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Gingrich won't back off support for relaxed child labor laws


DES MOINES, Iowa -- Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich did not back away from his recent comments suggesting young children should be allowed to work.

“Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits for working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday,” Gingrich told more than 500 employees inside the Nationwide Insurance lunchroom.

This response came after one audience member asked the former House speaker to clarify the remarks he made at Harvard University on Nov. 18 when he called child labor laws "truly stupid." He also suggested students take jobs at schools as janitors.

“I really appreciate you raising it,” Gingrich said. “It’s a good example of how hard it is to take the world that works and bring it over to the world that fails.”

Gingrich said he received letters after his comments in Massachusetts complaining that janitorial work was hard and dangerous.

“Fine,” he said in Iowa’s capital city during a two-day swing of the state, “So what if they became assistant janitors and their job was to mop the floor and clean the bathroom and you pay them?”

He also suggested a couple of other possibilities for putting young kids to work: “But what if you paid them part time in the afternoon to sit in the clerical office and greet people that came in. What if you paid them to work as the assistant librarian?” Gingrich said. Adding, “I’d pay them as early as was reasonable and practical.”

“They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’... unless it's illegal,” he said Thursday in the Hawkeye State.

Hard work pays off and teaches kids important lessons even at an early age according to Gingrich -- pointing out his granddaughter’s recent accomplishment of buying an iPad with all the money she saved over the last eight months.

“I was pretty proud of her,” Gingrich said.

The Speaker finishes his day with two more events in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. He was in Des Moines to sign a pledge to build a border fence between U.S. and Mexico by the end of 2013 if he's elected.