We can’t even get through a single morning (let alone a whole day) without someone from the Trump administration saying something so overtly tone deaf that it leaves America to ponder the highly disconcerting prospect that the President and his cabinet are purposefully trolling the public.
One of the most frustrating things about this scenario for folks like myself – who pride themselves on being able to deliver biting satire – is that the soundbites are so egregious that they leave little room for “improvement”. As many a commentator has lamented over the past two years, satire and irony are indeed dead in Trump’s America.
Witness Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (or at least the animate remains of a guy who was once Wilbur Ross) going on CNBC Thursday and suggesting that furloughed government workers, who are now quite literally standing in line for free hot meals and/or taking Kraft Heinz up on the company’s generous offer to dole out free mac & cheese, should take out bank loans to make ends meet. Just listen to this:
Here is the actual quote from Ross, which somehow “sounds” even more aloof typed out than it does when it oozes slowly out of that hole in his face which I guess is a mouth:
I know they are [going to homeless shelters] and I don’t really quite understand why because as I mentioned before, the obligations that they would undertake — say borrowing from a bank or credit union — are in effect federally guaranteed. So the 30 days of pay that people will be out — there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it and we’ve seen a number of ads from the financial institutions doing that.
Again, this is highly frustrating for me, because while it’s always nice when “the jokes just write themselves” (so to speak), the jokes here are so myriad and so readily apparent, that I feel hamstrung in my ability to out-Wilbur Wilbur.
This is a 400-year-old billionaire telling federal workers who are furloughed because Donald Trump wants taxpayers to fund a $5.7 billion Mexican-be-gone construction project that he (the ancient billionaire) “doesn’t really quite understand” why they can’t just stroll into a bank or a credit union and get a loan. It is apparently lost on Wilbur that even if he’s correct to suggest that in theory, these are government guaranteed loans, it’s a lot harder for a working family to get access to credit than it is for, say, a billionaire.
If he wanted to, Wilbur could probably get a loan for $100 million within 15 minutes without anyone even asking what he wants the money for, but when it comes to “Joe federal worker” asking a bank to fund two months worth of missed paychecks, there are going to be some questions, a credit check, and on and on, because that’s how banks operate when the person asking for a loan isn’t Wilbur Ross.
This is of course the same Wilbur who demonstrated just how detached from reality he really is last year, when he showed up on CNBC with a set of actual stage props including a can of Campbell’s soup and a can of Budweiser both of which he said he “bought at a local gas station in Florida this morning”, to try and make a point about aluminum tariffs.
To say Ross’s “get a loan” comments are “insult to injury” would be to grossly understate the case, especially when this is all viewed in the context of the tax cuts, which the GOP variously pitched as a “middle class miracle”, despite the actual math which showed definitively that the vast majority of the benefits would accrue to wealthy families and corporations.
Wilbur’s “let them eat loans” moment comes a week (to the day) after Kevin Hassett said federal workers should think of the shutdown as a paid vacation, something which suggested families who are now on the verge of missing a second paycheck should actually be thanking Trump for the shutdown. To be fair, Kevin walked that back a couple of days later after learning that one of his own staffers had become an Uber driver on the weekends.
As if this needed to get any worse (and obviously it didn’t), Wilbur told CNBC the following about the prospects for a comprehensive trade deal between the US and China:
We’re miles and miles from getting a resolution. Trade is very complicated. There are lots and lots of issues. People shouldn’t think that the events of next week are going to be the solution to all of the issues between the United States and China. It’s too complicated a topic.
All of that is true, but everyone already knows it and as such, Wilbur needn’t remind us all, especially not during an interview that found him suggesting that federal workers who might be hanging out at homeless shelters go home, clean themselves up and try to get a bank loan.
And really, if Wilbur is so confident that these would be “government insured” loans, well then why doesn’t he loan federal workers the money they need to get by?
Note that this is all coming from a man widely suspected of flouting ethics rules during his tenure in the administration and who is so far “gone” that he once told CNBC’s Joe Kernen that he (Wilbur) plans to “turn the moon into a gas station.” Maybe Wilbur’s Lunar Gas-N-Go will offer free coffee to furloughed Space Force employees after they start missing paychecks when Congress refuses to fund a wall on Mars.
Finally, please don’t let it be lost on you that over the past month, we have witnessed the worst December for US stocks since the Great Depression and the return of actual “free hot meals” lines in America.
This, apparently, is what “MAGA” looks like:
Federal employees and family members that have been affected by the government shutdown wait to receive free meals from the relief kitchen set up by World Central Kitchen last week. (Photo by Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE/REX)