Moral Low Ground

US Government

Republican Congressman Jack Kingston: Make Poor Kids Work for Their Meals

A Republican US congressman has raised eyebrows and ire by proposing poor children be forced to work in exchange for their government-subsidized meals.

The Huffington Post reports Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), who is trying to become the Republican nominee for Georgia’s US Senate race next year, addressed a gathering of the Jackson County Republican Party on Saturday. The topic of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), which provides free or subsidized school cafeteria meals to poor and low-income children, came up for discussion.

Rep. Kingston spoke against free lunches for hungry children, opining that everyone should pay for their meals or at least work for them:

“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… Think what we would gain as a society in getting people– getting the myth out of their head that there is such a thing as a free lunch.”

Responding to Kingston’s plan, HuffPo’s Amanda Terkel wrote that it “could create significant embarrassment for low-income children, who would be sweeping cafeteria floors while their wealthier peers did normal kid activities.”

“And while the low-income children would supposedly be learning the lesson of hard work, their wealthier peers would simply be getting a free lunch from their parents,” Terkel added.

Rep. Kingston isn’t the first Republican to advocate rolling back child labor laws to force lower-income children to work. Two years ago, former House speaker and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich proposed firing the janitors in schools with low-income children and forcing the students to do the work themselves, for pay.

Child poverty is a serious and growing problem in the United States. Among OECD nations, the US has the second-highest child poverty rate, after Romania. More than one in five US children is poor; among Hispanics, the child poverty rate soars to nearly one in three. Fully 38 percent of black children are poor.

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