Why, Newt Gingrich, of course!
Well, at least in demeanor, if not in actual appearance. You may recall that old Ebeneezer was a man who thought eating too much was a wasteful sin and the former Speaker of the House doesn’t appear to have missed a meal since Congress tossed him out (OK, he resigned, but he didn’t have much choice) on ethics charges 12 years ago.
I’m not being mean here for the sake of being mean (as the actual Grinch would surely do). But it’s hard not to make that comparison when it comes to Tiffany’s favorite customer as he’s taken poor children in America to task, suggesting that many of them are lazy, pampered freeloaders with no work ethic and no prospects.
Gingrich’s descent into Grinch-dom all started when he thought that instead of reforming our education system to give American children a better shot at a good future, we should put them to work scrubbing floors:
“What if they became assistant janitors and their jobs were to mop the floor and clean the bathroom? The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they’d have pride in the schools, they’d begin the process of rising.”
And then, because I guess he just couldn’t help himself, he crept out even further on that Dickensian ledge:
“Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works, so they have no habit of showing up on Monday. … They have no habit of staying all day, they have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash,’ unless it is illegal.”
One thing Gingrich apparently doesn’t realize is that a lot of us who are doing well now started out poor. Growing up on small family farm, I never thought that we were poor because we always had a roof over our heads and we never went hungry. That fact probably should have occurred to me since my siblings and I didn’t see much of our parents – they were both busy running the farm and working second jobs in town to make ends meet. If his approach had been applied to me back then, I’m sure Newt would have envisioned a nice factory job for me, except that now I’d be unemployed because the few factories that provided jobs for the area either moved where labor was cheaper or were shut down altogether.
While I’ve had the luxury of making my living as a journalist, a lawyer, and now as a writer/pundit, I do know a little bit about hard work that I suspect Gingrich doesn’t. I don’t know his whole life story, but I’m betting he hasn’t spent a lot of time baling hay, picking/canning/freezing food out of the garden all summer because that’s what’s going to be on the table all winter, or working three jobs at one time to put yourself through college (public, not private). I did, so I can fill him in on some of the details, that is if he’s not off on another luxury cruise of the Greek islands.
I’m not the only one to make this Scrooge/Grinch connection. And his decision to make his cold-hearted comments from his vantage point of “the one percent” right before the December holiday season ensures that this story line has legs. If Gingrich and has campaign staff are wise, they’ll do something ASAP to change this perception before the January 3 Iowa caucuses. Because in case he’s missed it, the people who turn out for the Iowa caucuses aren’t part of his “one percent.” Those Midwest voters who get together every four years to kick-off the official presidential primary season know about hard lives and hard work. Many of them are farmers, like my parents, who will care little about that recent photo-op with Donald “let’s start The Apprentice for poor kids” Trump and who I’d bet were offended by those derisive jabs at schoolchildren, and by extension, their families.
I expect there won’t be any Secret Santa exchanges at the next GOP debate like our super busy Senators are doing. And I have no expectation that his tiny little Grinch heart will grow three sizes any time soon. I’m not sure if Cindy Lou Who or the Ghost of Christmas Future could set Gingrich straight. But I know for a fact if Gingrich spent an hour with my dad — the hardest working farmer in the Northeast — he’d be singing a different tune about the values and expectations of those who will never be able to afford even the cheapest trinket at Tiffany’s.