Let Them Eat Bridge Loans

The Trump Administration either doesn't realize the impact the shutdown is having on Federal workers who haven't been paid in a month, or it doesn't care.

As the shutdown hits its thirty-fifth day, the Trump Administration is demonstrating just how out of touch it really is:

The Commerce Department’s federal credit union is charging furloughed employees almost 9 percent interest on emergency loans to cover their missing paychecks, despite Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross saying Thursday that financial institutions were offering “very, very low-interest-rate loans to bridge people over the gap.”

“During the Government Shutdown we’re here to help our members and non-member employees of the Department of Commerce & NOAA and its affiliates, the Executive Office of the President and the White House Management and Administration Offices,” the credit union’s website says.

Emergency loans of up to $5,000 are available for furloughed employees with repayment terms of up to two years, the site says. Two loan officers reached at the credit union’s telephone number confirmed the terms, which include interest rates “as low as 8.99 percent.”

In an interview with CNBC on Thursday, Ross made waves by saying he does not understand why federal workers are visiting food banks during the partial government shutdown. He urged them to seek loans from banks and credit unions to supplement their lost wages.

“I know they are, and I don’t really quite understand why,” Ross said when asked about federal workers going to food banks. Ross is a billionaire and a longtime friend of President Trump’s.

His comment drew criticism from Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “Is this the ‘let them eat cake’ kind of attitude?” she said. “Or call your father for money?”

Even Trump weighed in. “Perhaps he should have said it differently,” Trump said when asked about Ross’s comments. “He’s done a great job.”

Ross leads one of the agencies that is directly affected by the shutdown, which began Dec. 22, and more than 20,000 of his employees have not been paid for weeks.

A Commerce Department spokesperson said furloughed workers can access less expensive loans via other financial institutions. Navy Federal Credit Union, for example, offers no-interest 60-day loans of up to $6,000 for federal employees and contractors. U.S. Bank is offering similar terms for customers who are federal employees, charging 0.1 percent interest on amounts up to $6,000 with 12-month terms.

The Commerce credit union is helping employees in other ways. One furloughed customer said the credit union immediately granted him a two-month extension on a mortgage payment when he called to say he’d missed a paycheck and expected to miss a second.

Ross leads one of the agencies that is directly affected by the shutdown, which began Dec. 22, and more than 20,000 of his employees have not been paid for weeks.

A Commerce Department spokesperson said furloughed workers can access less expensive loans via other financial institutions. Navy Federal Credit Union, for example, offers no-interest 60-day loans of up to $6,000 for federal employees and contractors. U.S. Bank is offering similar terms for customers who are federal employees, charging 0.1 percent interest on amounts up to $6,000 with 12-month terms.

The Commerce credit union is helping employees in other ways. One furloughed customer said the credit union immediately granted him a two-month extension on a mortgage payment when he called to say he’d missed a paycheck and expected to miss a second.

Many of those workers are beginning to revolt, calling in sick or saying they cannot afford gasoline.

“It’s kind of disappointing that the air traffic controllers are calling in sick in pretty large number,” Ross said in his television interview.

Ross repeatedly stressed that federal workers should simply take out loans to cover their expenses while the government is shut down. He acknowledged they would probably have to pay some interest, but he said it should help them cover costs.

“The idea that it’s paycheck or zero is not a really valid idea,” he said. “There’s no reason why some institution wouldn’t be willing to lend.”

He described such loans as “totally safe” for the lender. Since Congress has promised to pay employees for their time away from work, the loans effectively carry “a 100 percent government guarantee,” Ross said.

Ross’s comments come just days after Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara, the wife of Eric Trump, essentially told Federal workers that missing a paycheck is for the good of the country:

As the longest government shutdown in U.S. history persists, Lara Trump is urging federal employees to “stay strong,” noting that they are sacrificing “for the future of our country” — a message that drew criticism.

Trump, who is President Trump’s daughter-in-law and campaign adviser, told the digital news network Bold TV earlier this week that the president is fighting for “what he knows is the right thing to do.”

“It’s not fair to you, and we all get that, but this is so much bigger than any one person,” she said. “It is a little bit of pain, but it’s going to be for the future of our country, and their children and their grandchildren and generations after them will thank them for their sacrifice right now. I know it’s hard. I know people have families, they have bills to pay, they have mortgages, they have rents that are due. But the president is trying every single day to come up with a good solution here and, the reality is, it’s been something that’s gone on for too long and been unaddressed — our immigration problem.

“If we do nothing right now, it’s never going to get fixed. This is our one opportunity.”

Michelle Goldberg comments:

One effect of this government shutdown, now in its second month and without immediate end in sight, is to reveal the sham of Trump’s purported populism. It’s true, he’s able to connect culturally with some economically precarious parts of America. Despite being expensively educated, his worldview is basically that of Archie Bunker. He eats fast food, likes pro wrestling and has the terrible taste in interior design common to arriviste dictators. His vulgarity creates a kinship with people who purport to hate elites.

Yet in purely financial terms, Trump is as elitist as they come. Though he campaigned as a candidate of (white) workers, he has governed as a shameless oligarch. He has proudly surrounded himself with millionaires and billionaires, seeing their wealth as evidence of their worth. At a rally in 2017, speaking of his economic advisers, he said, “But in those particular positions, I just don’t want a poor person.” He has gone out of his way not to hire anyone who would actually understand the plight of the workers he’s holding hostage.

Contrary to Ross’s assumptions, it’s not easy for working people without significant collateral to walk into a bank and get a personal loan. “I don’t think a bank is going to lend to them, or it would be very difficult,” Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, told me. “To think that credit is the way out for these government workers is at best a real stretch.”

Some workers are members of credit unions, some of which are offering low-interest loans. Those who own homes might be able to borrow against them. Others, however, will be forced to rely on credit cards, which can charge double-digit interest rates. And then, worst of all, some will resort to payday loans, which can trap people in an asphyxiating cycle of debt.

(…)

Ordinarily, one might expect a presidential administration’s leading economic figures to understand something of these financial realities. But if they cared about people who aren’t rich, they wouldn’t be working for Trump in the first place. The shocking thing isn’t their indifference to the misery they’re causing. It’s that they can barely be bothered to hide it.

Lara Trump’s remarks received widespread criticism, for which she blamed the media, that is, of course, appropriate given that her words, like those of Ross, demonstrate a detachment from reality that can only be attributed to disdain and a lack of empathy along with a singular focus on a political goal, a minuscule amount of funding for a border wall that will most likely never be built. The other fact of note is that the statements that Ross and Lara Trump made aren’t that much different from what the President has done. When he was asked about the ordeals faced by Federal workers several days ago, where he said that he was “sure” that creditors such as landlords, lenders, and even grocery stores would be willing to “work with” furloughed Federal workers faced with financial difficulties, brushing aside questions about whether the fate of Federal workers going without pay would prompt him to take further action.

Let’s just say that Marie Antoinette would be proud.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, Deficit and Debt, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. SC_Birdflyte says:

    The photo is probably copyrighted, alas. Otherwise, I’d download it, have it printed on a T-shirt with the words, “When was the last time they invited you for a visit?” I’d wear it anytime I heard of a pro-Trump rally within driving distance.

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    1
  2. MarkedMan says:

    One correction. It is not just the Trump administration but the Republican Party in general. They have decided that maintaining Party loyalty supersedes the obligation to pay innocent employees.

    10
  3. Paul L. says:

    Our betters in the public service caste deserve the zero interest loans they are getting.
    https://www.paypal.com/us/webapps/mpp/paypal-helps

    18
  4. Kathy says:

    Perhaps El Cheeto should have asked for people to volunteer to work for no pay before so proudly shutting down the government.

    The loan idea sounds good, but it carries tons of complications, even for zero interest loans.

    Paycheck to paycheck living means you have little or nothing left after you pay your bills and expenses, whatever these may be. You may be paying off older loans you took out for, say, covering medical bills, or major car or home repairs.

    So you take a no interest $5,000 loan. Will you be able to pay it when your back pay comes in and your regular pay resumes? Maybe, maybe not. How many of the people not getting paid have credit card debt? Banks are notoriously punctual in charging late fees and additional interest. Can’t pay your credit cards without a paycheck.

    But if Mr. Ross thinks it’s so easy for regular people, then logically it should be easier for him. Why doesn’t he assume the debt generated by these shut down derived loans, as a gesture of goodwill and charity?

    10
  5. al Ameda says:

    No surprise here at at all. Trump has life long record wherein he’s repeatedly demonstrated that he does not care about direct or collateral damage to those in the way of his personal ambitions and obsessions.

  6. CSK says:

    Somewhat OT, I suppose, but has anyone ever seen a photo of any Trump establishment in which a book or even a magazine is visible?

    And…is there a large fan or wind machine to Melania’s right blowing out her dress? If so, how did they position it to hit just the dress and not muss Donny’s combadour?

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The Trump Administration either doesn’t realize the impact the shutdown is having on Federal workers not being paid during the shutdown, or it doesn’t care.

    I’ll go with C) Both.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The toy cars on the floor are a nice touch, stretch limos and a Lamborghini. No Tonka trucks or tractors for this scion of the trump fortune.

  9. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    All the hallmarks of a desperate arriviste.

  10. charon says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Some are getting antsy, looks like some defections soon. There were already 6 R votes for the D bill.

  11. Kathy says:

    BTW there’s the assumption that all these furloughed and indentured workers can get a loan. Some can’t. Sure, the lack of income can be covered by a bill passed recently guaranteeing back pay. But what about everything else?

    Giving a low or no interest loan that won’t make the lender much or any money is one thing. Giving them to poor credit risks, see my post up-thread, is another matter entirely.

    The other assumption is these poor people won’t face any unexpected major expenses in the near future. That’s unrealistic.

  12. Franklin says:

    Lara Trump lecturing on sacrifice, oh that’s rich (pun intended).

    Anyway, after seeing the above picture, I’m amending my offer to end the shutdown. You might recall I offered $1 billion for Trump to build as much wall as he could, with his name on our side of the border so we could remember his Presidency. My upgrade is that we will put his name in fake gold.

  13. MarkedMan says:

    So some poor working stiff takes out a no-interest loan from… somewhere. They would have been taken home $5000 this month so that’s what they borrow. Next month they will get the whole back pay but, wait, they are now in higher bracket so and extra $1000 is withheld in taxes. So their no interest loan suddenly becomes interest bearing for the remaining $1000 bucks.

    The fact that we are even having this conversation just illustrates the fundamental dickishness of the Republican Party.

  14. the Q says:

    Wilbur Ross “I don’t understand the hardship. They’re gonna get paid eventually. Can’t they max out their credit cards? Get a Payday loan? Sell their children to gypsies? Twist straw into gold? Shitt platinum bricks?…in my day, we would eat cardboard with maple syrup and we’d LOVE IT……

  15. Pylon says:

    You missed Trump himself saying that grocers would just work with folks to see they could have food, by which I think he means give them some sort of credit. Because they know them or something. This is finally stuff that even the rubes have to know isn’t true.

  16. grumpy realist says:

    @Pylon: Based on my experience people taken by a con artist will do anything to avoid admitting that a) they were stupid, and b) that they were conned. They’re willing to ride that sucker all the way down to the ground a la Dr. Strangelove rather than admit their gullibility. No matter how much damage gets done to their families, friends, or other people.

    Sucks, but that’s humans for you.

  17. Teve says:

    Looks like Trump just caved.

  18. MarkedMan says:

    @Teve: Yep. And with maximal whining, like the little bitch that he is.

  19. Teve says:

    “Pelosi taking the state of the union away worked.” -chris hayes

  20. Hal_10000 says:

    Among other things, Ross’s comments ignore contractors not getting paid. The NASA postdocs in astrophysics are contractors. They are not getting paid, they will not be reimbursed and, if this doesn’t end soon, they will lose health insurance. LOTS of contractors — hundreds of thousands — are getting hurt by this.

  21. Pylon says:

    @grumpy realist: True, but even MAGA hat folks know that you can’t give an IOU to Safeway.

    OT, that pic – does Trump only have about 7 foot ceilings?

  22. Teve says:

    Gateway pundit:

    PRESIDENT TRUMP CAVES!
    OPENS GOVERNMENT WITHOUT BORDER WALL! Pelosi’s SECOND BIG WIN This Week — VIDEO PELOSI DANCING
    Jim Hoft by Jim Hoft January 25, 2019 942 Comments
    13.7KShare62TweetEmail

    Speaker Pelosi gets her SECOND HUGE WIN This week!

    Jonathan Swan

    @jonathanvswan
    A former White House official texts me, unsolicited: “Trump looks pathetic…he just ceded his presidency to Nancy Pelosi.”

    Half the comments are “I’m so disappointed waaaaahhhhh” and the other half are “Trump has a secret plan to get what he wants from the Dems in 3 weeks!!”

  23. Kathy says:

    By this time next year, Dennison will be claiming it’s the Democrats who are pig-headed about building a wall, and he’s the one bravely resisting them as he achieves his fifth or seventh shut down.

  24. Teve says:

    @Kathy: I don’t know. Trump’s put all the Republicans through all this bullshit, to get blame, and accomplished absolutely nothing. If he turns around in 3 weeks and wants to shut it down again I think the Republicans are going to rebel and cut that shit off at the knees.

  25. KM says:

    They’re saying it’s better to incur debt and pay interest then take charity freely given. Because taking charity makes them look bad, whereas taking out a loan gets one of their friends some extra business. Because taking charity is *shameful* somehow to the American Protestant work ethic, like you’re a failure instead of being in temporary need of help. Because taking something gifted for free by people in humble circumstances shows the world that their rich asses not helping, only hurting.

    What do these losers think food pantries are FOR? They don’t like them being used for poor people – makes them takers and encourages them to not get jobs if they get stuff for free. They don’t like them being used for the homeless – means they’ll keep hanging around. Now they don’t want them to be used for temporary inconvenienced middle-class families?? Who exactly do they think charities collect food, clothes and money for it not for this exact situation?

    Aside: in the pic, nobody’s hair is moving. I think her dress is designed to look like that – possible with wires. Considering the taste displayed, I wouldn’t put it past her to be wearing some runway reject with angles in mind.

  26. Teve says:

    Gateway pundit says Trump caved, let’s check in with Breitbart and see what they say:

    “The White House finally caved to Democrats demands, despite Trump’s repeated assertions this week that he would not do so.”

    so gateway pundit says Trump caved, Breitbart says Trump caved, Coulter says Trump caved, and the public blames the GOP.

    Nancy Pelosi just cleaned the Republicans’ clock.

  27. Teve says:

    Everybody who supports Donald Trump winds up humiliated in the end.

  28. Teve says:

    Mike Cernovich
    @Cernovich
    We are now taking calls to talk about the Commander-in-Soy’s blabbering “speech” today.

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

    Dumb suckers fall for con man, lose utterly.

  29. Kathy says:

    @Teve:

    Everybody who supports Donald Trump winds up humiliated in the end.

    Oh, that’s not true.

    Some also wind up in prison.

  30. Teve says:

    Mike Cernovich

    @Cernovich
    · 2h
    Old enough to remember when “experts” were saying Nancy Pelosi didn’t deserve to take back he position at Speaker of the House.

    Will Chamberlain
    @willchamberlain
    She’ll be remembered as the most effective Speaker of her generation

    She destroyed a President within a month of taking office

  31. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @the Q:

    …in my day, we would eat cardboard with maple syrup and we’d LOVE IT……

    Luxury. We always dreamed of eating cardboard.

    http://www.montypython.net/scripts/4york.php

  32. Kathy says:

    @KM:

    Here’s what’s odd about that dress: it completely hides her figure.

    It’s ugly, too, but that’s a matter of taste.

  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: My guess was a wire or a form and a formed stitched hem on the sleeve. When I was in high school, our marching band uniforms had really sharp pleats on the pants because they were stitched in place.

    ETA: It could also be the best of 35 or 40 shots taken with a camera and a motor drive for the shutter.

  34. grumpy realist says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I suspect a hell of a lot of Photoshopping.