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A 5-year old could do Denny Rehberg’s job

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I’m familiar with Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg from my days out in Missoula. He’s a western conservative, and upholds a lot of that Western Conservatism. Needless to say, he was not terribly popular in the Environmental Studies Graduate Department.

He’s now running for senate against Sen. Jon Tester, who I met in D.C. and was quite impressed with. Tester also emanates Western-ness, but of a different ilk. Both Tester and Rehberg are multi-generational farmers in Montana, and give you that sense–if you are from the Midwest–of The West.

Anyway. One of the things Rehberg wants to do in the Senate is change child labor laws regarding what children are allowed to do on their family farms. Rehberg wants to relax the laws, to enable kids to do more tasks. A rule change, it should be noted, that Tester also supports. And Tester probably makes a good spokesman for child farm labor, having lost three fingers in a meat-grinder at 9 years old in the family butcher shop.

I don’ t know much about these rules, beyond joking about child labor regulations while spending summers on a farm back in my early teens. They were jokes we kids loved, but no so much the farmers. But something Rehberg said caught my eye.

Talking about his ranching operation, Rehberg said:

“I don’t rope and I don’t tie and I don’t brand with a hot iron,” he went on, adding that he uses modern equipment that he said is virtually incapable of hurting children.
“You can’t get hurt,” Rehberg fumed. “It’s impossible. You could have a five-year-old out there running it.”…
“I’ve come to the conclusion in my 11 years in Congress that it isn’t necessarily a difference in philosophy between Republicans and Democrats — there’s a difference in philosophy between urban and rural,” Rehberg said.”

That is two very fascinating sentiments. One of which is relatively insightful and the other, well, probably more insulting to ranchers.

The rural and urban divide, like the divide between rich and poor, is becoming (if it hasn’t always been) a defining characteristic of contemporary American life.  And the ‘old ways,’ for lack of a better term, should not be ignored by urban lawmakers. Which isn’t to say we should allow children to be put in danger to protect tradition.

It is only to say, such things are complicated and need recognizing.

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Written by Christopher ZF

February 3, 2012 at 09:47