Thursday, January 24, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He explained his billionaire Commerce Secretary's comments on people going hungry during the shutdown.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is a former coal executive who owned a mine where 12 people died in an explosion, after Ross ignored systemic problems, roof collapses, and safety violations. Ross, who has a net worth of more than $3 billion, is also the wealthiest member of a Cabinet well stocked with nine- and ten-figure bank accounts.

This morning, Ross had this exchange with a CNBC reporter about the 800,000 federal employees going unpaid for a second straight month because of Trump's refusal to sign a budget bill.

ROSS: But, 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... you're talking about a third of a percent of on our GDP. So it's not like it's a gigantic number overall.

CNBC: Mr. Secretary, there are reports that there are some federal workers who are going to homeless shelters to get food
ROSS: Well, I know they are, and I don’t really quite understand why. Because as I mentioned before, the obligations that they would undertake, say borrowing from a bank or a credit union, are in effect federally guaranteed. 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.

The reaction from people who understand why bridge loans aren't really an option for people who can't afford to miss a month's salary was severe enough to force Trump, who also claims to be a billionaire, to try to explain Ross's comments.

Q: Mr. President, Wilbur Ross said he didn't understand why federal workers would need help getting food. Can you understand— 
TRUMP: No, I haven't heard the statement, but I do understand that perhaps he should have said it differently. Uh, local people know— who they are, where they go for groceries and everything else, and I think what Wilbur was probably trying to say is that, uh, they will work along—I know banks are working along, if you have mortgages, the mortgagees, the folks collecting, uh, the interest and all of those things, they work along. And that's what happens in time like this. They know the people, they've been dealing with them for years, and they work along. The grocery store, and I think that's probably what Wilbur Ross meant. And I haven't seen his statement, but he's done a great job, I'll tell you that.
Grocery stores in the United States do not extend credit.

That said, people who cannot afford food can eventually become eligible for aid programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is funded by a federal grant.

SNAP funds will be exhausted by the shutdown in February.

So what?

  • Presidents are responsible for the actions of people they appoint to their Cabinet.
  • A president who thinks that workers can buy everything they need on store credit for "months or years" is dangerously incompetent.