The White House has reached a new low in trying to spin the Trump shutdown.
While Lori McLaurin, a furloughed federal worker, wonders just how close she is to becoming homeless, Trump's top economic adviser, Kevin Hassett, claims federal workers are "better off" because of the Trump shutdown.
"When they say, 'one paycheck away from homeless,' I'm not there, but I’m real close. And it's disturbing," McLaurin, a single mother from Philadelphia, told USA TODAY.
While McLaurin and 800,000 federal workers go without a paycheck, an out-of-touch White House is trying to make the claim that federal workers should be happy about their situation. In an interview with PBS Newshour, Hassett, chair of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, made a bizarre case of why unpaid federal workers are the lucky ones.
"A huge share of government workers were going to take vacation days, say between Christmas and New Year’s," Hassett said. "And then we have a shutdown, and so they can’t go to work. So then they have the vacation, but they don't have to use their vacation days."
Thus, Hassett concluded, "In some sense they're better off."
It is hard to imagine an administration more out of touch with the pain it is causing than this one. Workers like McLaurin are concerned about becoming homeless, and Hassett has the audacity to call her situation a "vacation." A food bank in Washington, D.C., is hosting five "pop-up markets" to distribute free food to workers hurt by the Trump shutdown. The Coast Guard went so far as to recommend families host garage sales or take up babysitting gigs in an effort to get by until Trump decides to open the government again.
All the while, the Trump administration is doing little to ease their pain, and a whole lot to exacerbate it. Trump belittled the concerns of workers, claiming his obsession with a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border is "a higher purpose" than paychecks for almost a million people.
"So this really does have a higher purpose than next week's pay," Trump said a week ago. "And the people that won't get next week's pay, or the following week's pay — I think if you ever really looked at those people, I think they'd say, Mr. President, keep going. This is far more important."
That is not what federal workers are saying — especially now that many of them received pay stubs this week showing their $0 "paychecks."
Trump, a failed casino owner and former reality TV gameshow host, was regularly bailed out by his daddy when he ran multiple businesses into the ground. But as workers face increased pressure from a prolonged Trump shutdown, most don't have wealthy family members to bail them out.
"Many federal workers will not be receiving their paychecks," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently told reporters. "And what that means in their lives is tragic in terms of their credit rating, paying their mortgage, paying their rent, paying their car payment, paying their children’s tuition and the rest."
Trump, she said, "seems to be insensitive to that. He thinks maybe they could just ask their father for more money, but they can't."
The shutdown isn't a vacation for furloughed workers. While Trump is busy throwing tantrums demanding a border wall, real families are facing real hardship. Pelosi is leading a new Democratic majority in the House which continues to pass bills to reopen the government and issue paychecks to federal workers.
Yet Trump, and complicit Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, refuse to end the shutdown.
In the meantime, workers like Lori McLaurin will continue to edge closer to homelessness, a situation no one in their right mind would call "better off."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.