Wilbur Ross Doesn't Get Why Federal Workers Need Food Banks

The outcome of U.S.-China trade negotiations will have a direct impact on the global economy. | Source Shutterstock

The outcome of U.S.-China trade negotiations will have a direct impact on the global economy. | Source Shutterstock

Yeesh. The optics of the shutdown are already bad enough for the White House without wealthy Cabinet officials casually suggesting that federal workers should just increase their debt load to deal with it. Trump himself would never have made this mistake, and it's likely that this will increase his already-reported dissatisfaction with Ross at Commerce.

Displaying what one critic described as "malignant indifference" to the suffering the ongoing government shutdown has caused for hundreds of thousands of federal workers, President Donald Trump's billionaire Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday said he doesn't "understand" why public employees who haven't been paid in over a month are resorting to food banks and homeless shelters to survive.

"The banks and the credit unions should be making credit available to them", he said, noting that the government would give federal employees back pay. "Or 'Call your father for money'".

"The idea that it's paycheck or zero is not a really valid idea", Ross said.

"Is this the "Let them eat cake" kind of attitude?" said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"It's too complicated a topic, too many issues, it's not a realistic expectation", he said.

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Marie Antoinette, wife of French King Louis XVI and the last queen before the French Revolution in 1789, is apocryphally thought to have used the phrase when she learnt that people had no bread.

While the two sides appear to be in close contact as the deadline approaches, it's also apparent that there's some way to go before they resolve their differences.

"A huge share of government workers were going to take vacation days, say between Christmas and New Year's", Hassett said.

Wilbur Ross shrugged off the impact of the shutdown - now in its 34th day - saying workers should just take out loans to cover their expenses.

Trump defended his commerce secretary, suggesting that local grocers, bankers and landlords would make accommodations for cash-strapped federal workers during the partial shutdown.

Since Congress has promised to pay employees for their time away from work, the loans effectively carry "a 100 percent government guarantee", Ross said. However, two of the largest financial institutions, J. P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo, aren't offering loans to affected government workers, opting instead to waive fees and provide "other assistance", while the Navy Federal Credit Union is offering loans to only a limited number of its 8.1 million members.

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"I fret about the hardship. OK?"

"You have to have collateral, which is why some people may tap into second mortgages on their homes".

Asked Thursday what his message to furloughed workers was, Trump said: "I love them".

"Put it in perspective: you're talking about 800,000 workers, and while I feel sorry for individuals who have hardship cases, 800,000 workers if they never got their pay. you're talking about a third of a percent on our GDP", he said.

Mr Ross also downplayed the number of people affected by the prolonged shutdown, saying it is "not like it's a big number overall".

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