During Monday night's Republican debate in South Carolina, moderator Juan Williams asked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to respond to criticism he's received regarding his proposal to have poor children work as janitors in their schools and his characterization of Obama as the "food stamp" president. An amped-up crowd very quickly turned on Williams, and treated Gingrich to the most sustained applause of the night.
"Do you see how these remarks might offend people?" Williams asked.
Newt replied, "No, I don't see that." He then defended his position, citing anecdotal accounts of young people who prospered as janitors, or as doughnut deliverers. Gingrich went on to say that he got the idea from a Joe Klein article about New York City schools, which is true.
"Only the elites despise earning money," Gingrich said. But as Benjy Sarlin points out, if you hired 30 kids for one janitor contract, those kids wouldn't be able to form an emotional attachment to earning money, because they wouldn't earn very much.
Median salary for janitor in US is $24,529. Newt says you can hire 30 kids for that. So 817 bucks a year each? #scdebate
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) January 17, 2012
Williams went on, citing a reaction Gingrich received at the Jones Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in Columbia (background here). Gingrich immediately swung back, insisting that "more people have been put on food stamps by Obama than any other president in American History."
"I'm going to continue to help poor people learn to get a job, learn to get a better job, and eventually learn to own the job."
Newt received a standing ovation.