U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross gestures as he leaves after addressing delegates at the annual Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference in east London, on November 6, 2017.
Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Wealthy cabinet secretary questions why federal workers need food banks

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was already controversial for a variety of reasons, stemming from alleged ethical lapses, dishonest claims about his net worth, and dubious political games with the 2020 census.

This morning, one of Donald Trump’s most notorious cabinet secretaries found a way to generate unflattering headlines.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says he does not understand why federal employees who are furloughed or have been working without pay during the partial government shutdown would need assistance from food banks.

Several credit unions serving workers at federal departments and agencies have been offering stopgap loans, as they have during previous shutdowns. But it’s not clear how those loans would even be sufficient as the shutdown enters its second month.

“I know they are, and I don’t really quite understand why,” Ross said when asked on CNBC about workers getting food from places like shelters.

Perhaps because they occasionally get hungry?

The circumstances are quite straightforward: thousands of federal workers live paycheck to paycheck, and when Donald Trump and Republicans shut down the government, it left many of these employees without the resources needed to put food on the table.

In Wilbur Ross’ imagination, these federal workers should be able to go to a bank and ask for grocery money.

He added that while he feels “sorry for the individuals that have hardship cases,” the Commerce secretary added that the economic impact of the unpaid workers isn’t “a gigantic number overall.”

These comments come two weeks after Kevin Hassett, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said that the workers adversely affected by the shutdown are, “in some sense … better off.”

The president himself has argued that he believes these federal workers agree with him and support his shutdown strategy, despite the hardships it’s imposing on them.

Any day now, one of these guys is going to say, “Let them eat cake,” right?