One economic adviser to President Trump may have just had the Marie Antoinette moment of the federal government shutdown.
On Friday, the current shutdown became the longest one in U.S. history, with no end in sight as lawmakers have gone back home for the weekend. Just prior to lawmakers leaving Washington, Kevin Hassett — a White House economic adviser — made the argument that the hundreds of thousands of federal workers currently not receiving a paycheck are actually “better off” despite their financial hardship.
“A huge share of government workers were going to take vacation days, say, between Christmas and New Year’s,” Hassett told PBS NewsHour. “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,” he added.
WOW. Talk about out of touch. Trump’s top economic advisor said that in some sense workers are “better off” from the #TrumpShutdown because they’re basically taking vacation. https://t.co/CB7L1gLm7A pic.twitter.com/EPwbeZAdxc
— Daniel Wessel (@da_wessel) January 11, 2019
Of course, this quote from a Trump economic adviser suggests that workers are enjoying the shutdown, which is now entering its fourth week. This sentiment doesn’t seem to jibe with reality.
In many cases, workers are having to sell their possessions on Craigslist and Facebook so they can make their rent and mortgage payments. The Coast Guard is telling Guardsmen to take on side hustles, like babysitting, in order to keep their bills paid. One email from the office that oversees civil service workers suggested workers offer to help their landlords with odd jobs in exchange for paying rent.
The quote from the economic adviser is particularly interesting when considering that it’s someone who has the president’s ear. It could be why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said she didn’t think President Trump understood the dire situations furloughed federal workers are facing during the shutdown. In a statement following the meeting in which Trump allegedly slammed his fist on the table and walked out when Pelosi said she wouldn’t fund the border wall, Pelosi said Trump thinks workers “can just ask their father for more money, but they can’t.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) very well could have ended the shutdown by allowing an up-or-down vote on a bill to reopen the government in the senate, but called the bill a “political stunt” and said he wouldn’t allow a vote on a bill he knew the president would sign.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.