‘They said what?’ Politicians say the darnedest things


by Félix Pérez, photo courtesy of Robert Galbraith

Candidates for political office work such long hours chasing votes, preparing for debates, kissing babies and juggling media interviews that it’s understandable how they might slip up and make some regrettable or off-color remarks on occasion. But then there is a class of statements so outrageous and beyond the pale that the average voter can only say, ‘They said what?’

Following is a sampling of some eye-raising utterances:

Alabama state Senator Shadrack McGill: Paying teachers more violates the Bible

“It’s a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach. To go in and raise someone’s child for eight hours a day, or many people’s children for eight hours a day, requires a calling… And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach. It’s just in them to do. It’s the ability that God give ’em. And there are also some teachers, it wouldn’t matter how much you would pay them, they would still perform to the same capacity.”

Congressman Danny Rehberg, Montana: Child labor laws unnecessary in rural America

“This is one of those situations where I think the Department of Labor is overstepping its boundaries, its knowledge base, and frankly I think you’re sitting around watching reruns of “Blazing Saddles,” adding, “You can’t get hurt. It’s impossible. You could have a five-year-old out there running it (farms).”

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose personal net worth is between $190 million to $250 million and who last year paid a lower income tax rate (15 percent) than teachers, firefighters and most middle class families: Not concerned about the very poor

“I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor — we have a safety net there.”

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum: Telling a mother and her sick young son that drug companies are entitled to charge whatever the market demanded for life-saving therapies

“I sympathize with these compassionate cases… I want your son to stay alive on much-needed drugs. Fact is, we need companies to have incentives to make drugs. If they don’t have incentives, they won’t make those drugs. We either believe in markets or we don’t.”

Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich: ‘Poor kids, get a job’

“So they literally 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’s illegal.”

Have an example of a politician or candidate saying something outrageous? Tell us about it in the comment section below.

Reader Comments

  1. During negotiations about 12 years ago, one of our “friends” on the Board recommended converting a bus barn in east county. His thought was to make it into housing for teachers.

    Imagine that–an example of “affordable housing”; more like barracks. We wondered if they would keep a time clock. Fortunately, it did not fly!

    Unless and until all educators make a living wage, we will encounter these “solutions” which are cheap fixes. Wages need to relate to society’s demands on schools and they increase every year!

  2. Proverbs 22:16; He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.

  3. I remember my first teachers raise, $1,000 dollars. My landlord, a school board member, raised my rent $100 per month! This went on for 2 more years. I quit teaching for ten years and drove a truck, tripled my pay the first year! Shows where this country’s priorities are! I did go back to teaching (32 years) but went from $45,000 to $18,000 in pay to do it. Yes I love teaching, but why does my family have to suffer for it?

  4. To Mr. Santorum:
    I may buy a $900 iPad, but I’m only buying it once. That $900 for a life-saving prescription is a MONTHLY cost. It doesn’t take much common sense to know you are comparing apples to oranges.

  5. Perhaps Senator Shadrack McGill should examine all those high-maintenance TV evangelists and their “calling”. Or maybe each classroom lesson should begin with an “offering” from the assembled students to ensure the delivery of the message/lesson.

  6. In my recently released book, WHY AMERICA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE THE BEST PLACE FOR KIDS, I outline the critical need for teacher unions to protect teachers from arbitrary disagreements that many parents have when a teacher, for example, doesn’t provide the “appropriate” grade for their children. Teacher unions do NOT stop teachers from being fired. Unions are NOT responsible for firing teachers—principals are. Providing appropriate feedback to teachers to either improve their practice or fire them has always been a principal’s job. Tenure does NOTHING but provide a teacher with a hearing before being fired. That’s all tenure does.

    Politicians and the general public need to speak to local educators to see what their needs are. Since teachers are not usually listened to, unions are necessary to provide a voice for teachers as a whole. I also point out in my book that test scores are HIGHER among states that have unionized teachers!

    89% of students in this country go to public schools—let’s support them!

  7. Maybe we should return to the good old days when a teacher, responding to a knock at their drafty hovel, greeted a gracious and charitable community member extending a plucked chicken and a paper bag containing some apples, caused tears of gratitude to well up in the teachers hollow, emaciated eyes.
    Meanwhile, corporations and their CEOs, with the blessing of their board of directors, spent the last 30 years outsource decent paying middle class jobs to 3rd world countries to realize a bigger profit share, then pour these cheap products back onto our shores, tariff-free (Free Trade Agreements) to under-cut Made In USA products at Wal- Mart, fleecing the here-to-for stable USA middle class.
    As if it couldn’t get worse; these anti-nationalistic policies coincided with an era of unprecedented greed in high places; Ponzi schemes (Madoff), Major League Financial Fraud (Enron), the unscrupulous bundling of sub-prime mortgage bonds with AAA rated mortgages and sold together as AAA rated bonds (S&P) knowing they would fail, etc., and together they caused the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression
    Separately, they could have been absorbed and managed, but together they caused the perfect storm that swept the dynamic USA middle class under water.
    Meanwhile, the benefactors of this perfectly orchestrated betrayal want to blame the victim by calling them lazy, unwilling to work, an unsustainable drain on the system, accusing them of class envy, class warfare, an entitlement mentality, you name it! And now that these same middle class citizens who have lost their jobs to outsourcing are sliding closer to the poverty threshold, our elected representatives from you know which side of the isle, along with Fox News, parrot their rich and powerful overlords, wishing to blame the “Food Stamp” President and those lazy, free-loaders sucking on the govt. tit! What a sickening, deceptive, malevolent, arrogant and callous segment of our national population! Or maybe they’re just deceived, and ignorant. In my estimation, a vital middle class that is being denigrated is the only hope we have of saving the nation. The rich and powerful can’t be expected to lift a finger!
    But that they turn on teachers, and point a blaming finger on these public servants, is just beyond comprehension.

  8. You have knowingly taken these staements out of context. Romney was saying that we already have things in place to help people who are poo,r not that he doesn’t care about them. but you know that.
    Gingrich was talking about how hard it is for young people to get jobs because of all the laws, and because of the union. You know it’s true. We aren’t even allowed to let kids help the custodian after lunch anymore, much less get paid for small jobs they could do, were it allowed.

    1. Randi, do you really believe the fact that jobs here are scarce is totally because of laws (regulations) and unions? The whole of the USA thrived along with the dynamic middle class, a beacon on the hill, a bright and shining star, the envy of the world, when unions ruled. You might argue, with validity, that unions over-reached in some instances. But I could not find a time in USA history when USA corporations weren’t turning a nice profit using a union workforce, and that work force returned the favor by purchasing the products with their decent wage, filling the coffers of Corporations, Banks, local, state, and federal treasuries. A win/win situation. That is until 1981 (Supply Side Economics), and Free Trade Agreements, (NAFTA, 1994) sold to the middle class as bills that would improve the economy even more (“who knows better how to create wealth than the rich; lower their taxes from 70% to 28%”), and that would open foreign markets to Made In USA products. But that’s not what happened. Instead, our JOBS were sent south of the border and then (WTO, 1999) off-shore to Communist China ($1.36/hr. sweat shops) to exploit cheap labor and cut USA workers out of the mix, and USA Corporations and investment firms made record profits. And now, after 30 years of outsourcing, trade policies, Corporate greed (“Corporations are people” and “money is speech”, “Citizens United vs. Fed. Election Commission”) corporations out-paced union interests in recent years, deregulation of banks (Gramm, Leach, Bliley Act 1999); big $$$ lobbying incessantly for favor in the halls of congress, multinational corporations receiving loopholes that exempt them from contributing zero revenue to the USA treasury, their biggest customer, etc., we are a nation in decline with ever increasing downward pressure on our wages here so we can compete with sweat-shops in 3rd world countries that Wall Street and our CEOs and stock holders have grown accustomed to.
      Consider Germany, a country with its financial house in relative order. They level a 19% tariff on imports to protect their industrial base. Try selling a Chevy in Germany, you may as well buy a BMW…
      Randi, I challenge you to look into it, do some research, and don’t just take Fox News’ word for it, they’re one of the most biased, and even deceptive news reporting agencies in out there.

    2. These politicians are living in the twilight zone when it comes to real life, real people Education and the teaching profession! They are anti disabled people, anti union,anti education,anti gay,anti middle class and anti freedom! they are againstanyone who is not a corporationThey are the 1% who believe they are better than everyone else! Santorum profitted off of the pennsylvania people he collected a couplehundred thousand dollars claiming his kids were going to a charter school when in fact his kids were being homeschooledby his wife in another state. Romney profitted off of the housing crisis and Newt profitted from Fanni Mae and Freddie Mac! If these are the people that some want running this country then we are trully screwed ! On top of all this they pay 14 to 17 % tax while the rest of us pay 35% does no one see the wrong in that !

    3. Randi, The complete context is right there. All you have to do is click on the link that NEA has provided along with the quote.

  9. Could we substitute “doctor” or “lawyer” or “polititian” for “teacher” and have the same argument? It’s absolutely ridiculous!

  10. I am saddened that the NEA, a professional organization for educators, who are supposed to teach critical thinking skills, would take a statement by Mitt Romney (or anyone else for that matter) out of context and not present all the information so that people can make an informed decision. Yes, he did say he wasn’t concerned about the very poor, but clarified that there was a safety net there, one that might need to be strengthened, but it was there. He went on to say that he was concerned about the “middle class” because they are the ones without a safety net. Whether you agree with him or not, as educators we have an ethical responsiblity to provide sufficient informtion to allow peoplle to make informed decisions. Censoring content, or taking it out of context does not allow for informed decision-making.

    1. I totally agree with Jackie Griswold in asserting that it is poor journalism and blatantly irresponsible to report comments out of context. I am not a Mitt Romney fan and feel no need to defend his positions, but if I can’t rely on my profession’s newsletter to report stories IN CONTEXT, then how can I be expected to make informed decisions. At this point I would caution any educator against supporting the positions or candidates of the NEA simply on the basis of biased, unfair, and maybe even sensationalistic reporting of partial “facts”.

      1. Douglas, you and Jackie may have a point; however, did you ever hear of a Freudian Slip? it did actually look like Mitt may have caught himself and recognized a further explanation was necessary…
        It’s no surprise that politicians paint their political conversations with a broad brush, but the outright deception of many of the claims from Fox News, Rush, and John Beck types are something that has reached outrageous and shameful proportions. If you are a GOP supporter, I can understand that their claims feed your perspective. As a fire-breathing Republican for decades, I can understand the commitment, but recently, the GOP has tipped their hand and it has become obvious to me that they have no loyalty to the nation, only to the furthering of the cause of our corporate and financial industries, you know, the “job creators”. Ha, what a laugh! Job absconders is more like it!
        Since I jumped out of the GOP fold last year, I’ve been getting a lot of this stuff from my buddies. Here’s an example from the GOP.gov website itself, check it out:


        Here’s the snopes check on it: http://www.snopes.com/politics/taxes/realestate.asp

        Turns out the 3.8% they’re talking about is charged on anything over a $500,000 PROFIT. That’s 3.8% on just the profit, not the total sale. They would get the $500,000 profit untouched… If their profit was $500,001, they would owe $.38 cents. Yet their claim is: “Clobbers the Middle Class…” How many middle class homes do you know that sell for a profit of over $500,000? This is the type of deception I’m talking about that trips up the intellectually lazy masses who take at face value everything they trot out, like throwing out red meat. And they put it on their official website!!! It’s like they depend on their supporters to be intellectually lazy, or complicit in the deceit!
        Both sides need to knock it off and state the facts. Don’t hold your breath!

        1. Kerry, (and Steve) I don’t disagree with any of your points about the politicians highlighted in this piece. Each one deserves the tongue-lashing they are getting regarding their insensitive, ignorant, and callous views. I’m not sure from comments, though, that you really “got” the point. You seem to barely acknowledge the actual point Jackie was making regarding the way one of our profession’s official newsletters chooses to report to its members. Does it or does it not matter to you that our profession’s top journal apparently chooses goes about its business in such a manner? I heartily disagree with Steve’s assertion that the context is ‘obvious’. What I want from a journal that I help pay for is the whole story, in context, not just selected snippets. (Romney and the others still look like fools either way.)

          1. Douglas, I get your point, and we should hold our journalists to a higher standard, granted. However, walk a mile in their shoes. I tune in to several of our national media networks and publications to see what they’re spinning, and I would have to say that, even speaking as a discerning Republican, I began to sense something amiss in the claims of the right (notice I didn’t say “fringe” right). There’s the “letter of the law” and there’s the “spirit of the law” and a whole lot of ground in between.
            Even Congressman Rehberg of Montana’s stance may seem innoctuous; who hasn’t worked a summer job as a lad on a farm “putting up tobacco” for a local farmer? That’s a far cry from the Chinese sweat shops that use children, deemed unfit for higher education, relegated to the bottom rung and sentenced to a lifetime of labor in a factory somewhere in Beijing slumped over a grind-wheel, smoothing spurs off of a #2 screw they’ll use in an Apple IPod across town. And, from what I’m sensing from the right, China is a work-force model they would like us here in USA to emulate so we can “compete” for jobs with the “global economy” and these “emerging markets” you hear so much about.
            Your point is certainly not irrelevant, but to me, it points out something bigger. That is the fact that in the USA, we have become so splintered and fractured that we cannot even identify a national cause and mobilize, synergize, and energize to tackle it.

    2. Jackie, it saddens me to see a doctor of education can’t see how out of touch Mitt Romney and his ilk are when they make such stunningly insensitive statements. Everyone knows the context of the remark, that’s not the point. But apparently you don’t get it either.

  11. They say CEOs should get high bonuses because that attracts highly qualified professionals. How come that doesn’t apply to teachers?

  12. The teacher pay comment reminded me of something that was said to my husband and me 25 years ago when he was in the clergy. “Do you want this couch? It is almost good enough for our house.” No kidding!

    This comment on teacher pay and calling is so ridiculously stupid! It is beyond belief.

  13. “I think the super-rich are the honey that makes our economy and all of our lives
    sweet. They have given us our Wal Marts, and even our SUPER WaMarts.”

      1. I can neither confirm nor deny the level to which that comment either is or is not dripping with sarcasm. It may or may not be the case that super-filthy rich people with more money than they could ever really need drive policy that subjugates everyone else to an end that simply protects their position at the expense of a cooperative, nurturing society. Thank God we have them, because that “hopey changey” stuff is pure socialism. If you aren’t guttin’ someone to get ahead St. Peter wll not let you pass.

        1. Oh, ok! Thanks for clearing that up, Dan! When they betrayed and cut the middle class’ throat, stood by and watched it bleed, I never considered it to be a favor until you explained it to me that way. When you put it that way, I feel ashamed of myself for not being more thankful for the kindness that’s been done to us!

          1. They are, after all, the engine that drives our economy and makes this nation great. Some think “American Exceptionalism” is some misty notion rooted ONLY in a benevolent morality-the kind that prompts our nation to defend the defenseless and help the hopeless, whether here or in some place around the world. But think about it: someone always gets screwed, and it’s the screwERS that mange to get the wealth, resources and power out of the screwEES. They can then use the power to drive the American Exceptionalism machine! The masses left behind do enjoy the blessing of watching the machine.

            1. I get that, and more power to ’em! They either worked/studied/entrepreneured their way to the top, were fortunate enough to be involved in a ground breaking advance nobody thought of before (Yahoo, Google, Facebook), or were born into it, and had the good judgement to maintain it! They deserve their keep. However, I disagree with you that there has to be a screwer and a screwee. What we are witnessing here in the USA over the past 30 years is the result of blind capitalism and greed. Their record profits are NOT being reintroduced into the USA. (Before the 80s, our uber-rich invested in USA corporations, NASA, research and development, the pharmacutical industry, biotechnology, even that silly philanthropy thing to get a tax credit. Since the 80s, they received their tax breaks up front (from 70% to 28%), and now, with no need to invest in the USA to get their tax breaks, they found that the best game in town was to ship jobs off shore for a larger profit margin). I’m also convinced that much of the Financial implosion of 2008 was illegal. Unlike you, I happen to believe that it’s the middle class that is the ENGINE that drives the USA economy, not the filthy rich as you propose. Their billions are parked in off shore banks; an entitlement reserved for “Mulitnational Corporations,” or sitting in long term capital gains to escape taxation. And if, heaven forbid, they should show too much of a proft on their books, and have to ante up tax contributions to the national treasury, what better way to create red ink than to purchase a major league sports franchise, or another corporate take-over, for example, or go in big-time with a hedge fund manager on another major capital investment to show a loss… Anything but invest in the USA; that’s for chumps! Meanwhile the middle class, the real engine that drove the economy with their once dynamic purchase power, languishes… Disgusting!

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