Home / General / Returning to the Gilded Age

Returning to the Gilded Age



In Trump’s America, finally children will be free to work again.

A think tank funded by Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education pick recently advocated for putting kids back in the workforce.

The Acton Institute, a conservative nonprofit that is said to have received thousands of dollars in donations from Betsy DeVos and her family, posted an essay to its blog this month that called child labor “a gift our kids can handle.”

“Let us not just teach our children to play hard and study well, shuffling them through a long line of hobbies and electives and educational activities,” said the post’s author, Joseph Sunde. “A long day’s work and a load of sweat have plenty to teach as well.”

Child labor isn’t universally forbidden in the U.S.― actors and newspaper deliverers are two exceptions― but it is tightly regulated.

It won’t be tightly regulated any more, thank GOD!

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • Derelict

    Some of us remember that brave visionary and thinkfluencer Newt Gingrich proposed eliminating child labor laws as part of his 2012 book tour cross-country grift presidential campaign.

    It’s been an interesting evolution for conservatives over the last 8 years. Who could have known that Obama urging children to stay in school and get an education would lead us to, less than a decade later, having a president who “loves the uneducated,” is himself ignorant and il-informed, and who would appoint a Secretary of Education who believes the department she will head should not exist.

    • Nobdy

      He also specifically wanted (poor) children to work as janitors in their own schools.

      This was one of the worst and most racist ideas of the 2012 campaign and the only reason it didn’t get more attention is because he was also advocating a moon base and was not a serious candidate.

      He is, of course, one of Donald Trump’s MAINSTREAM advisors.

      • Jackov

        Poor kids working as janitors in their own schools has been a common feature of SYEP in the hinterlands since the program’s creation. Gingrich’s evilness was to advocate the kids
        do it as a year round job in order to replace the custodial staff.

  • Colin Day

    Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Yes, it’s appropriate for President-elect Trump to pick someone from the Acton Institute.

  • Warren Terra

    With Trump committed to bringing back coal (and neutering environmental regulation) there might be a lot of chimneys needing cleaning somehow! Tradition!

    • efgoldman

      With Trump committed to bringing back coal

      He can yammer about it all he wants – coal isn’t coming back.

      • Warren Terra

        With no emission regulation, coal might be competitive in the marketplace. With no environmental protection, mountaintop removal coal extraction in Appalachia might be competitive with the highly mechanized extraction in Wyoming. With a complete disregard to worker safety, employee wages, healthcare, and child labor even the old mines might make money!

        • efgoldman

          With no emission regulation, coal might be competitive in the marketplace.

          Utilities aren’t going to retrofit natural gas plants to burn coal, or un-modify existing pollution controls.
          Ships and locomotives aren’t going to return to coal burning.
          Coal chutes aren’t going to be installed (or re-installed) in dwellings – and yes, I’m old enough to remember the coal delivery trucks, barely.

          Newtnik will walk up to the door and unlock his moon base, first.

          • Warren Terra

            Oh well. Maybe we can have a new traditional role for small children climbing up roofs and cleaning solar panels.

  • Bill Murray

    well it is not like literacy is a fundamental right, at least in Michigan

  • Linnaeus

    Slightly OT, but fuck work.

    • DocAmazing

      Not a new sentiment, but ties are worse than in 1980, when Bob Black wrote Why Work?.


      • Linnaeus

        Yeah, I realize that it’s not an especially original idea, but it is one worth updating to reflect present conditions. Thanks for sharing the Black essay. I’d never read it, but it’s clipped and saved to my Evernote now.

  • MPAVictoria

    And of course it is always OUR kids that should go work in a coal mine or a fast food restaurant. Their kids will continue to attend 40k a year private schools thank you very much.

    /Bastards. Absolute fucking bastards.

  • Didn’t realize that we had such a labor shortage that we needed to put children back in the workforce.

    • Any time you have a minimum wage above 1 cent an hour, you have a labor shortage, amiright? Need to drive those costs down!

      • Nobdy

        I, for one, have never heard of an “unemployed” slave.

        The Roberts court should strike down the 13th amendment as an affront to the dignitude of the states and of the citizenry!

        We need to re-enslave the poor in order to achieve full employment and maintain their freedom and self-worth!

        • I, for one, have never heard of an “unemployed” slave.

          Well, there were the old and disabled slaves that masters left to starve out in the swamps and forests after they could produce no more.

          • Nobdy

            So you’re saying that we should permit employers to execute employees who can no longer serve their purpose?

            It’s cheaper than a retraining program!

            Paul Ryan would like to subscribe your newsletter, though even with this position it’s still a little far to the left for him.

            • I’m just previewing the 2020 Republican platform.

    • Linnaeus

      If the author of the article I linked to upthread is correct, we’ll be dealing with a labor surplus for a very long time.

      • DocAmazing

        The Standing Army of the Unemployed Wants YOU!

        • Colin Day

          Give them time and we’ll have a Crawling Army of the Unemployed!

          • So that’s what Bony meant by “an army travels on its stomach”.

            • Colin Day

              Sorry, I meant that they’ll attempt to employ infants, not infantry.

    • Mike G

      They will, of course, have a lower minimum wage since they are children, and, oops, drive down wages for other workers doing similar jobs. Just more of Der Trumpenmfuhrer “looking out for the little guy unlike that elitist Hitlery”.

      Hey, someone will have to do all that agricultural labor after the Trump Police deport 11 million Messicans. It’s not like their educations will be valued under our new regime — empty the schools and send them out to farm camps for a month or two!

      • Nobdy

        Well you have to look for the little guy if you want to make sure he’s not loafing on the job!

        These child laborers aren’t going to instill self-discipline in themselves!

  • Linnaeus

    The DeVos family is awful. They’ve been a malign force in Michigan politics for years and they more or less call the shots in the Michigan Republican Party now*. Dick DeVos (Betsy’s husband) was the prime mover behind right-to-work in Michigan. Betsy’s brother, as I’m sure most LGMers know, was the founder of the company formerly known as Blackwater.

    *When L. Brooks Patterson – who made his name in the antibusing crusades in metro Detroit in the early 1970s – thinks you’re too conservative, that tells you something.

    • eh

      Erik Prince for SecDef, then?

  • pianomover

    The actual article is a well meaning piece of shit.

  • wengler

    Since it’s the DeVos family, we can have kids selling mid-level marketing schemes to each other in no time.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Thank you. I only hear her referred to in the MSM as a “conservative activist”, not that she’s from a clan of reactoinary fundamentalist scumbags who made millionis off of AMWAY. Trump University for decade after decade, with big thick smear of Christian fundamentalism and pie-in-the-sky salesman opitmism ideology, all just exploiting gullible people who want to move up in the world and somehow think this isn’t a big waste of time and money.

  • Nobdy

    If Swift had tried to parody these people it would have been taken as utterly sincere AND as commie lefty bullshit far too focused on children’s “rights.”

    The Acton institute puts out pure propaganda advocating that work is what gives life meaning and that workers should base their lives around their labors no matter what. It is just as meaningful for someone to clean Donald Trump’s golden toilets as to save lives as a surgeon or advance technology as a physicist. They seek to destroy any line between the interests of the employer and the interests of the employee.

    What makes them truly diabolical, and what would be darkly funny if it wasn’t just dark, is that they also seek to destroy education so that workers won’t have the knowledge or reasoning abilities to understand the propaganda and effectively resist it.

    There’s nothing wrong with a worker taking pride or finding meaning in their work, no matter what it is, but workers should never believe that their interests are perfectly aligned with those of their employer. As soon as you do that you open yourself up for exploitation, and we see what that looks like in the world of adjunct teaching where many of the workers deeply believe in the mission of education and are rewarded for their faith with ruthless exploitation.

    Unions can ameliorate this by setting aside a separate bargaining unit that focuses on the workers interests, but it is essential that workers understand that their relationship with their employer is theoretically adversarial, even in the best of situations.

    Trying to indoctrinate children into obedience and fully investing themselves in the interests of their employers is fucking evil. The reason that 22 year olds who have just graduated from college don’t look forward to work is that, for the most part, work sucks! They have it right!

    • Mike G

      work is what gives life meaning

      They might say, in line with other right-wing rhetoric, that it “sets you free”.
      An idea so awesome they should have the phrase translated into major European languages. Perhaps even in wrought iron on the gate of some kind of work facility.

      • mds

        Yeah, the DeVos thing is kinda like “Okay, guys, you were endorsed by the KKK and Stormfront, your followers are giving “Hail Trump” stiff-armed salutes, and racially-motivated hate crimes are proliferating. You can stop trying to prove you’re goddamned Nazis.”

        • BiloSagdiyev

          Had a buddy who got sucked into Amway. One person he met in that organization, maybe one of the pimps above him, you know, one of the “very conservative” people of Amway, was a holocaust denier. My buddy was just ignorant enough and open minded enough to wonder if there was something to it. (Did I mention he was involved in Amway?)

      • BiloSagdiyev

        What’s creepy is that the “Arbeit Macht Frei” signs weren’t installed as a big “Fuck you, inmates!” thing but a sincere, contemporary philosophical notion in the minds of the people who cooked it up. Which actually fits in with the subject of this blog post, really. People can be really twisted and sick.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      What makes them truly diabolical, and what would be darkly funny if it wasn’t just dark, is that they also seek to destroy education so that workers won’t have the knowledge or reasoning abilities to understand the propaganda and effectively resist it.

      My gentle blogmates, would you please allow me to blow this air horn?



  • Lurking Canadian

    If a left-ish science fiction writer, say Charles Stross or Ken McLeod, got access to a time machine and sent his younger self the headlines from 2016 to publish as a short story, it would be dismissed as biased hack work with poorly drawn straw men villains.

    • DocAmazing

      A garbled version of this story made it to Mark Mothersbaugh in the mid 1970s, and he tried to warn us…

    • guthrie

      Charlie keeps complaining that what he writes and what he tries to write keep coming true. He’s had to re-write 2 or 3 novels so far because the plots kept coming true before they were published.

  • howard

    Time for a Lewis Hine revival: everything old is new again.

  • UserGoogol

    How much authority does the Secretary of Education have to actually do anything about this? I’m not being entirely rhetorical since I assume the answer isn’t actually nothing: schools have some amount of leverage over how much children are allowed to work, and the Department of Education has some amount of leverage over schools. But the laws banning child labor are in a literal sense someone else’s department. I’m sure Trump will pick someone bad to head the Department of Labor too, and picking someone with unacceptable views even if they’re not directly germaine to the job is a bad sign, (it certainly shows a bad sense of what she thinks education is about) but we should be precise about exactly what’s bad about this, and to what degree.

    • Nobdy

      If someone believes that children should be working and schooling should not be mandatory how dedicated is she going to be to improving education for poor kids and making sure educational opportunities are equal?

      It’s not that she’s going to implement a dystopian Dickensian child labor law in the first 100 days by administrative fiat, it’s that her values are in essential conflict with the things that the department of education should be trying to achieve.

      She will support bad policies and oppose good ones because she fundamentally does not believe that children need to be in school and that all children deserve equal access to education.

      The mechanics (probably charter schools, bad funding metrics, and block grants) can’t be derived from her philosophy, but the outcomes being sought can.

  • efgoldman

    And I thought, at the time, that Sanctus Ronaldus Magnus’ cabinet picks were so extreme as to be out of the mainstream.
    If only.

    • mds

      Mister, we could use a man like Cap Weinberger again. And no, I’m not sure if I’m kidding or not.

      On the other hand, hey, Ed Meese!

  • Lurking Canadian

    Something just occurred to me. We thought Trump was just bullshitting when he said he’d bring the jobs back. But maybe he’s thinking that if he scraps all environmental regulations AND all worker protections, the USA will be able to take the lead in the race to the bottom away from Bangladesh.

It is main inner container footer text