480 Comments

So parental rights mean kids become forced, cheap labor and end up less educated. Republicans wouldn’t like Denmark, where I’m enjoying a family vacation and marveling at the progressive culture and modern infrastructure. Kids here, or at least in Copenhagen, must learn English and German from a young age. While never worrying about getting shot.

Expand full comment

It's complicated and I'm ambivalent about it. I grew up in West Texas. My dad got me a job as a roughneck working on a drilling rig in the summer when I was 13 years old. I earned what grown men with families to support earned - $1.23 per hour. It was very hard work. I gave all of my earnings to my parents. The experience did inspire me to get an education, which I did, earning a Ph.D. and a J.D. from Harvard in 1973.

Expand full comment

Richard, I can appreciate that. I started bucking bales at 12 for a nickel a bale. Hard, dirty work for a kid. But this is a different era, I believe. If your parents are the ones owning the farm, of course you’re going to work and it’s generally not child labor as much as it is FORCED labor ;) I never got paid for working my parents yard, garden, home. My cousins started working on their family farms at an early age, but they weren’t “workers” in today’s sense. They worked the farm because they all had to. This is factories and large at farms hiring children because they can get them cheaper and they’ll do work some adults won’t. And many of them are unaccompanied immigrant children whose parents aren’t even here, so parents rights argument is total BS. I think we can all distinguish between real family farms and businesses and these large conglomerates once again exploiting child labor.

Expand full comment

I grew up on a family farm. The giant agribusinesses use legislation meant to help family farms to skirt laws and otherwise rake in profits. I grew up doing field work until I got my first job out of college. We had other kids working for us, and we never once put them in any kind of danger. That is not the case for mines, factories, packing plants, etc. If a job is so dangerous and difficult for an adult, we should put kids in that situation, seriously?

It is all about the wealthy stepping on those with less. Two thoughts: 1) Do you have a viable business model if you depend on LOW wages for your employees? 2) Educated citizens are better able to care for themselves AND others. This rich country has enough resources to meet the needs of the population, but the wealthy hoard those resources.

Expand full comment

Nicely put because exploitation is exactly the problem here. I have no problem with kids working on family farms. I do have problems with kids working in places like meat packing plants. Once again Rs show what hypocrites they are.

Expand full comment

The problem is that those who want to loosen protections for children, as well as many of the other arguments the right has for all their pet issues, usually get to determine the language used. So they use the parental rights argument, for the family farm to oppose government protections for children and the argument goes from there. Why do we keep letting them set the ground rules for the argument? The answer to the family farm perspective is that all children benefit from contributing to how the family functions, so it makes sense to have them help according to their abilities and developmental stage no matter what kind of family. This has nothing to do with how families function, but everything to do with the damage done to kids who are exploited by businesses.

Expand full comment

Exactly.

Expand full comment

Jenn, your point 1) is absolutely spot on. If your business demands that your must pay your employees low wages, you do not have a good business model. Period.

Expand full comment

If your business requires paying low wages, you shouldn't be in business. You should be a low-wage worker yourself -- victim, .not villain

Expand full comment

And, only 38% of the population 25 years and older have a college degree! It’s too expensive and brings the burden of huge debt, and thus harder to make a living wage and support oneself and a family. The government must also legislate incentives for post secondary education!

Expand full comment

This is one of my principal gripes about the cost of college today - I had 12 years of college: WhittierUSC, Harvard Grad and Harvard Law. Total tuition? Less than $16,000.

Expand full comment
Jun 16, 2023·edited Jun 16, 2023

I had a public college education of high quality for free essentially back in the 60's ( dating me but you need my story). I paid $24 dollars per semester to register at The City University of New York, Hunter College.(That would be $250 today- easily worked off today) I had the best professors. I paid for my own books for which I took out small loans backed by the Govt at 3% ending up with $500 to pay back in the end... years later. This gave me the chance to concentrate on my subjects and not have to work.

Expand full comment

When federal and state governments started to withdraw their financial support of public universities, tuition naturally went up. The other issues, is that universities are competing for a dwindling poool of students, and they are forced to offer many more perks to make them more attractive to potential students. When I went to college, undergrad, graduate and on to get my Ph.D., I was able to pay as I went so I graduated with each degree without debt. But those schools were public and tuition was manageable, thanks to the tax payers who supported higher education.

Expand full comment

ALL Education........

Expand full comment

All valid education is an investment in the country -- education that enables and encourages people to think for themselves -- and none more than higher education.

To an outsider, it does look as though the most basic civic education is either absent or has failed.

This seems to be the case in many countries.

How can democratic institutions function without this?

Expand full comment

JennSH from NC, this is such a great comment. It strikes me that we have been accepting the wrong lens to view “success” and “viable” with. If a business relies on low, non-living wages, it is the remainder of society that is “picking up the tab”. Shall we call that what it is: Corporate/Business Welfare. Educated citizens are only able to better care for themselves when they exist in a non-monopoly, anti-trust, worker-empowered capital market. I wish people success in business, but I don’t want to fund their greed, as they decimate the foundations of social cohesion and safety. I want workers to have living wages, dignity, respect, and accountability. I want this system to work as a functional, healthy system to increase the strength of the local neighborhood as well as the country as a whole.

Expand full comment

Agreed Jenn. Two more points:

1.) If this is such a great employment opportunity for freedom loving children and parents, are these age-lowering legislators signing their own preteen and younger teens to work in these same industries to do the same jobs and during these same hours?

2.) Are we truly surprised that many enterprises in a nation built on slave labor believe a workforce that is unpaid, or barely paid, is necessary for a "viable" business to operate?

Expand full comment

Families with children have a responsibly to have them work around the house. A 2 year old can help fold small pieces of laundry, then graduate to other tasks. When my twin girls were 13, they did almost all the household cleaning. My son worked outside. I had started a business; why should I be cleaning??

It's hard work getting your children to do stuff esp. when their friends don't...'... They all got jobs as soon as they could and have a very good work ethic..and higher educations financed by my business.

Children working in factories is criminal; they are being deprived of all the things a child needs to have a chance at a decent life.

I am sure all Heather's commenters have read Jonathon Swift's A Modest Proposal.

It's on my Kindle and ,yesterday, I read it again, in a doctor's waiting room....

Expand full comment

"I had started a business; why should I be cleaning??"

It's one thing to teach your kids about helping in the house, having responsibilities, it's another to have the attitude of why you shouldn't be doing this (slave) work as well by also pitching in. We told our son that his job, his main job, was school, his education. He had responsibilities in the household as well, and a P/T job in high school for spending money. But yes you should be cleaning too, I think. Starting a business is great, but does it teach that life is about making money? I think we have come to that in this country. We did without a lot for me to hold the house together spiritually.. being there. But this is all water under the bridge...

Expand full comment

In those years.(1970's) to have a Mother who put herself through college strictly for an education: Literature, Philosophy, History, Political Science...etc. and then went into sales and invented a unique way of finding high tech computer professionals (first one ever to recruit making 100K a year) was a good example to my girls that women did not have to do the "women's jobs" (teaching, secretaries, nursing) was a good example for them. My husband did not make, in his business, enough money to have any extras. For $12.50 a credit I was able to attend Rutgers nights for 8 years... THAT was in my meager budget and my sole entertainment. There would have been no college for them. And, of course, I did all the shopping, cooking, and sewing. Nothing a family member does for the family is slave work. Everyone should pitch in and not just a 5 minute task like emptying the trash. Children have lots of spare time; spending it on gaming and social media, like many do now, is not productive. We never had cable or a main TV: they spent a LOT of time on reading, hanging with friends and whatever else kids do out there.

Expand full comment

I am afraid that not all can distinguish or may distort or find loopholes for "family farms". In WA state, kids had early summer jobs picking strawberries & there was an age factor to be hired. To buck hay is still a great job for teenagers & sometimes necessary before it gets rained on. I worry abuse by those administering the law so it gets distorted, like HIPPA has, & become a federal over reach issue by those who use this . How the exceptions are written will be critical.

Expand full comment

agree 100%. It is a sticky issue. But some of it is blatantly clear. Factories and processing plants? Nothing to do with a family farm.

Expand full comment

I picked strawberries ( and much worse, cucumbers) as a kid in WA too, alongside poor migrant kids. A summer daytime job is a much different thing than coming home from school and detailing corn, but it’s unconscionable for meat packing companies to hire kids.

Expand full comment

I agree! I worry that the exceptions will be weaponize like so many issues in public schools are being used by extremists .

Expand full comment

Well, it appears some red states & some in Congress believe that they will fix this issue - banning books in school - removing any "issues" like racism etc that could possibly make a kid (or likely a parent) uncomfortable! So less education, more low-pay, dangerous jobs for minors - hey that will work right?

I didnt grow up on a farm, but spent time as a teenager bucking bales of hay - for us, it was fun, altho I'm sure for kids whose folks farmed, probably not. But thats not what this issue is! This is to profit large corporate businesses - meat-packing plants? There now are only five meat-packing corporations - monopolies- less competition! Just think - during the Covid pandemic - they were allowed to continue working - their employees HAD to continue working.

Expand full comment

Circa 1979 like many who lived in Seattle, I picked my own strawberries in the very short ripe picking season to freeze berries for the December Holidays.

The US Department of Labor class action venued in Lincoln Nebraska was aimed at stopping children's caustic chemical burns & wage abuse nationwide in the very long "dollar picking season"; this is quintessential Federal Agency work when states do not act.

Children do not have rough necks but, some are agile & have strong arms ripe for abuse.

Expand full comment

I understand the difference but will the Freedom Caucus & others of their ilk ?. How will extremist weaponize this as they have school issue, gun violence, drag shows etc. Mt Congressional rep have weaponized most every positive federal action

Expand full comment

Understand, in live conversations & comments on LFAA, I have labeled the "weaponization ", "selective prosecution" & "I'm a Star, I can do anything" tropes called out as "THE BIGGER LIE". --- I will also try "The Biggest Lie".

Propaganda comes in many form but, always the same punch line: the tfg is above the Law.

No!

Expand full comment

Large agribusiness has been a poison pill for decades.

Expand full comment

Dianna, again I am amazed at what a 12-year-old girl could do on the farm. While visiting my father in East Mississippi in 1969 at age 24, I helped one of his neighbors picking up hay bales from the field. Those bales are HEAVY! Plus hot & sweaty work (had to wear a long-sleeve shirt - straw cuts into your forearms).

Expand full comment

very true. And long pants!

Expand full comment

Exactly. Anyone wearing short pants or sleeves will quickly regret it!

Expand full comment
Jun 15, 2023·edited Jun 15, 2023

Richard, please correct me if I am overstepping or missing the mark here, but I think your experience well illustrates what gives many people ambivalence about many issues that relate to something that touched their lives. Even if an experience could be legitimately characterized as dangerous or exploitative, people certainly do not wish to think of themselves as victims of exploitation. This goes double if the experience had some positive outgrowth or interpretation, or involved an otherwise trusted person or community. Folks are inclined to think, "Well, that was part of my life, and I ended up okay, so maybe there is something to it." And while this is generally indicative of a healthy and adaptive attitude, we all need to ask "Yes, but would I really have been better or worse off without that experience?" If the answer is worse or at least no better, it may not be something we wish to support continuing in the society, regardless of personal experience.

Not many people at all have a PhD AND a JD. It takes a special kind of person to go for that. While it is true that no one's life can be untangled from the sum of their experiences, I suspect you would have found your way to college one way or another, regardless of junior high roughnecking (a tough, honorable job in and of itself, of course). Food for thought.

Expand full comment

Richard, I would like to know whether your family was poor and needed every cent you earned - or was the "summer job" a way for your father to give you a sense of what hard work means. I too did hard work under the fist and belt of a brutal step-father - that started when I was 7. Because I was smart - like you - I was able to go to college at age 16 and earn a bachelor degree in sociology. I earned my Master of Theology just 12 years ago from Union Theological Seminary NYC.

But neither my nor, I think, your story has to do with the young children who are at risk in the Republican mileau of today. We are just reasonably intelligent people who have been able to use our intelligence to, shall I say, do more than many others are able to do.

Expand full comment

We started out really dirt poor in Uvalde, Texas, two parents and seven children in a one room house with a screened in porch. No utilities or plumbing. I probably felt a little guilt, being a burden on my parents. I took care of them in their old age. I do not advocate the use of child labor and regret now that I didn’t do a better job of presenting my position on essentially involuntary servitude.

Expand full comment

Thank you for your response.

Expand full comment

Will, from Cal, I agree with you that, in the case of Richard, his extraordinary driven Nature trumped the Nurture of his upbringing. I strongly suspect that for the majority of children forced (by parents and/or financial need) to work before 16, the effects of a comparable upbringing will have long-term, negative repercussions and less than inspiring or successful results. The reasons are multiple and exponentially affecting. Focusing merely on the developmental effects, we know that children’s bodies require more sleep than adults. The Sleep Foundation recommends that adolescents (13 to 18 year olds) get 8-10 hours of daily sleep (for children 6-12 years, they recommend 9-11); this is because “profound mental, physical, social, and emotional development requires quality sleep.” The Foundation expounds on the latter simplified statement by explaining that sleep is vital to brain (mental) function (lack of sleep leads to poor academic performance). As to physical wellbeing, sleep "empowers the immune system, helps regulate hormones, and enables muscle and tissue recovery" (lack of sleep can lead to a "higher risk of diabetes and long-term cardiovascular problems"). Emotionally speaking, "[s]leep-deprived teens are more likely to report anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts." Behaviorally, lack of sleep "can affect the development of the frontal lobe, a part of the brain that is critical to control impulsive behavior." The Foundation's website also mentions drowsy driving and increased "accidental injury and even death" associated with the reduced reaction times resulting from sleep deprivation (of course, this applies to everyone, regardless of age).

Yes, the children of farmers gain on-the-job training indispensable for what will likely become their own livelihood. However, we should not overlook the countless non-farming children who work to help FEED their family. Our focus should zoom in on eliminating the policies that have facilitated the increasing economic gap between the nation's top earners and the vast numbers of our population whose functionally stagnant wages are not sustainable, and require parents to hold multiple jobs--and to send their children to work instead of to school... or to sleep.

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/teens-and-sleep

Expand full comment

Excellent observations. I just finished Poverty by America. One of the points he makes is that if the tax dodgers would pay what they owe, we could go a long way to help people stuck in poverty. But of course, the Rs want to keep the IRA from doing its job. Too many at the top are greedy. In the meantime they provide money to the party of death and whine about anything that prevents them from making more.

Expand full comment

Spot on Will, as a teenager my younger brother worked for a SoCal Contractor in Summer for 1 month but was never paid. This was decades before I got my JD, years before I could provide immediately relief for Fraud in the Inducement with punitive damages.

Expand full comment

I always appreciate your perspective and your polite way of presenting it.

Expand full comment

Like you, my first job was around machinery that legally, I should not have operated. "Dough Sheeting" machines with no safeties to prevent metacarpal avulsion or degloving have been "off limits" for anyone under 18 since at least 1950, but there I was in 1970, a 15-year-old running one of them to make pizza dough crusts.

I'm grateful for the experience, and went on to get a JD, too (1980).

But experience as the chair of my state's industrial commission, and seeing the worst of the worst injuries from industrial accidents even with minors, convinced me that no one should have allowed me to operate that machine at that age.

Expand full comment

Steve Lord; unguarded machinery is an accident inevitable. Adults, well aware of the dangers get lulled into repetition movement, expecting the machine to never break cycle; but it does and your fingers or hands are gone. Company pays a small fine and your digits hit the medical waste bin. Children put in the situation? What are the odds?

Your later firsthand experience tells you the answer. Lobbyists for lifting child labor laws should be forced to run those machines themselves and experience the hazards first hand as they complain about over zealous OSHA regulation

Expand full comment

I used to practice law in the work comp arena.

Saddest case of unguarded machinery was a young man (18) putting air in the tires of a load handler with rim-bolted wheels (this is a job to be done only by a trained industrial tire tech when the tire/wheel assembly is covered by a containment cage. No one told him that.)

The pressure separated the rim from the wheel with such velocity that the rim took the top third of his skull clean off.

Expand full comment

Oh Lord, I played in band that lost its drummer to that very fatality. Euphemism: accident

As a press department foreman in my younger days, I had the “safety talk” with all new operators regarding palm buttons, lockouts, arm guards, light guards, pinch points etc ad nauseam. My goal was to inform by scaring them $hitless with horror stories of the incidents that actually happened due to some form of neglect on all our parts. To me OSHA reps were heroes

And it takes Government regulation to put these safeguards in place. The company ain’t doing it on their own

PS. Wear your damn safety glass with side shields and hearing protection!!

Expand full comment

I’m currently working on a benefits and cost analysis report. One of the benefits we are claiming is that it eliminates and/or reduces the need for a human to be exposed to high risk tasks that can and have resulted in employee deaths. As part of my research for the report, I’ve spent several days going through the OSHA and Bureau of Labor Statistics metrics and data, reading the various ways employees have been hurt or killed on the job. It’s eye opening and in many cases quite horrific. Lock out/tag out requirements are there for a reason as are the many other OSHA regulations. And usually those requirements can be traced right back not just to one anomalous gruesome death but many.

Expand full comment

AMEN !! Dave ! Try a industrial electric fork lift Battery LITERALLY BLOWING its Entire Cover OFF ( HYDROGEN GAS) and the SULFERIC ACID,, That FOLLOWS !! [ SAFETY GLASSES, SAFETY SHIELDS, & PROTECTIVE Clothing !] PS ! I can STILL SEE !! AMEN !

Expand full comment

What a horrific example of why we need child labor laws.

Expand full comment

Thinking back - my son worked part-time in a tire shop from the time he was 15 - I remember what he was told about changing truck tires & what could happen. Fortunately, he took it to heart - not with a grain of salt. Was I happy about his job? NOPE! He worked there for several years, going on to become a certified Ford mechanic. The dangers in that are a whole other story!

Expand full comment

Steve, my late husband was one of 8 kids who, like most of us, had to work as a kid to help his family and used machinery no untrained person under 18 had any business operating or even being near without training.

He went to tech school out of high school, eventually obtaining five certifications (carpentry, electrician, architectural drafting, more). He was always the one to train others at his workplaces and finally went to college and earned a BA and MA in Industrial Education.

Glen’s proudest achievement, after 30 years of teaching middle school shop class was the fact that none of his students ever incurred a major injury or lost a finger - his biggest fear as a young, inexperienced worker operating all manner of power tools without any supervision.

Training is an absolute must - and it needs to come BEFORE kids are allowed to work such machinery.

Parental rights do not include requiring offspring to endanger themselves for the benefit of anyone else. These damn Republicans want to drag us back to the dark ages!!!!

Expand full comment

Thank you to everyone who wrote these “on the ground” experiences. I hope someone will bundle them and send to Congress. In an overpopulated world, life has become cheap. That is what corporate America is showing US. Instead of encouraging adoption of orphans, they get Dobbs passed to enlarge their serf pool.

Expand full comment

I too ran a hand crank dough sheeting machine at the age of 15 as well– in 1970 as well, sheeting pie crusts. I was not harmed, and thought nothing of it until much later. But from my perspective now, I should never have been allowed to operate such a machine at that age. I must say that, from a big picture point of view, these efforts to remove restrictions from child labor feel frighteningly like steps backward toward a slaver / forced labor mentality. Some may call this thought alarmist. But it wasn’t that long ago that we thought rising fascism couldn’t happen here as well.

Expand full comment

I worked at my dad's business, sweeping up at first, then winding transformers and drilling out and assembling circuit boards, weekends from age 10. Starting at age 12, I worked on a blueberry farm raking blueberries for 90 cents a bushel, during the summer. Later, I used the farm skills to support myself for a time working on farms in CA, where I met dozens of migrant farm laborers. The work was hard, with long hours, and involved a fair amount of skill. I believe very few, if any, of those touting child labor could do the work for more than half a day or so. The difference between me and the laborers I met in CA was that I had an education. Therefor I could choose to do other work if I wanted, which meant I had a realistic hope for a better future. The other laborers did not. And they knew it. Hopeless people. most often, make the best of whatever situation they're in. We already have an underclass in this country, people fall into it all the time, we call them "unhoused" or "convicts" or "immigrants" (only those from Central/South America, it seems). The problem with having a permanent underclass is having a permanent time bomb, ready to be used by the likes of Trump, et. al. Education, fair labor laws, a social safety net, and the fair application of the rule of law all diffuse the danger of having an underclass, while also bringing almost limitless talent to the problems our nation faces now. Most importantly, it brings hope, and with it dignity, to ALL of us, underclass or not.

Expand full comment

Richard, you missed the point of the HCR’s letter and the news reports coming out about this new child labor problem. You still lived at home and was paid what adults were paid. Your parents were able to keep an eye on your wellbeing. I also worked through middle school on my uncle’s dairy farm, and then in high school through college at my father’s factory. My education, health and age appropriate free time and sleep were a priority. None of this is the case today. Child immigrants, run always or marginally parented in large numbers, without parent participation or family income. They are given jobs that adults don’t want, can’t do, on shifts adults don’t want. Children are paid lower than the lowest paid adults, with no benefits. They live in dorms, group housing or on the streets with little or no adult supervision. This is essentially slave or indentured labor. Let’s be honest about these issues.

Right wing politics are conflicted. They are designed to drum up grievances to get support for their agenda and candidates with twisted broken results. They rail against immigration. They refuse immigration policies that would address labor shortages, but have employed immigrants anyway, made illegal by their own laws. When they stopped this source of labor, they then resort to employing illegal child immigrants. Rather than make the kids and their parents legal, they make the employers legal by eliminating child labor laws. This is the most immoral and corrupt public policy since slavery and then Jim Crow. Republicans, once the abolitionists, unionists and advocates for working Americans in Lincoln’s time, are now the Confederate, pro plantation, pro slave labor party.

Expand full comment

So we’ll said! Thank you!

Expand full comment

David, this is an excellent summation of the issues.

Expand full comment

Richard, the words “in the summer” jumped out at me in your narrative. Many of my teenage friends had summer jobs that did not interfere with their schooling. Many of those on family farms had their work duties curtailed if the parents saw them falling behind in school—it was understood that getting an education was paramount.

Expand full comment

Not being sarcastic here, just a question: how many of those youngsters that you worked with went on to get college education at all (not even asking how many went to Harvard)

Not very many, I'd bet.

If our country desperately needs more workers, what we need is IMMIGRANTS over the age of 16. What a concept!

Expand full comment

And how many kids working at age 13 weren't inspired to get an education and esrn a degree? You are an exception, not a rule.

Expand full comment

Child labor rollbacks are one of the new maga cult’s red meat issues! Nothing to do with ‘take your child to work day’ or teaching a child ‘life’s lessons’!

Expand full comment

And, in a lot of cases, child labor to help with family support wouldn't be necessary if workers were paid a living wage. They aren't today. Back in the 1950's when I was roughnecking in the West Texas oilfields, a man (or woman) could, on his or her wages, afford to buy a home, a car, clothes and food for the family, and take a vacation. We need to get back to that level, at least.

Expand full comment

Richard, you are speaking of your limited experience in the 50s as if it were universal. A man's wage might suffice for all that. Very few women made enough to support a family. Women made, on average, across occupations, between 55% to 60% of what men earned (It's little better now). Single women and their children lived either in poverty or close to it. And often two parent families required both incomes just to get by. Child care was an ongoing issue. : my father became ill while I was in my teens. My mom was able to get a lowpaying evening job. I was an honor student, but no extra-curricular activities because I went straight home to look after my youngest brother and make sure my dad had what he needed (he was largely bed-ridden). The oldest of my brother's worked as box boy and stocker at the grocery store after school well into the evening. My middle brother was just old enough to caddy at the country club (but, being still a child, spent his tips before he got home). Weekends we all did odd jobs to earn our spending money. I was unable to go to college until my 20s (and then over a decade a term at at time, because the money and means weren't there for us. I know many many people whose stories are similar. And I have not even touched on the conditions in which migrant workers endured, or the obstacles that black citizens had to contend with. I have NO INTEREST at all in replicating the 50s. They simply are a fantasy in some people's minds.

Expand full comment

What you say about female wages is true. My mom went back to college after having seven children, tugging my 2-year old and 4-year old sisters with her. she graduated and became a school teacher, making about $350 a month in the 1950's, which was enough to live on - barely. By the late 1950's things in the oil fields slowed down and my mom became the principal support for the family. Clearly, we're making progress in terms of women's rights and parity, on the one hand, while we all are losing ground to the Fascists, on the other hand.

Expand full comment

That’s not complicated, that’s privilege. We, who are white, English speaking, males, two parents, and born here, with extended families and community support. The issue is non white, limited English, economically displaced, non citizens, non able to vote, single or no parent, limited extended family nor community support network or access. John Steinbeck & Upton Sinclair novels paint the picture in living color.

Expand full comment

Richard, I understand your ambivalence and I think it highlights the wedge point the white paper authored by the Foundation for Government Accountability is putting pressure on. Americans believe the myth of “pulling one’s self up by their bootstraps” and rough-hewn character development. The Hero-Journey is rife with epic, romantic tales of scrappiness, and resilience. We LOVE that. Yet, where is the line crossed that defines exploitation? Is it only a point-of-view? Lewis Hines photographed the conditions that many business owners -and desperate parents- claimed was okay, -“necessary”. Rather like now again. How do you craft legislation to support entrepreneurial young folk, in a fair, dignified, accountable way, and protect them from Dickensian exploitation? I do not agree to giving business owners a wage-cutting underclass of workers. We ALL pay in that game in the most democracy-eroding way. Yet, giving entrepreneurial young folk agency in participating in the capitalist aspect of America does have value beyond dollars also. The exploitation-trap is too easily ensnaring for desperate young people. How do we legislatively protect against that?

Expand full comment

As you know, you worked in one of the most dangerous jobs in the economy. I hope you have all of your fingers, I’m sure you saw many roughnecks who didn’t.

Expand full comment

It was and is hazardous work. I agree that exploiting child labor should be stopped. I was paid the same wage as the grown men on the job. For me it was a real positive experience - don't spend the rest of your life doing this. I do feel for the poor kids who are being exploited financially. It's right out of a Dickens novel.

Expand full comment
Jun 15, 2023·edited Jun 15, 2023

Not to dispute your characterization of your own life, but if I may... it sounds less like a positive experience than a negative one the example of which led you in a positive direction. I feel like in life we all have to experience some variation of this: where you learn the hard way what you do not want to do. Although your example may have been particularly illustrative, considering age and setting.

Good to hear about the pay, though.

Expand full comment

What I got from Richard’s comment is “I made out okay. I toughed it out. It worked for me cuz look at me now”

Confliction today about exposing children to the same dangers is mitigate by “equal pay”? I object

Kids should not be running machinery, their brains are not yet fully developed to assume the risks involved. They don’t know what is at stake, they just do what they’re told. To the company, the body parts are collateral damage on a cost balance sheet. Read Jane Mayer’s Dark Money

Expand full comment

Your point is well made - I lucked out. Since I was making the same wages as my co-workers, I can't claim to have been exploited.

Expand full comment

I agree with you on all counts.

Expand full comment

Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield to expose the damage institutional poverty inflicted upon children in his society. Barbara Kingsolver wrote Demon Copperhead with a similar purpose, including opioid addiction as a cause of untold damage on children and their families. In Tara Westover's memoir Educated she writes in detail about working in a dangerous family business from a very young age. It seems that in some ways the past isn't even the past. Dickensian indeed.

Expand full comment

Richard, you must have been one very large 13-year-old. My first job after leaving the Air Force in 1967 at age 22 was as a roughneck on a jack-knife rig in Mississippi. (My uncle George was a Tool Pusher, uncle Tucker a Driller - it was a family thing) It was hard and dangerous work. (years later uncle Tucker got killed on the job). I only lasted about a month of 7-day a week work before heading off to New Orleans to pursue my life of wandering.

Expand full comment

I wasn't big, about 5'7" weighing about 120 lbs. To say that I didn't develop muscle would be an understatement. I worked my tail end off. The equipment and tools were heavy and the work hard. There were three boys in the family, one 11 years older than me and one 5 1/2. We would have never done anything to embarrass our father, such as being loafers on the job. We did strive to make him proud of us, though he only got through the 8th grade, he knew how to run a drilling rig and those who worked for him definitely respected him. Parents can mean a whole lot to a child. My whole family excelled in their endeavors, largely, I think, because of the examples set by my parents. Ours was a very, very close family. I'm grateful for that experience.

Expand full comment

Your personal history is exceptional. Exceptions, however, don’t provide a good basis for policy. The experiment with lax child labor laws has already been run, and the outcome was, to put it mildly, an affront to human decency. Running the experiment again will produce the same outcome. Republican leaders know this, of course, and it matches goals they have pushed for about 150 years: concentration of wealth in a tiny fraction of the population and exploitation of a large underclass.

That was a tough sell when the underclass was mostly white, but Republican leadership discovered in the mid-twentieth century that they could sell it by convincing the white working class that the oppressed underclass would be mostly black and brown. Reagan completed the sale, the white working class has never looked back, and we now face a future with a deluded white working class enabling a small contingent of oligarchs to exploit everyone else. This is the state of banana-republic economies all over the world, and Banana Republicans are now poised to grant themselves (with the enthusiastic electoral help of about two-thirds of the white working class) their long-pursued dream: the Banana Republic of the USA.

Expand full comment

I agree with your assessment, and recounting my own experience was not an endorsement of enforced child labor. Mine was an opportunity that I took. It never interferred with my education. Thomas Frank in his book, "What's the Matter with Kansas" does an excellent job of exposing how the wealthy have used wedge issues (abortion, race and misogyny) to get folks to vote against their own best social and economic interests. Their propaganda works. And I share your fears and concerns.

Expand full comment

Richard, in some respects, you raise a dual philosophical/parenting issue. Assume, for the sake of argument, that you're "child labor" experience was, in fact, abuse. Was your experience, nonetheless, essential to your later success? (I know, virtually unanswerable, but still...)

My wife and I struggled with a similar issue for years, in that we quickly realized that without deprivation, there is no need for gratitude, a feeling/attitude I consider essential for a healthy, positive outlook on life. But how can a parent instill an attitude of gratitude (an irritating alliteration) without inflicting deprivation, and inflicting it hard enough to hurt?

We could never bring ourselves to do so -- they're having to learn gratitude the hard way, like I did, by starting off with an easy life, then, in various ways, crashing.

Expand full comment

There are the exceptional, amazing experiences, but the overall larger experience and risks to individuals, their safety and the larger society should be weighed heavily. Congratulations, sincerely, on being one of the exceptional ones!

Expand full comment

other peoples kids, you know, poor kids and immigrant kids. Not the kids of the upper classes, just the peasants.

Expand full comment
Jun 15, 2023·edited Jun 15, 2023

To be more than facetious, perhaps there should be internships and mentored work experiences for children from families earning over $400k in these occupations where like children who are recruited from poor and imigrant backgrounds are so wonderfully employed. I'm old enough to remember that when child labor laws came into play, factories, farming, food service, landscaping, building, and small family-owned businesses all were recruiting migrant workers, green card be damned. Can't now recruit south of the border, but there are a lot more hungry kids and single parents whom to provide excellent work experiences and nice low wages outside sight of cops and immigration authorities. Time for someone else kids to fill those jobs, while the current indentured children catch some sleep and go to school. Just think, new income for their families and likely won't have to report those earning as taxable.

Expand full comment

YEP!

Expand full comment
Jun 15, 2023·edited Jun 15, 2023

In most developed countries the kids don't need to worry about getting shot, or all the other innocent victims of American shooting culture where the gun is the emotional tool of choice and so available. ONLY in the good old USA, the world's by far largest superpower, a spearhead of modern science and leader in inclusivity concepts, anachronistically stuck with mindsets which harbour ungoverned rage and enough nuclear weapons to wipe us all out a few times over and still living with ancient world early Christian sexual mores. My morning rant.

Expand full comment

From the moment I started reading this letter I thought of sanctimonious Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders surrounded by children signing into law child labor rules allowing children into factories cleaning chickens and other horrors. This brand of “Christian “ concern for families is nauseating. As an aside, my East Texas husband born in 1935 from junior high on worked various jobs in town with the most arduous the one at the foundry where his dad was a machinist. At 15 my husband worked on the “bull gang” doing hard physical labor in that hideous hot, humid climate. That and football from junior high through high school certainly contributed to his miseries today.

Today’s letter is horrifying and enlightening. There always seems to be another Republican, secretly funded behind their nefarious attempts at defunding safety nets and environmental protection measures.

Expand full comment

And a good rant it is, Frank. "...anachronistically stuck with mindsets..." So well said.

Expand full comment

Mind warp

Expand full comment
Jun 15, 2023·edited Jun 15, 2023

'Kids could fill labor shortages, even in bars, if these lawmakers succeed'

By HARM VENHUIZEN, May 25, 2023

'MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Lawmakers in several states are embracing legislation to let children work in more hazardous occupations, for more hours on school nights and in expanded roles, including serving alcohol in bars and restaurants as young as 14.'

'The efforts to significantly roll back labor rules are largely led by Republican lawmakers to address worker shortages and, in some cases, run afoul of federal regulations.

“The consequences are potentially disastrous,” said Reid Maki, director of the Child Labor Coalition, which advocates against exploitative labor policies. “You can’t balance a perceived labor shortage on the backs of teen workers.”

'Lawmakers proposed loosening child labor laws in at least 10 states over the past two years, according to a report published last month by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. Some bills became law, while others were withdrawn or vetoed.'

'In Wisconsin, lawmakers are backing a proposal to allow 14-year-olds to serve alcohol in bars and restaurants. If it passed, Wisconsin would have the lowest such limit nationwide, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.'

'The Ohio Legislature is on track to pass a bill allowing students ages 14 and 15 to work until 9 p.m. during the school year with their parents’ permission. That’s later than federal law allows, so a companion measure asks the U.S. Congress to amend its own laws.' (AP) See link below.

https://apnews.com/article/child-labor-laws-alabama-ohio-c1123a80970518676be44088619c6205

'DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES ANNOUNCE NEW EFFORTS TO COMBAT EXPLOITATIVE CHILD LABOR'

Office of the Secretary

Date: February 27, 2023

'Announcements include new interagency child labor task force'

'WASHINGTON – Since 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor has seen a 69 percent increase in children being employed illegally by companies. In the last fiscal year, the department found 835 companies it investigated had employed more than 3,800 children in violation of labor laws. The maximum civil monetary penalty under current law for a child labor violation is $15,138 per child. That’s not high enough to be a deterrent for major profitable companies.

The department takes these egregious violations very seriously and investigates every child labor complaint they receive and acts to hold employers accountable. On Feb. 17, 2023, the Department of Labor announced the resolution of one of the largest child labor cases in its history against Packers Sanitation Services Inc. LTD. The department currently has over 600 child labor investigations underway and continues to field complaints and initiate investigations to protect children.'

'At the same time, the U.S. has seen an influx in migrant children from Latin America fleeing violence and poverty, a majority of whom do not have a parent in the U.S.'.

“Every child in this country, regardless of their circumstance, deserves protection and care as we would expect for our own child,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra. “At Health and Human Services, we will continue to do our part to protect the safety and wellbeing of unaccompanied children by providing them appropriate care while they are in our custody; placing them in the custody of parents, relatives, and other appropriate sponsors after vetting; and conducting post-release services including safety and wellbeing calls. Everyone from employers to local law enforcement and civic leaders must do their part to protect children.”

“We see every day the scourge of child labor in this country, and we have a legal and a moral obligation to take every step in our power to prevent it. Too often, companies look the other way and claim that their staffing agency, or their subcontractor or supplier is responsible. Everyone has a responsibility here,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “This is not a 19th century problem – this is a today problem. We need Congress to come to the table, we need states to come to the table. This is a problem that will take all of us to stop.”

'As the challenge of child labor exploitation – particularly of migrant children – increases nationwide, the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services are announcing the following actions to increase their efforts to thoroughly vet sponsors of migrant children, investigate child labor violations and hold the companies accountable:'

'A Department of Labor-led Interagency Taskforce to Combat Child Labor Exploitation: The task force will further collaboration and improve information sharing among agencies, as well as advance the health, education, and well-being of children in the U.S. For instance, timely information regarding active child labor investigations, as appropriate, enables HHS to apply additional scrutiny in the sponsor vetting process when warranted because of geographic or other concerns. Through this task force, the agencies will also jointly conduct education and training initiatives in relevant communities.'

'A National Strategic Enforcement Initiative on Child Labor: As part of this new initiative, the department’s Wage and Hour Division will use data-driven, worker-focused strategies to initiate investigations where child-labor violations are most likely to occur. And, the division and the department’s Office of the Solicitor will use all available enforcement tools, including penalties, injunctions, stopping the movement of goods made with child labor, and criminal referrals where warranted.'

'Hold All Employers Accountable: The Department of Labor will hold all employers accountable to ensure child labor is removed from supply chains. This will include applying further scrutiny to companies doing business with employers using illegal child labor to increase corporate accountability for system abuses of child labor laws. Too frequently employers who contract for services are not vigilant about who is working in their facilities, creating child labor violations up and down the supply chain. With the increased reliance of staffing agencies and subcontracting, host companies are often claiming that they are unaware or unable to control child labor issues happening at their worksites.'

'Mandated Follow Up Calls for Unaccompanied Children Who Report Safety Concerns: HHS will require a follow-up call to any child who calls the Office of Refugee Resettlement National Call Center with a safety concern. ORRNCC currently refers every safety related call to the appropriate law enforcement agency or child protective services. This additional call will serve as a critical follow up with the child. And, ORRNCC will immediately incorporate language into its training materials to ensure former unaccompanied children who reach out to the helpline clearly understand which authorities their safety concerns will be reported to.'

'Expand Post Release Services for Unaccompanied Children: HHS will continue to work with Congress to provide sufficient resources for ORR to provide post release services to all children and sponsors by 2025. Under the Biden-Harris administration, ORR has increased its capacity to provide post release services to more children. In fiscal year 2023, ORR is on track to serve nearly 60 percent of children released with such services, up from 24 percent of children when President Biden took office, and ORR attempts to reach all children and sponsors with safety and wellbeing calls. Additional post release services include assistance in registering children for school, ensuring they understand the immigration legal process and can attend their court hearings, and help finding medical, mental health, and family counseling services for which they may be eligible.' ('DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES) There is more concerning is serious matter. See link below.

https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/osec/osec20230227

Expand full comment

Your post completely exemplifies what HCR writes:

"In the years after World War II, when people in the United States were determined to stand strong against both fascism and communism, the nation embraced the idea that children should be in school rather than in factories. An education would permit them to be upwardly mobile economically, thus lessening the likelihood that they would be tempted by authoritarian leaders who promised to improve their standard of living, and it would guarantee that they would be informed citizens who would work to advance democracy.

Until recently, that idea seemed permanent."

Expand full comment

Thank you, Roxanna. I hope that subscribers who read my post will follow up by contacting their governors and other elected officials with the power and responsibility to protect the health and welfare of our children. Salud.

Expand full comment

Very well stated, Fern! It seems seldom mentioned recently with rights, but parents have and must emphasize responsibilities as well as the power inherent to the circumstances to do everything possible to safeguard and enhance the health and welfare of their children!

Expand full comment

I understand that I Norway, education is mandatory until age 16 at which point the can opt for different kind of training to enter the workforce or go to university. This makes so much sense.

Expand full comment

More than American kids who work for a family farm or business, I am concerned with the exploitation of children from our southern neighbors. Their parents are depending on the wages of children sent alone to "El Norte". Such is their poverty, too. Ironically they might claim parents' rights. In fact, for too much of the developing world, going to work as a pre-teen is expected. What a dilemma, what a world.

I'm under the impressions that most of the children referred to in this article are, indeed migrant children. While many comments here reflect our childhoods of summer labor, that is not the issue, really. Beware of euphemisms by the exploiters...Parents' rights indeed!

Expand full comment

Michael, I am jealous, you’re vacationing in an area of our globe that I have always wanted to and would still hope to visit someday ... you’re in place and area where those countries always seem to be at or near the top of the rankings on happiness index ... enjoy!

Expand full comment

And they tend to have longer school hours than American schools. Learning English is mandatory in most European countries. And it's rare that Americans speak a second language. Understandable actually since we're much bigger than most countries and it's too expensive for the ordinary US citizen to travel abroad.

Expand full comment

Thank you for that report, Michael. We need more.

Expand full comment
Jun 15, 2023·edited Jun 15, 2023

A few observations:

- We immediately noticed a markedly different vibe in Copenhagen and relaxed into it. People seem at ease, not as harried and not faced with so many of the challenges typical in the U.S.

- There are more bikes than cars, and they have separated lanes. Many people walking. Many EVs. (Norway, where we’re headed Saturday, has the highest percentage of EVs in the world, 20 percent. Last year, EVs accounted for 80 percent of new car sales.)

- Our small Airbnb apartment, second floor, overlooks a lake surrounded by a paved trail for walking, running, and biking. I’ve never seen so many runners.

- Modern and extensive trains/subway and buses make it easy and fast to get around.

- Everywhere we go, we hear laughter. People here don’t have the same stresses and strains, largely because government services are so amazingly robust. Yes, taxes are very high, but they pay for free healthcare, education (including college), paid family leave and much much more.

- No homeless people, at least where we’ve been, unlike at our home in Portland, where they exceed 5,000, many drug-addicted and lacking substantial help.

- Finally, i’ve read that Danes and those of other Nordic nations scoff at surveys showing them to be the world’s happiest people. Instead, it’s more of a sense of satisfaction. Also, judging from our small sample size, they look remarkably healthy: thin, strikingly attractive with an air of confidence, and as my wife put it, a glow.

Expand full comment

What you observe in Denmark, I have observed in the small (2000 inhabitants) town that was our home port (small boat) in France. There was public housing in the middle of town, several doctors, a weekly market in addition to small grocery stores, two large squares, and a canal for passage of boats to the Saône. One of my first observations was that old people seemed cheerful and unworried. Many rode bicycles. And of course there are month-long vacations. People work hard when they work and play when they are off work. Even though the retirement age was 62 in the 2000’s, 64 sounds fantastic to most Americans who see corporate America trying to take everything from the poor and the remains of the middle class.

Did anyone see the senator who attacked Janet Yellen? It’s on YouTube. Question: Didn’t the mothers of Republican senators teach them basic manners?

Expand full comment
Jun 15, 2023·edited Jun 15, 2023

I know this isn’t about the subject matter of today’s letter, but I found this quote from HCR in her political chat to be profound. It’s not often you hear Dr Richardson dig into the common vernacular, but truly, it is the ‘best description’.

“Espionage and The Espionage Act, and the protection of our National Security is really the fundamental job of our government, protecting our safety from other countries, from bad things in the world. And somebody that we put in the White House PISSED THAT AWAY, and with that, pissed away the lives and the work of thousands and thousands of people who have dedicated themselves to our safety… This is an attack on the United States.” – Heather Cox Richardson, politics chat, June 14, 2023.

(Small edit - I’m not the best secretary.)

Expand full comment

Saw a similar bit of out-of-usual-character for HCR in the close of yesterday's letter "it's about time" as well.

I count on this daily letter to get the really important news in depth and in historical context with the connections and analysis. It is the one refuge I've found from the constant screeds and click bait and superficial "coverage" in the rest of the media and the endless opinion pieces that add almost nothing to understanding, but sure can raise your blood pressure!

Expand full comment

Agreed. The Professor keeps the editorializing to such a blessed minimum that I actually really enjoy it whenever a pointed phrase creeps in. It's nice to have a reminder of the impassioned real person behind the scholarship.

Expand full comment

Well said, Will. Rather succinct which itself is just wonderful.

It’s truly an Art Form.

Expand full comment

Will, one of the things I enjoy about listening to "Now and Then" is the byplay between HCR and Joanne Freeman.

Expand full comment

I know exactly what you mean.

Expand full comment
Jun 15, 2023·edited Jun 15, 2023

Not irrelevant at all, JaneDough56 - the deliberate eroding of child labor laws under the guise of “parental rights” Is simply another way in which Republicans and the Cult of Trump have worked to “piss away” our hard earned progress as a safe, enlightened, and wealthy country by creating a permanent underclass of undereducated, exhausted people who don’t have time to think and can be entertained by gobbling up manufactured outrage masquerading as news on media like Fox News.

As HCR states, “ the recognition by Republican progressive reformers that children growing up in factories without education would never have the opportunity to become good citizens, whose education was crucial to a democracy. They would never learn to read or write, leaving them at the mercy of employers, and immigrant children caught in this system would never fully integrate into society.”

More workers in dead end jobs to fill the coffers of the 1% and ultimately to fuel the Republican rage machine.

Expand full comment

And angry.....oh so very angry...shooting each other en masse daily.

Expand full comment

They need to wake uo.

Expand full comment

Sounds like Dr. Richardson knows the appropriate adjectives to describe Trump's behavior to me.

Expand full comment

Thanks, Jane. She was really "on fire" during that chat: https://fb.watch/lawyfe_sxS/

While we're at it, this week's Now and Then with HCR and Joanne Freeman highlights the issues about our water access has been around since even before the founding. Another compelling topic IMO: https://cafe.com/now-and-then/theres-something-in-the-water/

Expand full comment

A fantastically worthy hour+ from HCR.

Expand full comment

I missed the politics and history chat yesterday; it is on my list for today. I am part way though Now and Then, which I will finish with my morning watering, which will commence when I finish reading the LFAA and comments.

Oh, and Good Morning, Lynell!!

Expand full comment

Morning, Ally! That's how my day went yesterday. Wait, she gave a history chat? Lead me to it!

Expand full comment

Please Ally, how to,listen to those Now and Then (s) , podcast app? Stream? I’d love to gain this info. Thanks ahead

Expand full comment

I just click on the podcast app that came with my phone; you can also search on a search engine. Spotify also does podcasts.

Expand full comment

Do I dare mention how ironic the comment (which is spot on) “PISSED THAT AWAY” and the photo of all of those boxes of classified documents shown in his bathroom?

Expand full comment

😂😂😂

Expand full comment

I am proud to say that I had nothing to do with putting that jackass in the White House, but am being pissed on anyway, and I'm sick of it! I am still flabbergasted by the inane Right Wing doing everything they can to tear down our Democracy to replace it with what they call Christian Nationalist Democracy - which isn't Democracy at all! https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2019/04/24/turkeys-democracy-wakes-up/

It also pisses me off that the Citizen's United group has usurped our Democracy to be ruled by who ever has the most money. It's not supposed to be that way! What's it going to take to repair and heal our country? To bring it back to the vision and ideas it was founded on through the Constitution? To restore Unity! Rule of Law is a slow process... and now we have AI to contend with. I just hope and pray that the powers for the good of 'We The People' can get a handle on it before it's too late!

Expand full comment

LOL. For some fun, you should watch some of HCR's early video chats. As time went on she became more, um, sedate, but in the beginning, she would occasionally remind herself to not use cuss words. She has a wicked sense of humor. She continues to use the kind of colorful vernacular I absolutely love, expressions that illustrate what she is talking about that is very difficult in written form, where there are more conventions. I love it when a little bit of the underlying Heather breaks through those conventions.

Expand full comment
Jun 15, 2023·edited Jun 15, 2023

I was wondering when she began - at the beginning of Covid 19, or when she started the letters during the FIRST impeachment? (Technically, they all ran together.) That seems like forever ago.

Expand full comment

She began before covid, in about Sept 2019 if I recall correctly. She posted to her personal FB page at first. Her initial intent was to simply record what was going on as it happened, for future historians to use as source material. I believe she said she figured on doing it for a couple of years (we all thought things would settle down after the election and Biden took office). Well, within a few weeks her following had grown to the hundreds, and then hit the thousands. She moved Letters From An American to its own FB page, where it still resides (posts there first, then substack). Shortly after that she started the video chats, pretty informal at first, but the demand there grew too, to huge. Clearly she met a need people were hungry for. She has done our country a great service, because she brought history out of academia and made it part of our lives, in addition to making media and many politicians more aware of the reality of our past. She has herself created an American institution out of us!

All of her talks are recorded and available on FB (look at her page under the "video" tab). Where she had a series on the same topic she has pulled them together as a unit. It's all good. I love history, but after listening to her, I realized how little I really knew about much of American history and the impacts some of that hidden history has had on where we are now. I am grateful for it.

Expand full comment

I saw/heard the chat also. Thanks for highlighting it here.

Expand full comment

You worked late into the early morning to finish this well researched and written piece on a subject that is timely and not well enough followed. Thank you.

Expand full comment

So it's like EVERY. Single. Aspect. of our democracy is under attack. Years of hard work being thrown out. So depressing.

Expand full comment
Jun 15, 2023·edited Jun 15, 2023

Mary,

From these letters, and from Isabella Wilkerson and from Nicole Hannah Jones and many other modern authors I have learned that our Democracy has always been under attack since John Adams first wrote the fledgling Massachusetts constitution, first in 1779 as a draft, which went on to become the model for the US Constitution.

I just finished "By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow's Legal Executioners" By Margaret Burnham. The efforts to thwart Democracy then make today look like cool-aid compared to Johnny Walker Red.

Listen to Rachel Maddows "Ultra" Podcast to see just how bad the attacks on Democracy, from within, have been in the past. Unbelievable.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/rachel-maddow-presents-ultra/id1647910854

Read "Lay This Body Down" by Gregory A. Freeman. Now that will make your hair stand on end.

Since John Adams first attempt at empowering the average person, rich folks have shown great disdain and contempt for that form of government and have fought to get rid of it.

After all, you and I? We just flat don't count. Period.

At least where a born rich, white man is concerned, we are ants to be sprayed with Raid.

That said: Take heart and be optimistic. >> Despite the best efforts of a bunch of rich dudes who cannot think their way out of a wet paper bag on a hot summer day, Democracy is still with us.

Expand full comment

Thanks for the two book recommendations. I have listened to "Ultra" twice now. It is freaking scary, and we are looking at a situation just as serious within our current congressional body today.

Expand full comment

True. Republicans are Putins representatives. Not ours.

Expand full comment

Good job, Mike. And a great list of readings. I've read most, will read the one I haven't, and am wondering what the rest of your list is. Right now I am going to get a cup of coffee and head over to watch Rachel. (Then I'm going to tackle some Very Tall Weeds, now that the sun is shining and the air clearer.)

Expand full comment

Annie, good luck and good work with the weeds. I will soon be planting 2700 trees and am clearing this horrible honeysuckle somebody brought in from Europe!

Expand full comment

Thanks, Mike. Impressed with your tree project. Mine is to work with my neighbors to replace trees in the village that have been lost to old age or storms or just because (the lawn is easier to mow...). I've been here 20 years and while the town has an interest in replacing street trees, the often large lots are nearly devoid of trees now. Very few have been replaced. Where it once looked as if there were a woods behind my house (because there was), now it is mostly grass and a center lot that is so overgrown with invasives that native trees can't even reseed. I am almost the only one on my street that replaces lost trees. I even left a lightning damaged tree that is pretty scraggy and full of nesting holes. A once much smaller tree about 25 feet away now is nearly as large as that one was. Beyond it: nothing. I'm just getting started, with an article letting people know the advantages of planting trees in a time of global warming. Our state has a list of trees that can adapt to warming conditions while still able to tolerate our increasingly random winters. I want this to be my legacy from my old age, a gift for the kids I am watching grow up, and for theirs.

Expand full comment

Annie,

Outstanding! Scraggly trees older trees are definitely worth saving! I am rapidly getting to be a scraggly old guy myself.

:-)

Expand full comment

I'm doing pretty good for an old gal, but I think scraggly is good. In fact, now that thought is in my mind, I think I want a t-shirt with that on the back.

Expand full comment

Thanks Mike for the book recommendations. I did listen to Rachel's whole Ultra series - incredible we didn't learn about that in our history lessons in high school. At least I never knew about it - grew up in St. Louis.

Expand full comment

I and sure nobody heard of it down south for sure.

Expand full comment

Mike - St. Louis is hardly the south. It is practically the apex of the midwest.

Expand full comment

And, Mike, you might want to add The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of US History by Ned Blackhawk to your reading list. I've just finished the chapter called Settler Uprising which talks about the vigilante group the Paxtons in the 1760s. This was a group from western Pennsylvania that didn't like being told what to do by the Eastern cities or Britain. Their attitudes and actions seem to have continued in a straight line to the present.

Expand full comment

Thank you for your recommendation. I have added it to my list for winter!!

Expand full comment

"until recently...seemed permanent" . That last line applies to so much of the anti-democratic direction of the so called republicans. Until recently we could rely on protections like child labor laws, a woman's right to make decisions about her life, and safety in schools. This is not the world I expected while growing up in the 1970s and seeing a better future than the past.

Expand full comment

Let’s all work hard to not go backwards. And not going backwards is going to take hard work.

Expand full comment

Democracy is always under attack in some way or another, though. The last several years have taught us that the double edged sword of a feeling of safety is the risk of complacency.

We are fighting back now, and doing so rather effectively. Being depressed about events is de-motivating. Get determined instead!

Expand full comment

It is possible to hold a whole range of vacillating emotions & stay determined.

Expand full comment

Naturally!

Expand full comment

One of my training classes taught "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance". I believe that what we are seeing today is "the price of liberty is eternal vigilance and constant action/attention". We must take action to preserve our liberty and our independence, and not sit by and let others do it. Each of us. All of us, this time.

Expand full comment

Your comment of freedom necessitating vigilance is one of Snyder’s admonishments as he warns us that Americans who think that the word freedom what you can do whatever you want to do when you want to do it. This immature and self-centered view ardently popularized by the algorithms in social media (and therefore by the billion dollar corporations owning these algorithms) have NOT incorporated the bedrock principle that with the right of freedom comes responsibility as written in our Bill of Rights. As citizens who have been guaranteed The Four Freedoms, we must remain vigilant about local, state and national laws that are aimed at curtailing those freedoms earned through the years and years of individuals and interest groups working to maintain the freedoms fought for by diligent legislative initiatives to either protect established freedoms or to introduce new legislation when needed for current inequities such as the erosion of child labor laws HCR so aptly describes in today’s newsletter.

Expand full comment

You hit the nail on the head with this comment, Will from Cal. Thank You.

Expand full comment

Yep.

Expand full comment

This seems to be the current goal of the Rethugs..

"... children growing up in factories without education would never have the opportunity to become good citizens, whose education was crucial to a democracy. They would never learn to read or write, leaving them at the mercy of employers, and immigrant children caught in this system would never fully integrate into society."

Democracy can't survive if children have no opportunities for education nor to learn critical thinking.

Expand full comment

Republicans value ignorance, lack of a formal education, grunt jobs, no options, no power for women and “others.” Trust them to know best. Sort of like the industries that provided the living conditions, the store, and basic, minimal subsistence. Tennessee Earnie Ford, where are you?

Expand full comment

Apt reference to Tennessee Ernie Ford:

“Loading sixteen tons

And whatddya get

Another day older

And deeper in debt

St Peter don’t ya call me

Cause I can’t go

I owe my soul to the Company Store.”

Expand full comment

I can still hear that voice, on the AM radio my dad and I listened to while building the house, mid 1950s.

Expand full comment

Ignorance is Strength.

Expand full comment

Ummmm…….

Wait, you meant to add: In the Republican Party. 😊

Expand full comment

Indeed, although it's explicit in "1984'. Shocking to see how much of that story aligns with the present.

Expand full comment

I think the republicans embrace of ignorance is disgraceful. We have to fight this.

Expand full comment

My grandfather started working after he finished the 8th grade for the Edison Co. He retired as a VP in that Co. Times were very different then. People who grew up before the 1950s I have met, many are self educated. Education until Regan was less expensive for state colleges.People who choose trades need to given the status the same as a college education( many of trade jobs pay higher than ones with a degree!) Education needs to be a family value along with the goal of being a life long learner.

Expand full comment

I remember, as a parent attending a new-student luncheon with my wife and daughter (who was about to enroll at Boston University) listening to Christopher Ricks talk about his six children, five of whom had university degrees, and one, who was a plumber. He asked which one we thought made the most money (the plumber, of course) and you could hear the necks of the parents snapping as they looked at one another with the unspoken question "Should we really be spending all this money on an education that might not yield a decent-paying job for our child?" And based on the last plumber's bill I paid, those trades deserve that status.

Expand full comment

I read a booked called Viking Economics which outlined the Norwegian education system. It’s a different and really interesting model. Actually, I found the entire book interesting. Very different from the what the republicans are proposing. The emphasis is on training people to be both skilled workers and taxpaying citizens. Too much of our thinking is stuck in the past.

Expand full comment

Well said.

Expand full comment

And hard for authoritarianism to survive if they do.

Expand full comment

PhilENTROPY and do-badding do-themselves-gooders... who can recognize and do no good. Not even their own. Not even that of their own offspring...

Expand full comment

Sorry, Janice, I hadn’t yet read this comment when I copied and pasted the same quote. Great minds think alike?

Expand full comment

America and Lewis Hine https://g.co/kgs/KZqo6E

Thank you, Heather, for your moving reporting of the renewal of child labor and its attendant horrors. I worked on this film about Lewis Hine, with Nina Rosenblum, the director. We went to high school together. It is a wonderful testament to the fight against enslaving children in the early part of the twentieth century. It’s still so sad that people like Sarah Huckabee in Arkansas would renew such barbarity against children and claim to be be “pro-life”.

Expand full comment

“Pro-life” has become a slogan only. It’s meaningless unless you follow up with creating an environment in which people can thrive.

Expand full comment

Thank you for the link.

Some new history for me.

Expand full comment

Thank you for your concise writing. As you have commented, the politicians who support the illiberal model do not see a need for helping all children and adults to become informed democratic voters. They plan to rule without the bother of input from voters.

Expand full comment

Exactly, Texas is well on the way down this road

Expand full comment

Indeed they are threatened by any effort to help people become informed.

Expand full comment

That’s communism, right Craig? OMG.

Expand full comment

No - State Totalitarianism .. nothing to do with communism (or socialism)

Expand full comment

There are several flavors, including theocracy.

Expand full comment

Child labor is on the rise and once again it’s a repub issue that claims parental rights, when families with lowest incomes, education and employment opportunities, often immigrants, desperately send their children to work to feed families. It’s the parents who need employment opportunities with a living wage. Once again the repubs who claim to be the party of family values, weaken the most vulnerable families and children. Pay a living wage to adults, enforce existing historic child labor laws, and school attendance. Why? As Professor HCR reminds those who question the reasons: “An education would permit them to be upwardly mobile economically, thus lessening the likelihood that they would be tempted by authoritarian leaders who promised to improve their standard of living, and it would guarantee that they would be informed citizens who would work to advance democracy.” And the educated child might grow up to vote blue.

Expand full comment

I don't remember the exact quote or who said it, but something along the lines of keeping them uneducated, barefooted and pregnant. Sounds like the Retrumplicans platform 🤔

Expand full comment

Wikipedia: "The phrase "barefoot and pregnant" seems to have been introduced in the early twentieth century by the American doctor Arthur E. Hertzler from Kansas, who said: "Some vulgar person has said that when the wife is kept barefooted and pregnant there are no divorces."

Expand full comment

Ew. But also, wut? Like, is she barefoot because she never has to work and always has her tootsies on the ottoman? Or is she barefoot because her psycho husband has stolen all her shoes so she can't leave without getting a splinter?

Expand full comment

The full expression is to keep women barefoot in winter and pregnant in Summer, both to keep them home like good wives should.

The term is very familiar in red neck environs.

Expand full comment

Raised with it, but my Mama (mother of eight) didn’t cotton to denigration of females. And she had a looper (from textile factory) installed at home when she couldn’t go in. She raised some of like mind.

Expand full comment

I don’t want to “like” your comment. But I appreciate the comment. Clarifies the phrase for me.

Expand full comment

As a point of interest that cruel philosophy is the virtual target of the Republican Party now joined by the Southern Baptist Evangelicals. Both groups insist the role of women to be child bearing and support of male leadership.

Clarence Thomas’,et al, recent writings carry the threat to shearing away of the 14th and 19th Amendments since any rights not specifically included in the original Constitution are not Law. They are serious, too.

Expand full comment
Jun 15, 2023·edited Jun 15, 2023

Irenie,

The truly funny part about Republican support for child labor is?

Republican kids don't ever work at all, I mean zero, prior to gaining admission to Harvard on white affirmative action because Daddy gave Harvard $2 million dollars.

Prior that that admission, where they stay drunk for four years and then graduate?

Nary a "lick of work" by any of them.

Expand full comment

Why am I picturing Brett Kavanaugh when I read your post?! ;)

Expand full comment

Bingo!!

Expand full comment

Especially W

Expand full comment

Another Bingo!

Expand full comment

Irenie, you said it so clearly.

Laborers are just cogs in the wheel to them, replaceable and discardable.

While the rich get richer

Expand full comment

History repeating, I dread a modern repeat of the early Industrial Age images of children working in factories.

Expand full comment

The Republicans fundamentalist family values are to have an authoritarian father at the helm and everyone else subservient in the family to the point of slavery. We support this set of behaviors by kowtowing to their "family values" and "religious freedom" claims, when both of these are tools to get around the laws governing our society. We have modern day slavery widely entrenched in the Republican party, and that is considered okay.

Expand full comment

As we slide backward, understanding history can hold the line…if only people would read (you) and learn. Thank you for this perspective. It is heartbreaking.

Expand full comment
Jun 15, 2023·edited Jun 15, 2023

Kids should get to be kids.

A few weeks ago, I chose to take my daily walk at a time I don't usually: around half past 3. I walked along a long, straight suburban boulevard and was passed by kids coming home from school. Almost every single one looked unhappy, blase, burned out. All of them were carrying something that looked too heavy for them, one dragged behind him a suitcase on wheels (the kind my Grandma took with her to the airport), and one stood sheepishly blocking the sidewalk, a huge violin case opened up on a low wall of stucco, attempting to adjust the instrument inside while holding on the other pack he was carrying. I could feel myself morphing into a concerned grandpa. In a few minutes I passed by a park and thought, "good lord, why aren't they all *here* instead?" Why aren't all these adorable small little people here smiling, making things out of sticks, using their imaginations and getting into good trouble?

Yes, what is illustrated in today's letter is another example of two current Americas. There is America that has become so rabidly anti-intellectual that parents would rather deign to use their "rights" and "choice" to put their kids back in the fields and factories before they get their heads corrupted with dirty facts they learn in school, facts that might lead them away from precious dogma. Yet the shiny suburban America that prioritizes education and progressiveness is weighing its children down as well, with outsized expectations and standardized tests and endless after-school extracurriculars and college readiness from the second they can speak onward. We are all missing the point: kids should be kids. You have your whole adult life to be overworked and concerned with matters of responsibility. For the love of God, let them play with some worms until it is time to come in for supper!

Oh, and if you're serious about "protecting innocence," the vagaries of hard labor is a quicker route away from that innocence than the whimsy of drag queen story hour. Jus' sayin'.

Expand full comment

As a Little League coach, I saw the worst and best in parents. They were mutually exclusive. The worst were the overbearing, overly competitive, helicopter types that wanted a “do-over” of their own childhood; screaming at umps when their kid struck out or at me for not “coaching to win at all cost”

I coached with the notion that every kid regardless of skill level should participate in the sport with the idea that “learning the game” would provide them enrichment as individuals. The parents of the lessor skilled kids appreciated that and I was grateful for that support

Helicopter Parents think they know their own kids. I think scatoma abounds

This experience taught me a “contempt” of sorts for the overly competitive nature of those that separates us in our values. Healthy competition is overcome by the greed “to win at all costs”

Signed, The Cynic

Expand full comment

Dave, I umpired ASA softball for 20 years; It wasn't until the tag end of that (early 2000's) that I saw that level of parental vitriol. I maintained that my favorite age group was the 14U; they were developed enough to be good at the game, yet hadn't yet hit the teen years where their behaviors changed. For the most part, at least in ASA, the parents weren't an issue the way Little League parents are. This may have changed some, as there are now opportunities for at least a college education and some professional play for softball players.

I also thank you for using scotoma in a sentence. It is the second time I have ever seen it used; the first was in a class in the basic corrections academy in 1985, and I had never seen it before. I had to look it up, and really then had to bend the definition to see where the instructor for that segment was taking it. (I don't remember the details, but my memory is "well, that is certainly a stretch" was my opinion. Dude, just say "blind spot")

Expand full comment

This is so sweet and heartfelt, Will. I do worry about the heaviness - primary kids' backpacks are bigger than they are! And then there's the massive metaphorical weight of social media. But I do understand that's -their- playground of the imagination.

Expand full comment

I recall reading that the weight of some kids school backpacks were damaging their backs. Perhaps the weight of our expectations is worse. What on our deathbeds will we sense really mattered?

Expand full comment

Authoritarians always have an answer for everything, and the "answer" seems designed to stop further exploration, rather than encourage it. Formal education can and does expand our horizons, literally consciousness expanding and potentially empathy expanding, but it can also be a trap. I believe that the expansive sort develops skills of thought and observation, and the more limiting sort presents a reflexive catalog of "correct" responses. I am not saying that there is not a need for selective precision; we don't want bridges falling down due to sloppy math, and discovery can rest on some very fine distinctions; physics is full of them, but sheer curiosity can be both a joy and an highly productive and adaptive tool, even when the point is to just to "check out" whatever, which is what kids do. It is an evolutionarily selected characteristic that got us to our current, collective state of awareness, but it's messy and the point can be no point in particular. It is creative.

So yes, I think ample opportunities for kids to just be kids is an essential aspect of preparation for life. Einstein once described his own creative process as "combinatory play".

Expand full comment

If we're serious about changing our laws, the place to begin is wth our lobbying industry. By its nature lobbying is a one sided business. Lobbyists only present their clients' points of view; regulators and legislators are left to resolve their conflicts. This could work if we had a truly representative democtacy but our system of two senators for each state and representatives determined by a heavily gerrymandered system hardly is ideal. Add an inherently biased lobbying system and real democracy is an idealized approximation to reality. Surely we can find a better way to get reliable information to our regulators and legislators than the lobbying system with its notorious perks and, yes, payoffs.

Expand full comment

We must repeal Citizens United and remove the big corporations and big donors from controlling our government.

Expand full comment

good luck with that via the existing Prostitutes on the Supreme Court masquerading as "judges".

Expand full comment

It appears to me that the extreme power of the lobbying industry is obviously anti-democratic, and yet it is treated as if immutable. A cliche in the classic sense, print and broadcast news reports regularly explain that popular initiatives are "blocked by the powerful (fill in the blank) lobby" as though a Constitutional provision explicitly assigned them veto power over public will. Also mentioned as if an inherent feature of our democracy is the frequency with with legislation is written, by lobbyists, in whole or in part, and duly passed, sometimes word for word, into law.

Government of the people, by the people, for the people? What is wrong with this picture? Isn't government directly and substantially swayed by private money the classic mode of corruption? Who made these folks king of the world?

Expand full comment

And chief among those lobbies: the National Rifle Association. Followed closely by the Federalist Society, one of the main influencers of the makeup of SCOTUS, which resulted in the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Expand full comment

Also, ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Expand full comment

It is the tail that wags the dog

Expand full comment