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Trumpkins Say the Darnedest Things, Shutdown Edition

Who will make the most tone-deaf statement about furloughed workers during the shutdown? Wilbur Ross is in the lead.
January 24, 2019
Trumpkins Say the Darnedest Things, Shutdown Edition
(Digital collage by Hannah Yoest / photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock)

Things are looking grimmer by the day for the 800,000 federal employees who are currently going without their paychecks during the shutdown. Some are lining up at food banks to feed their families and struggling to make rent and mortgage payments. By a wide margin, Americans place the majority of the blame on President Trump and his refusal to reopen the government without funding for a border wall—which is only fair, given the president’s own televised pledge to “own the shutdown.”

Given all this, you’d think the president’s advisers would at least try to project empathy for workers left twisting in the wind. And some are: On Thursday, Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow downplayed the shutdown as a temporary “glitch,” but insisted that “nobody, including myself, likes the temporary hardship caused by the government shutdown.”

“I have young people on my staff, devoted young people—when you’re 28 years old, you don’t save a lot. I get that,” Kudlow told reporters. “And I think a lot of people have to get through this.”

Other administration mouthpieces, however, have navigated the difficult subject with considerably less grace. Here is a greatest hits, if you will, of shutdown tone-deafness:

Wilbur Ross

Secretary Of Commerce Wilbur Ross on “Lou Dobbs Tonight.” (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

In a TV appearance Thursday, Ross appeared genuinely confused about how going without paychecks for a month would upset the lives of middle-class workers.

Told that some workers had resorted to visiting food banks, Ross replied that “I know they are, and I don’t really quite understand why. As I mentioned before, the obligations that they would undertake, say borrowing from a bank or a credit union, are in effect federally guaranteed,” said Ross. “So the 30 days of pay that some people will be out, there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it. And we’ve seen a number of ads from financial institutions doing that.”

Ross financials: According to documents filed when he joined the Trump administration, Ross was worth about $700 million in 2017. But he protested that amount and said he’s actually worth $2 billion.

Lara Trump

Lara Trump, daughter-in-law of Donald Trump. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

“It’s not fair to you, and we all get that. But this is so much bigger than one person,” the president’s daughter-in-law said Monday. “It is a little bit of pain, but it’s going to be for the future of our country… Generations after them will thank them for their sacrifice right now.”

Lara Trump financials: Lara is married to presidential son Eric, who is reportedly worth $300 million.

Kevin Hassett

White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Kevin Hassett. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Earlier this month, Hassett, an economic adviser to the president compared federal furlough to a paid vacation.

“A huge share of government workers were going to take vacation days, say, between Christmas and New Year’s,” Hassett said on January 11. “And then we have a shutdown, and so they can’t go to work, and so then they have the vacation, but they don’t have to use their vacation days…. In some sense, they’re better off.”

Hassett financials: Unlike others on this list, Hassett is no titan of industry himself, but an economist formerly of the American Enterprise Institute.

Donald Trump

Donald J. Trump holds a glass of water before he delivers the State of the Union address. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

A few days before Hassett’s comments, President Trump told reporters that workers “on the receiving end” of the shutdown “will make adjustments.”

“They always do,” the president said. “They’ll make adjustments. People understand exactly what’s going on.”

Even this was a step up from the line he took on Twitter in the early days of the shutdown: “Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?”

Trump financials: The president, as has been widely noted, is notoriously shy about releasing his tax returns. But Forbes says he’s worth $3.1 billion.

Andrew Egger

Andrew Egger was a senior writer at The Bulwark.