When Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich proposed that students should take over the job of cleaning our schools, he was rightly denounced for wanting to eliminate what he called "stupid" child labor laws.
But not a word has been said about the tens of thousands of low-wage janitors who would lose their jobs under Gingrich's plan or about what it would mean to their families and to our national and local economies.
This is sad but not surprising. Tea Party extremists and other Republican ideologues demand that government programs at all levels be eliminated or slashed, but never mention the millions of hardworking Americans who would lose their jobs as a result. It's as if these people and their families don't even exist; that they don't pay taxes and make purchases that support their local economies.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
A good example is what would have happened if the so-called "Balanced Budget Amendment" recently defeated in the House of Representatives had become law
According to a report by Macroeconomic Advisors, a nationally known economic consulting firm, the $1.5 trillion in spending cuts authorized by the Balanced Budget Amendment in 2012 alone would have resulted in the loss of 15 million MORE jobs nationally, doubling the unemployment rate from 9 percent to approximately 18 percent. This would have caused the overall economy to shrink by about 17 percent. "The effect on the economy would be catastrophic," the report concluded.
At the state level, a study by Families USA shows that California would lose an estimated 28,000 jobs and $3.7 billion in potential lost business activity if the federal/state Medicaid program was cut by just 5 percent. Deeper cuts would, of course, result in greater damage to our state's economy. And remember, that's for just one program.
What will happen to all these fired public employees if Gingrich and the Tea Party succeed? I suspect that, just as he did with the Occupy Wall Street protestors, Newt will tell them to find jobs. But surely that won't be easy when more than 14 million of their fellow citizens already are out of work.
The greater likelihood is that they will go on unemployment and may have to eventually apply for Food Stamps and other public assistance. They will lose their life savings and even their homes. They will no longer be paying taxes or spending at local businesses. Perhaps Gingrich and the Tea Baggers can explain how THAT would help our nation's economy.
The human toll on America's elderly, sick, disabled, and disadvantaged that would result from the Republican Party's campaign to destroy our social safety net has been well documented. But we must not ignore the pain that this campaign also will cause to the millions of hardworking Americans who care for our most vulnerable citizens.