- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2019

Liberals slammed two of President Trump’s top economic advisers and daughter-in-law Lara Trump Thursday for seeming to minimize the plight of unpaid federal workers during the shutdown, likening their comments to the callous quip “let them eat cake” often attributed to Marie Antoinette.

The indignation on Day 34 of the shutdown peaked when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross suggested that federal workers get loans to cover expenses and said he doesn’t “quite understand why” they would need to go to shelters.

During an interview on CNBC, Mr. Ross — whose net worth has been estimated at nearly $3 billion — said he was aware that some of the furloughed workers have gone to food banks and homeless shelters for food. But he said they shouldn’t have a problem getting a loan since they are “in effect, federally guaranteed.”

Because federal workers are guaranteed to get their back pay once the shutdown is over, he said, banks shouldn’t have a problem issuing loans.

“Now true, the people might have to pay a little bit of interest, but the idea that it’s paycheck or zero is not a really valid idea,” Mr. Ross said. “There’s no reason that some institution wouldn’t be willing to lend.”

The president told reporters later, “Perhaps he should have said it differently.”

“What he was probably trying to say is they [local businesses] will work along,” Mr. Trump said.

Democrats bristled.

“Is this the ‘let them eat cake’ kind of attitude or call your father for money?” asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “They just don’t understand why people have to stand in food lines.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York also called Mr. Ross’s comments “the 21st-century equivalent of ‘let them eat cake.’”

“Secretary Ross, they just can’t call their stockbroker and ask them to sell some of their shares,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor.

Rep. Jackie Speier, California Democrat, chastised Mr. Ross as out-of-touch with working people.

“The party of Marie ‘Let them eat cake’ Antoinette is in full force with Commerce Sec Wilbur Ross; a man who dons $600 velvet smoking slippers while failing to timely divest of hundreds of millions in assets, including those linked to a Russian firm,” she tweeted.

Caroline Ciccone, the executive director of the advocacy group Restore Public Trust, said Mr. Ross was untrustworthy in his Cabinet position.

“Ross has spent his career closing factories, laying off thousands of workers, and being unconcerned about the devastation of the people and communities he left behind,” she said in a statement. “Americans deserve to know if Wilbur Ross is using his government job to make himself even richer while he mocks hardworking public servants. His comments about Americans missing their paychecks are outrageous, and disqualify him from the job.”

On the same morning, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow called the shutdown a “glitch” for the 800,000 federal employees who will miss their second consecutive paycheck this week. He predicted their economic hardship will be fixed as soon as the shutdown ends.

“The nanosecond the government is … reopened all these glitches will go away,” Mr. Kudlow told reporters.

He said furloughed workers will be counted in an “establishment survey” by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its monthly jobless report, but not in the “household” employment survey conducted monthly by the Census Bureau.

“You may see bigger glitches in the household survey, you may,” Mr. Kudlow said.

He added that “nobody, including myself, likes the hardship caused, the temporary hardship caused by the government shutdown.”

Mr. Kudlow praised young government employees who are going to work each day despite not getting paid.

“I’ve become a fan of the millennials,” he said.

And Trump campaign adviser and daughter-in-law Lara Trump accused the media Thursday of taking out of context her remark in an interview that the shutdown was causing “a little bit of pain” for furloughed workers. She said “generations after them will thank them for their sacrifice right now.”

She, too, was hit with “let them eat cake” accusations. Ms. Trump issued a statement and also went on Fox News Thursday.

“I am incredibly empathic toward anyone right now who’s struggling without a paycheck,” she said. “It’s got to be incredibly tough for them.”

She blamed the media for reporting her comments inaccurately, calling it “very upsetting.”

“The mainstream media is very disingenuous,” she said. “It was really hard to see all these people attack me over something that was misconstrued.”

As for Democrats’ historical reference, historians believe Marie Antoinette got a bad rap. History.com notes that Lady Antonia Fraser, author of a biography of the French queen, “believes the quote would have been highly uncharacteristic of Marie-Antoinette, an intelligent woman who donated generously to charitable causes and, despite her own undeniably lavish lifestyle, displayed sensitivity towards the poor population of France.”

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