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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Newt Gingrich is not only leading in latest polls, he is the one GOP presidential wannabe who has a reputation for being an idea guy. Just one problem: most of his ideas are bad. Take this one: Fire the janitors at schools and have children perform their tasks. Right out of Charles Dickens. The Huffington Post weighs in:

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich argued at an address at Harvard University last week that American school systems should fire their unionized janitors and let underprivileged children do the work instead, according to a reportin Politico.

The upshot of the plan? The kids would learn life skills, and taxpayers would save money.

The logic for such an argument would seem to rely on two premises: that janitors are currently being overpaid for their work, and that their job is so easy a child could do it.

The nation’s janitors, unionized and non-unionized alike, would probably disagree.

The mean wage for a janitor working in an elementary or secondary school is $13.74 an hour, or $28,570 per year, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average pay is significantly less for janitors working at private buildings, which comprise the vast majority of janitorial jobs: $10.56 per hour, or $21,960 a year.

The latter annual salary is below the poverty line for a family of four, according to the federal government’s most recent poverty guidelines. It also happens to be less than the self-renewing monthly retainer that Gingrich enjoyed as a consultant to Freddie Mac between 1999 and 2002, according to Bloomberg.

Despite its relatively modest pay, a janitor’s job isn’t as easy as Gingrich seems to think it is. According to the Labor Department, a janitor needs to be able to carry out a long list of duties and repairs during a typical day: Mop and polish floors, handle dangerous chemicals, even perform basic electrical and plumbing repairs. At schools, they also need to interact well with children and, at times, clean up their vomit.

A janitor’s job is also more dangerous than most American occupations — and hardly fit for children, according to the Labor Department’s description of the work. Janitors, it notes, “may suffer cuts, bruises, and burns from machines, handtools, and chemicals. They spend most of their time on their feet, sometimes lifting or pushing heavy furniture or equipment. Many tasks, such as dusting or sweeping, require constant bending, stooping, and stretching.”

A spokesman for Gingrich’s campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.

Gingrich made his remarks on unionized janitors to an audience that should know quite a bit about the subject. After long negotiations, Harvard’s janitors, who are represented by the Service Employees International Union, just ratified a five-year contract with the school this past weekend, having received public support from much of the student body.

The contract includes what the SEIU has described as a “groundbreaking” childcare allowance worth up to $5,000 each year for workers, as well as a modest but important 3 percent annual raise, helping janitors’ salaries keep pace with the ever-rising cost of living. The agreement also caps the percentage of janitors that Harvard can use through contractors, thereby stemming a trend that has helped erode workers’ pay and benefits in the services industry and other blue-collar fields.

At Harvard, Gingrich said his plan to put kids to work as janitors would help them “begin the process of rising” in society.

And the contract won by the unionized janitors appears to do just that for workers and their children. One of the perks in the agreement allows janitors to take advantage of a tuition assistance program, letting them pursue Harvard degrees or continuing education classes at a discounted rate. That benefit, presumably, could lead to better jobs and brighter futures for the janitors and their families.

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There’s a reason why every one shouldn’t run for President.

Dopey, Gropey and Romney. Are these the best alternative to Obama the GOP could come up with? Heigh-Ho! Heigh-Ho!

Once again, pinko Liberals are getting all Henny Penny over toxic, cancer-causing pollutants in our drinking water. Please! Don’t they realize that is what chemotherapy is for?

I’ll give Herman Cain one thing, he certainly understands that running for the highest office of our country is a total circus. And every circus needs a clown. This past week he has had all three rings filled with complete absurdity. 1) A cigarette-puffing chief of staff doing an endorsement. Wow! His chief of staff endorses him. He must be good! Who had thought that counted as an endorsement, anyway? Then the last second of him lighting up a Lucky. “Was It good for you?” 2) Then Cain sloughs off a sexual harassment charge with a few bars of a black gospel tune. Can I get an Amen? 3) And, of course, the best part is he is as clueless about foreign policy as a yard jockey. Yet he doesn’t see that as a deficit. High self-esteem will get you every time. Yup. This is the guy leading in the polls. Help me, Jesus! Of course, I am a progressive Obamacare-loving liberal. Let’s see what Rod Dreher of the American Conservative has to say about Black Walnut:

When Herman Cain sang at the National Press Club the other day, I thought it was absurd. There he goes again, the clown. Looking at the performance in greater context, I found it easier to smile at, and not in a hostile way. Still, if you think about it, it says something bad about America that here we are, facing the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, and looking at a future of crippling indebtedness unless our leaders take drastic action … and the top candidate for the Republican nomination a year from election day is a charming businessman with no political experience, who knows nothing about the world (and makes jokes about his own ignorance), and who is given over to camping it up on the campaign trail. If times were great, there would be serious reason to doubt whether America could afford a man like Herman Cain in the Oval Office. But times are terrible, and could easily get far worse. It’s really quite an indictment on the unseriousness of our country, or at least the conservative electorate, that Cain is at the top of the polls now.

See, there are still some sane conservatives left in this country. Thank God.

Admittedly, the realization that Mitt Romney might be a bit of a flip flopper is not exactly insightful. And it certainly is not as demoralizing as watching John McCain reverse himself on every principled stance that made him a maverick and still referring to himself  as …you know…a maverick. (Face it. Romney says whatever he needs to get elected and he has only successfully done that as Governor of Mass. He spent a fortune coming in last 4 years ago). Regardless, it is always entertaining to watch George Will’s tight, constipated face when he dismantles another GOP pretender to the throne:

A straddle is not a political philosophy; it is what you do when you do not have one. It is what Romney did when he said that using Troubled Assets Relief Program funds for the General Motors and Chrysler bailouts “was the wrong source for that funding.” Oh, so the source was the bailouts’ defect.

Last week in Ohio, Romney straddled the issue of the ballot initiative by which liberals and unions hope to repeal the law that Republican Gov. John Kasich got enacted to limit public employees’ collective bargaining rights. Kasich, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, is under siege. Romney was asked, at a Republican phone bank rallying support for Kasich’s measure, to oppose repeal of it and to endorse another measure exempting Ohioans from Obamacare’s insurance mandate (a cousin of Romneycare’s Massachusetts mandate). He refused.

His campaign called his refusal principled: “Citizens of states should be able to make decisions . . . on their own.” Got it? People cannot make “their own” decisions if Romney expresses an opinion. His flinch from leadership looks ludicrous after his endorsement three months ago of a right-to-work bill that the New Hampshire legislature was considering. So, the rule in New England expires across the Appalachian Mountains?

A day after refusing to oppose repeal of Kasich’s measure, Romney waffled about his straddle, saying he opposed repeal “110 percent.” He did not, however, endorse the anti-mandate measure, remaining semi-faithful to the trans-Appalachian codicil pertaining to principles, thereby seeming to lack the courage of his absence of convictions.

Romney, supposedly the Republican most electable next November, is a recidivist reviser of his principles who is not only becoming less electable; he might damage GOP chances of capturing the Senate. Republican successes down the ticket will depend on the energies of the Tea Party and other conservatives, who will be deflated by a nominee whose blurry profile in caution communicates only calculated trimming.