Georgia Congressman Tells Poor Kids to 'Sweep the Floors' For School Lunches

School lunch programs are very expensive, he argues.

Republican congressman Jack Kingston from Georgia, currently in the early stages of his bid for the Senate nomination, may have just put his foot too deep in his mouth to ever fully get it out. Over the weekend he was quoted saying that poor children should have to either pay or sweep floors if they want to eat school lunches. 

“[The] school lunch programs are very expensive” Kingston explained during a speech to the Jackson County Republican Party, “but one of the things I’ve talked to the Secretary of Agriculture about: Why don’t you have the kids pay a dime, pay a nickel to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch? Or maybe sweep the floor of the cafeteria—and yes, I understand that that would be an administrative problem, and I understand that it would probably lose you money,” which is, of course he sees as the most egregious part of the plan: the potential loss of money. 

He is by no means the first Republican to suggest that poor kids do menial work just to get what other children receive labor-free.  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich similarly pitched the idea of replacing unionized janitors with children to Harvard’s Kennedy School while campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination in 2011. He even suggested children as young as five be forced to work.

“Really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works so they have no habit of showing up on Monday,” the Georgia Republican told a room full of Harvard students.

He stuck with the theme during the 2011 Republican debates:

“If you take one half go the New York janitors, who are paid more than the teachers,” Gingrich explained, managing to hit two broad right-wing strokes in one go, “you could give lots of poor kids a work experience in the cafeteria, in the school library, in the front office, in a lot of different things.”

It was another non-starter for Gingrich, whose campaign soon tanked, which did not stop Kingston from coming up with a similar heartless idea.  


Rod Bastanmehr is a freelance writer in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @rodb.

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