Photo Credit: Robert DeBerry/The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman/ AP Photo
Last week Sarah Palin joined the uproar over the Department of Labor’s proposed changes to the child labor laws on farms. In a Facebook post that concluded, “Federal Government: get your own house in order and stop interfering in ours,” she related Alaskan fishing families’ experiences -- something Palin knows well -- to that of farming families’ on the mainland.
In the post, which has garnered some 8,500 "likes," 1,200 comments and nearly 2,000 "shares," Sarah commiserated with farmers and ranchers who have been waging war against the Obama Administration’s measure -- one meant to remove youth workers from farm jobs deemed too dangerous -- since last fall. “Our kids learn to work and to help feed America on our nation’s farms, and out on the water,” she wrote last Wednesday afternoon, just one day before the Department of Labor withdrew the proposal due to overwhelming political pressure and opposition.
Among the most notable changes that would have taken place with the enforcement of the new rule was the virtual elimination of student-learner exemptions from current labor laws, a whole new laundry list of livestock-associated tasks that would be illegal for youth to help perform, a reduction in the heights at which youth can work from 20 feet to only six, and a total ban on minors working in raw material handling, such as at local grain mills. In other words, the tasks that would have been left once the Obama Administration was through were few and far between and farmers weren’t happy about the idea.
In a time when dependence on the federal government soars, the percentage of families contributing income and payroll taxes to the federal budget bottoms out, and the federal budget seems largely impossible to balance, it might be safe to presume the president’s re-election campaign simply couldn’t bear another scar -- especially not one aimed at the very heart of this country’s pride and joy: farmers and ranchers. As much as the act of farming and ranching struggles in the sphere of public opinion, people still love farmers and ranchers themselves. Trying to take kids out of that deeply seated cultural tradition was a bad idea from the start, especially in an election year.