Friday, January 11 marked the first day of 2019 in which roughly 800,000 federal workers missed a paycheck they would have otherwise received were it not for the partial shutdown of the federal government. Those workers fall into two main categories: (1) workers who have been furloughed, and (2) workers who perform what are considered essential services and must report to work without a definite pay date. Deprived of a paycheck, many of them are wondering how they’re going to pay their bills. But to hear White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett tell it, they are “better off” because of the shutdown.
During an interview for “PBS NewsHour,” Hassett asserted, “A huge share of government workers were going to take vacation days, say, between Christmas and New Year’s. 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. And then they come back, and then, they get their back pay.”
Hassett neglected to mention, of course, that until the shutdown ends, many federal workers won’t have any source of income—although their need to pay rent, buy groceries and pay their utility bills will continue. But Hassett is hardly alone among Republicans when it comes to being painfully out of touch about the economic hardships of others.
Here are some other examples of Republicans making clueless, insensitive or ridiculous statements about the partial government shutdown and all the misery it is causing federal workers in the U.S.
1. Rep. Mark Meadows
Rep. Mark Meadows—the North Carolina Republican who heads the House Freedom Caucus—has urged President Donald Trump not to sign any spending bill that lacks funding for a U.S. border wall. And his attitude is that if federal workers are hurting because of the shutdown, tough—they knew that shutdowns were a possibility when they signed up for government work. “It’s actually part of what you do when you sign up for any public service position,” Meadows callously said.
2. Rep. Tom Reed
To express their solidarity with federal workers who are suffering because of the shutdown, some members of Congress have volunteered to give up their paychecks. But Rep. Tom Reed of Upstate New York isn’t one of them. When CNN’s Brianna Keilar asked Reed if he would be willing to give up his paycheck, Reed responded, “I just don’t feel it’s appropriate for me to use a P.R. stunt or something along those lines.” In other words, Reed equates expressing sympathy for workers who have been temporarily deprived of income with a “P.R. stunt.”
3. Rep. Scott Perry
The fact that some federal workers are living paycheck to paycheck is lost on Rep. Scott Perry, who recently declared, “Who’s living that they’re not going to make it to the next paycheck?” Members of Congress earn six-figure salaries, and unlike other federal workers, they continue to receive their paychecks during shutdowns unless they volunteer not to. But Perry, evidently, fails to realize that it’s much easier to have some savings when one is making six figures than it is if one’s salary is $25,000 per year.
4. Trump’s Office of Personnel Management
In late December, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) under the Trump Administration tweeted some advice for federal workers who are facing financial hardship because of the shutdown—including a ridiculous suggestion that they could offer to perform chores for their landlords in exchange for a rental reduction. The clueless tweet read, “Feds, here are sample letters you may use as a guide when working with your creditors during this furlough. If you need legal advice, please consult with your personal attorney.”
Amazingly, Trump’s OPM believes that furloughed workers making $25,000 or $30,000 have a personal attorney on retainer.