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Wilbur Ross is a billionaire. He says that missing a paycheck or two is no big deal. Not for him, it isn’t.
White House Trump aides set off furor with out-of-touch shutdown remarks
One of President Donald Trump’s top aides likened the shutdown to a “vacation.” Another called it a “glitch.” And on Thursday, Democratic leaders pounced after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he didn’t “really quite understand why” unpaid federal workers are going to food banks.
As the government shutdown stretched into its 34th day and as roughly 800,000 federal workers are bracing for their second missed paycheck, the White House is facing an intensifying backlash over seemingly out-of-touch comments from Trump’s group of largely wealthy advisers.
The comments are also handing Democrats leverage as party leaders and Trump have failed to reach a compromise on the president’s demand for $5.7 billion in border wall funding.
One of the latest missteps came on Thursday when Ross went on CNBC to encourage federal workers to seek low-interest loans to tide them over, and appeared to minimize the shutdown’s toll on thousands of workers who live paycheck to paycheck.
“These are basically government-guaranteed loans because the government has committed, these folks will get back pay once this whole thing gets settled down,” Ross said. “So there is really not a good excuse why there really should be a liquidity crisis now.”
“Now true, the people might have to pay a little bit of interest, but the idea that it’s paycheck or zero is not a really valid idea,” he continued.
Federal employees have reported going to homeless shelters to find food for their families, but when asked on Thursday about the desperate measures, Ross replied: “Well, I know they are, and I don’t really quite understand why.” Ross argued with loans backed by the guaranteed back pay, federal workers should be able to find the money to carry them through the shutdown.
Regardless of the individual cost on federal employees, Ross said the shutdown won’t be too damaging for the country’s image or economy. “You’re talking about 800,000 workers and while I feel sorry for the individuals that have hardship cases, 800,000 workers, if they never got their pay — which is not the case, they will eventually get it, but if they never got it, you’re talking about a third of a percent on GDP so it’s not like it’s a gigantic number overall,” he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly pounced on the comments, characterizing them as a “let-them-eat-cake attitude….”
Some of the president’s allies have started privately worrying that the seemingly callous comments reinforce the perception that the president and his team of wealthy advisers are out of touch with the public.