Super-Rich Commerce Secretary Questions Why Federal Workers Without Pay Need Food Banks

REUTERS/Mary Turner

Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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Former business magnate and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross questioned why furloughed federal workers who have gone 32 days without pay are going to food banks to feed their families, in a Thursday morning interview on CNBC.

“I don’t really quite understand why,” Ross replied when pressed on reports of federal workers who are going to homeless shelters to get food. He posited that “the obligations that they would undertake, say borrowing from a bank or a credit union are in effect federally guaranteed,” suggesting that federal workers should be trying to secure loans.

Ross also sought to downplay the overall economic effect of 800,000 federal workers going without pay.

“Put it in perspective, 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 our GDP,” Ross said. “It’s not like it’s a gigantic number overall.” (RELATED: Trump Holds Fast On Shutdown As Advisers Warn Of Consequences)

Ross’s comments were seen as incendiary given his own personal net worth of approximately $700 million. Ross’s net worth was originally assessed as approximately $3 billion, though further investigation revealed that he may have sought to inflate public images of his wealth. Ross’s financial manipulation was revealed by his financial disclosure forms filed for working in public service.

One administration official told The Daily Caller the comment was “atrocious” and the exact wrong message, as the White House is engaged in negotiations with Democratic lawmakers over how to end the partial government shutdown.

Trump is demanding 5.7 billion dollars in border wall funding while Democratic lawmakers insist they will give him no more than 1.6 billion. The White House has made several offers to Democratic lawmakers, including its latest proposal to include extensions for DACA and TPS recipients. This proposal is expected to fail Thursday afternoon in the U.S. Senate, as it may not garner enough Democratic votes.