Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday that he doesn’t see why furloughed federal workers are having to go to food banks and are having trouble taking care of their families when they could just take out a loan. Meanwhile, Lara Trump (wife of Eric Trump) told those same workers to “please stay strong” in an interview for BOLD TV.
Out of touch and off the wall
By Zach Moller
The median federal salary is $79,386 a year. That’s how much Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross would make in 11.5 hours if his fortune, which he claims amounts to about $2.7 billion, were placed in a standard savings account at a bank.
There’s nothing shameful about attaining wealth, but Ross’ comments that he does not understand why someone who is about to miss their second paycheck may feel food insecure are, to put it lightly, out of touch.
As a Cabinet secretary who oversees the Census Bureau, which accumulates the best data in the world on Americans’ living standards, here is a primer for Secretary Ross. The lives and expenses of 800,000 federal employees do not stop because they are not getting a paycheck.
If you are an essential employee, like a Transportation Security Administration agent, you’re still going to work, which means you’re still buying gas to fill up your car, you’re still buying groceries to pack a lunch, you’re still dropping your child off at day care, and your rent or mortgage payment is still due on the first of the month. You may still have medical bills to pay. Expenses do not stop even when the paycheck does.
The fact that the president, his advisers and Republican members of Congress have chosen to hold regular working people hostage for an unnecessary and unpopular wall shows just how out of touch they really are. Real people are suffering every day the shutdown continues.
Sure, some workers will get their back pay when the shutdown ends, but who knows how many bills they might have missed in the meantime, and how much in interest and late fees they will owe. We cannot forget the thousands more contractors, many of whom work as janitors or in food service, who are out of luck for federal back pay and might have lost a whole months pay already.
It is time for President Donald Trump and his advisers to stop playing political games with the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Americans and open the government immediately.
In the two minutes you took to read this, Ross could have earned more than $200 in interest. Maybe he should buy some groceries for a Commerce Department food bank.
Zach Moller is deputy director of the Economic Program at Third Way. You can follow him on Twitter: @EconWonk.
What others are saying
EJ Montini, The Arizona Republic: “Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump (Eric’s wife) each spoke to the situation of furloughed federal workers this week. Each managed to stick their silver-plated feet in their mouths. Each had no idea what it means to a family to go without several paychecks. … Is it possible to be more aloof, more casually and carelessly presumptuous? Was there no staff member nearby, no toady, no public-relations flack, no mild-mannered servant holding out a silver platter full of cucumber sandwiches who might have meekly said: When you live in a mansion or a penthouse – or both – is it really appropriate to lecture those who may have to choose between having their children go hungry or paying the mortgage?”
Toni Van Pelt, National Organization for Women: “Comments made by Lara Trump and Ross are a slap in the face to the 800,000 federal workers who will once again miss a paycheck because of the government shutdown that is the result of the childish and stubborn antics of the president. Women’s lives are literally in danger right now since the Violence Against Women Act lapsed as part of the government shutdown. Other helpful resources, especially for women, are also be threatened because of this Trump shutdown. In fact, domestic violence programs and shelters are struggling to keep their doors open. This shutdown is personally affecting a very vulnerable group of people who are already fighting for their lives.”
Laurie Roberts, The Arizona Republic: ” This – 800,000 American workers staying up at night wondering, some of them literally, where their next meal might be coming from – is the price you have to pay for a president who won’t give in for fear of looking foolish. And, I might add, for Democrats who won’t give in for fear of giving him a win. … As for you workers who aren’t being treated at the moment as indentured servants — you furloughed janitors and parks workers and secretaries and analysts and such? This might be a good time to take that trip to Europe or go on a cruise. I’m guessing Secretary Ross could get you a killer deal on a loan.”
What our readers are saying
When I saw Lara Trump on TV, I was so furious. Imagine this little girl saying people should work without pay or get furloughed with no pay for the “bigger” issue. The government shutdown has nothing to do with the good of our country. Immigration and border security can be negotiated after the bills to open the government are passed and signed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is shirking his responsibility.
— Lauren Rittenhouse
This should make your blood boil if you heard it in person. More victim blaming from these megalomaniacs running our country now.
— Steve Patterson
I’ll explain why we can’t just “get loans.” Because federal workers make far less than their civilian counterparts, in some instances, and because we do not receive millions from lobbyists. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross should try raising a family on $60,000 a year and see if he has a huge bank account to fall back on. Why do we do it? To serve our country — and it used to come with more job security. I predict a lot of people will give up on federal work, as more and more shutdowns make it not worth it.
— Kenneth Lynch
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