Tipple Boy, (see Photo 150) Turkey Knob Mine, Macdonald, W. Va. Witness E.N. Clopper. Location: MacDonald, West Virginia. Photo by Dorothea Lange

Tipple Boy, Turkey Knob Mine, Macdonald, W. Va. Witness E.N. Clopper. Location: MacDonald, West Virginia. Photo by Dorothea Lange

Iowa Republicans are seriously proposing the reinstitution of Child Labor. To be clear, we’re not talking about mowing lawns and working the Wendy’s drive-thru. They want 14 years olds to work in dangerous jobs like mining, meatpacking, and logging. You know, the jobs that give you black lung and use very sharp things.

First, No. There is no circumstance where this is okay. I would have thought that we were well past forcing children into mines, but here I am writing about it.

But let’s look at their argument for funsies.

Worker shortages in Iowa (and all of the country) are getting dire. Even callously stopping unemployment aid didn’t seem to force people back to work. Every industry from food service to manufacturing is facing shortages.

So, what’s the solution? Iowan Republicans think children are our future so might as well get them a head start.

Instead of turning to proven solutions, we are facing a regression to the golden age of labor exploitation.

So, what does work?

First, increasing wages increases productivity which in turn increases profits. Higher wages at Costco means Costco makes more money than Sams Club. While some will argue that higher wages will kill jobs, they are only right in the short term. In the long term, higher-wage earners are better able to contribute to the economy spurring business and growth. They are also less of a drain on public services. So if you are against “gubmnet handouts,”, you should just love higher wages.

Second, we need more immigration. When there is a lack of workers due to low pay, immigrants typically take on those jobs. This also means immigrants contribute to the economy, create jobs, and pay taxes. And just imagine if they were paid on par with non-immigrant workers, how much more they could contribute.

I can’t believe I have to say this, but recruiting minors into hard labor is not the answer. Better wages, more immigration, and a substantial and helpful social safety net is the answer.