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Are We About to Roll Back the Clock on Child Labor Laws?

 
 
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Support for child-labor laws was taken as a given for much of the 20th century. The fact that this seems to be changing is getting kind of creepy.

Marie Diamond flags a new example: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) trying to connect child-labor laws to childhood obesity.

Concern was raised about the proposed Department of Labor's intent to greatly limit child labor on family farms.

"This farm bill will greatly affect our FFA and 4-H programs," said Grassley. "Kids won't be able to help on farms not owned by their parents.

"It's interesting that this child labor bill goes against Michelle Obama's anti-obesity initiative," said Grassley. "How can kids be active if they are limited by this law?"

 

Diamond explained the larger context: "Under current law, 400,000 children working on farms are not protected from exploitation and dangerous labor. The proposed rules would forbid children younger than 16 from working with pesticides, timber operations, handling 'power-driven equipment,' or contributing to the 'cultivation, harvesting and curing of tobacco.'"

Republicans see this as a mistake. Indeed, as far as Grassley is concerned, the safeguards will contribute to childhood obesity because there are effectively only two scenarios for kids 15 and under: they can work or they can be sedentary. There are no other options.

But let's also not overlook the larger trend. Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich has made criticism of child-labor laws a key part of his campaign message. In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage (R) launched an effort to roll back the state's child-labor laws, and a similar measure was introduced in Missouri last year. As we talked about a year ago, a sitting U.S. Senator, Utah's Mike Lee (R), has argued that federal child-labor laws violate the Constitution and shouldn't even exist.

Remember when there were accepted political norms that helped define the American mainstream? Basic policy tenets that both major parties accepted, largely without question?

I don't know when or if those days are coming back.

Washington Monthly / By Steve Benen | Sourced from

Posted at January 18, 2012, 5:56am

 
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