More.

"But I am not sure what your complaint is. "

I have my answer now. I guess I had it before I asked. There is no agenda other than clarification. I wanted to separate NGs personality from kids working and union wages. I have my clarification. Almost. I know how you feel about NG and unions. You have not answered how you feel about giving kids, any kids, that have not learned work ethic regardless of reason, a chance to learn.

The rest is sarcasm.
I now know I am a racist denier, which is nearly as bad as a racist. My new year's resolution is now to get extensive psychological help with my problem.
Great post. Your father sounded like a wonderful man.

I recently read an article in the National Review (don't ask me why I read the National Review) by Newt Gingrich's daughter. The article was all about how she worked at a Subway when she was a teenager and how it taught her a lot of life lessons about hard work and blah blah blah. I wanted to smack her. NO ONE ever said teenagers shouldn't be allowed to work part-time jobs; the issue we have with Gingrich is that he said child labor laws should be abolished. Way to completely duck the issue.

I mean, what can you really expect from a man who thinks children of welfare recipients should be put in orphanages to get away from their "lazy" parents? You're right: compassionate conservativism is an oxymoron and a lie. There is nothing compassionate about racism and classism. People like Newt don't want to help poor children, they want cheap labor. Plain and simple.
Jac - so this is you logic put in math terms.

Compassionate conservativism is an oxymoron =
There are no compassionate conservatives =
All conservatives are racists and classists.

Well that is just bull and you know it. But that doesn't stop you from asserting it anyway.

Chauncey asked what my agenda is. Well mostly it is this. Wanting to understand how you can make the statement you made. It is clearly not true. So why come here an post it?

Regardless of what you think of NG, he is NOT the voice of all people that are conservative by a long shot. He is a politician. And I can count on one hand the number of politicians that I have any respect for. They are people that can only represent a similar or opposing political point of view. There are never likely to be someone I respect or would ever want to socialize with.
If we negated all candidates based on immoralities, ethical misconduct, etc, etc, we would have no president.
They are all disgusting in some way to someone.

If I could have audience with any president in my life time, I would refuge to shake their hand and tell them to go f themselves. As all of them have f'ed over the American people on way or the other while smiling and lying about.

Well actually Kennedy I would salute. He had some balls when it came to foreign policy. He put politics aside and defended this country. He didn't ask if the Russians would please take the missiles back. And maybe Carter. He didn't seem to be a political hack or malicious, just ineffective.
This is a beautiful and very moving tribute to your father. You said, "We were not middle class, or even solidly working class by most measures. Somehow, we were okay" and I would give credit for that to your parents - that sense of pride, integrity, work ethic, welcoming strangers into their house to give them a meal and a place to be. Raising their children to appreciate being "comfortable" instead of climbing over everyone in their way to be "rich" or "on top." My Dad started as a machinist where they were paid by the piece. My Dad figured out how to organize himself and his work to make the maximum number of pieces that was humanly possible! He showed his work friends how to use his methods to increase their production and make more per hour. This was how he was promoted to manage the line. He went to night school for 10 years to earn his Engineering degree - sometimes working two jobs to support my Mom and our family. This was a very inspiring piece and reminded me of the inspiring, hard-working man my own Dad was. Thank you.
"Compassionate conservativism is an oxymoron =
There are no compassionate conservatives =
All conservatives are racists and classists. "
No. As tempting as it is to simplify everything into a mathematical equation, the truth of the matter is that people and institutions are often too complex to be accurately described in those terms. Yes, I do believe compassionate conservativism is an oxymoron. That doesn't mean I think individual conservatives can't be compassionate, good people (I have conservative family members), but I truly believe that conservativism as an ideology, as an institution, is inherently harmful to people of color, poor and working people, the LGBT community, and women, among others-- and I stand by that.
Amen, Chauncey. Your father was a man of character and dignity, unlike Newt. Great read and story, Thanks