President Donald Trump Does Not Appear To Understand How Grocery Stores Work

President Donald Trump Does Not Appear To Understand How Grocery Stores Work

President Donald Trump, attempting to clarify earlier statements by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, himself a billionaire, about how federal workers should make do without paychecks revealed his apparent misunderstanding of how grocery stores work.

Ross told CNBC earlier Thursday he did not understand why furloughed federal workers were heading to food banks and not taking advantage of low or no-interest loans offered by banks to help them through the government shutdown.

"Well, I know they are, and I don't really quite understand why," Ross said. "The obligations that they would undertake, say borrowing from a bank or a credit union, are, in effect, federally guaranteed. So the 30 days of pay that some people will be out ... there's no real reason why they shouldn't be able to get a loan against it."

Trump was asked about the comments by a reporter during a televised news conference later in the day.

"Perhaps he should have said it differently. Local people know who they are when they go for groceries and everything else, and I think what Wilbur was probably trying to say is that they will work along," the president said. He added that Ross has "done a great job."

Suffice it to say in 2019, most grocery stores do not extend store credit to customers who cannot pay for food.

In a subsequent interview with Bloomberg, Ross said he was "painfully aware" that workers were suffering hardships. He added that in his earlier remarks, he'd been trying to let workers know that credit union loans were available for those "experiencing liquidity crises" — hardly the language of those living paycheck to paycheck.

It all contributed to perceptions that the Trump administration was out of touch with workers bearing the brunt of the shutdown impact.

"Is this the 'Let them eat cake' kind of attitude?" said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "Or call your father for money?" With her comments, the speaker evoked Marie Antoinette and took an indirect jab at Trump for inheriting family money.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Ross' comments "reveal the administration's callous indifference toward the federal workers it is treating as pawns." He added: "Secretary Ross, they just can't call their stock broker and ask them to sell some of their shares."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.