The 35-day government shutdown that began in late December ended just in time for U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who took to the airwaves on Jan. 24 to offer financial advice to government workers who were about to miss their second straight paycheck.
Ross appeared incredulous to have learned workers were visiting food banks and homeless shelters. He suggested they borrow money from a bank or credit union to cover their expenses. After all, he explained, those loans would effectively be federally guaranteed.
“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,” he added.
Ross wasn’t wrong. Emergency loans are available to some government workers and servicemembers, particularly those who belong to certain federal credit unions. Those with access (and qualifying credit) might prefer borrowing money to accepting handouts. I would. But multimillionaire Ross was, predictably, hammered for what many heard and read as completely tone-deaf comments.
President Donald J. Trump leapt to his defense when reporters asked about Ross’ comments the next day. He chalked it up to bad phrasing. And he insisted Ross was on the right track, claiming workers can get money from banks and assistance with “groceries and everything else” from local retailers.
“So I think what Wilbur was probably trying to say was that they will work along — I know banks are working along. If you have mortgages, the mortgagees, the folks collecting the interest and all of those things, they work along,” Trump said. “And that’s what happens in a time like this, they know the people, they’ve been dealing with them for years, and they work along. The grocery stores — and I think that’s probably what Wilbur Ross meant.”
You don’t have to be crazy to think this way, but you do have to be exceptionally out of touch. Not long after, Trump capitulated on his linchpin demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border — at least for the moment — so the government could reopen.
The shutdown did not go well for Trump. Ending it without wall funding enraged many of his hardline supporters. Initiating and prolonging it enraged everyone else. But as attorney and compliance expert Jim Ganther points out in this issue’s Compliance feature, “Deregulation and the Dealer,” Trump’s economic policies have been a boon to auto dealers and other business owners.
Passing tax reform and repealing the CFPB’s auto lending guidance was just the start. Trump has led an all-out assault on federal regulations, and many of those campaigns have been successful. So whatever your political affiliation, turn to Page 14 for the rundown. Enjoy Ganther’s article and the rest of this issue, and if you operate in an area heavily populated by federal workers, enjoy February. It should be a good month.
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