Wilbur Ross: Why Are Furloughed Workers at Food Banks?

Commerce secretary doesn't 'quite understand why' shutdown is spurring struggle
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 24, 2019 10:25 AM CST

Asked about those working without pay due to the government shutdown, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had a suggestion: "The banks and the credit unions should be making credit available to them. When you think about it, these are basically government-guaranteed loans, because the government has committed these folks will get their back pay once this whole thing gets settled down. So there really is not a good excuse why there really should be a liquidity crisis," the millionaire ex-banker said during an interview on CNBC Thursday. "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. There's no reason why some institution wouldn't be willing to lend." He also downplayed the shutdown overall, noting that even if "800,000 workers ... never got their pay ... you're talking about a third of a percent on our GDP. So, it's not like it's a gigantic number overall."

Ross went on to mention ads for low-interest "bridge" or "stopgap" loans; Roll Call notes that these would come from credit unions serving federal employees. "That's the kind of cooperation between financial community and employee that really is warranted," Ross said. "It's a totally safe loan because at the end of the day it's 100% government guaranteed." (As Roll Call notes, however, "there are many federal contractors who have no expectation of ever getting the missed payments back.") Ross also said it was "kind of disappointing" that air traffic controllers are calling in sick amid the shutdown. And, asked about furloughed workers visiting homeless shelters to get food, he said he didn't "quite understand why" and added, again, any loans they take out "are in effect federally guaranteed." Time rounds up comments from other Trump administration members downplaying the shutdown, while Vox rounds up other examples of Ross being "hopelessly out of touch." (Ross was last year accused of stealing $120 million ... and Sweet'N Low.)

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