During the 1870s, powerful financial syndicates controlled the railroads and the coalfields. Coal companies had begun to recruit immigrants from overseas, luring them with "promises of fortune-making". Herded into freight trains by the hundreds, these workers often replaced English-speaking miners who, according to George Korson, "...were compelled to give way in one coal field after another, either abandoning the industry altogether for other occupations or else retreating, like the vanishing American Indian, westward..." Frequently unable to read safety instructions, the immigrant workers, "...faced constant hazards from violation of safety precautions, such as they were. Injuries and deaths in mine disasters, frequently reported in the newspapers, shocked the nation." Twenty-two thousand coal miners worked in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Fifty-five hundred of the mineworkers in the county were children between the ages of seven and sixteen years who earned between one and three dollars a week separating slate from the coal. Injured miners, or those too old to work at the face, were also assigned to picking slate at the "breakers" where the coal was crushed into a manageable size. Thus, many of the elderly miners finished their mining days as they'd begun in their youth.-- From Wikipedia article on the Molly McGuires
One wonders, based upon stories such as Sen. Bruce Caswell, R-Hillsdale(MI) forcing foster children to buy all their clothing at used clothing stores and the continued GOP jihad against Social Security and Medicare, whether the GOP pines for the days when children between the ages of seven and sixteen years earned their keep as virtual slave laborers. Are there no workhouses? Are there no coal mines to put these greedy foster children into? And those old welfare whores sucking off the government Social Security teat should just be tossed back onto the open market. Let them sort coal in the coal mines! Sheesh!
Of course, the blatant unfairness of punishing foster children for something they had no part in creating (you think foster children want to be foster children?!), or of taking away the Social Security retirement that people paid into and worked for during their entire working life, simply makes Republicans guffaw. Fairness, they say, is something losers talk about. Buck it up, they say, life's not fair. Why, if you work really hard in life, if you study hard and do everything you're supposed to do to get ahead, you could even become a personal servant to the rich and powerful, and be allowed to lick their shoes clean every evening!
Uhm, yeah. Ok. Alrighty then. So here's a song for the GOP...
-- Badtux the "Even the mighty fall" Penguin
Update: Bryan at Why Now is equally horrified... see our discussion of the lizard people there.