The former Republican Georgia congressman told an audience at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass., that preventing children from doing certain jobs before their mid-teens cripples children's development and protects "unionization and bureaucratization," the Los Angeles Times reported.
Gingrich said his ideas are "extraordinarily radical proposals to fundamentally change the culture of poverty in America."
"It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, in child laws, which are truly stupid," he said. "Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they'd have pride in the schools, they'd begin the process of rising."
While campaigning in Nashua, N.H., Monday, Gingrich said the failure of the congressional debt-reduction supercommittee would be good for America, CBS News reported. He said the entire Congress should be working on the debt problem.
"I think it's important to understand it's not that Washington is inherently gridlocked, it's that the current players behaving in the current way are inherently gridlocked," Gingrich said. "It's partly the president's fault. It's partly the Congress' fault. But it's a mess."
Gingrich did not mention the government shutdown that occurred while he was House speaker in the mid-1990s came after he and President Clinton failed to resolve a budget impasse.
Gingrich has rumbled from the back of the Republican pack to lead the field of presidential candidates, a USA Today poll indicated.
The poll, release Monday, showed Gingrich was ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by a single, statistically insignificant percentage point among Republican voters, 22 percent to 21 percent.
Being first hasn't been kind, though.
Gingrich is the sixth candidate or potential candidate to lead the field this year while some Republicans search for an alternative to Romney, whose support has hovered about 20 percent six weeks before the Iowa caucuses.
After less than two weeks in the top spot, Georgia businessman Herman Cain slipped to third following allegations by four women of sexual harassment -- which he denies -- and his muddled response when asked by an editorial board about U.S. policy toward Libya.
Poor debate performances and an ineffective defense of his support of providing in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants helped push Texas Gov. Rick Perry from first to fifth.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who led after the Iowa Straw Poll, is sixth.
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