Speed Reads

stop being poor

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross doesn't 'quite understand why' unpaid federal workers need food banks and homeless shelters

About 800,000 federal employees haven't been paid in a month. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross thinks a loan could solve their problems.

If the government shutdown doesn't end by Friday, federal employees will have lost close to $6 billion total in wages. They've been told to barter and sell their belongings to make ends meet and, when that doesn't work, have been forced to head to food banks and homeless shelters.

CNBC's Squawk Box asked Ross about that devastating fact on Thursday, and Ross affirmed he was aware it was happening. But "I don't really quite understand why" these federal workers are out on the streets, Ross responded. "Borrowing from a bank or federal credit union" is "federally guaranteed," Ross said, so "there's no real reason why they shouldn't be able to get a loan against" the 30 days of pay they're missing, he finished.

Ross neglected to mention that taking out loans means paying interest. That's not exactly manageable for families living paycheck to paycheck, even if they are given back pay when the shutdown ends, as CNBC brought up after Ross' comments. As Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and a slew of other critics pointed out, Ross is a billionaire.