Ross, whose net worth is an estimated $700 million, said he didn’t understand why some of the more than 800,000 federal employees going without pay needed to rely on food pantries during the shutdown, which entered its 34th day on Thursday.
“Remember this: They are eventually going to be paid,” Ross told CNBC. “Put it in perspective: You’re talking about 800,000 workers, and while I feel sorry for individuals who have hardship cases, 800,000 workers if they never got their pay ― which is not the case they will eventually get it ― but if they never got it, you’re talking about a third of a percent on our GDP. So it’s not like it’s a gigantic number overall.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) slammed Ross’ comments as the “21st century equivalent of ‘let them eat cake.’”
“Many federal employees live paycheck to paycheck,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “Secretary Ross, they just can’t call their stockbroker and ask them to sell some of their shares. They need that paycheck.”
Twitter users bashed Ross for his incredibly insensitive remarks.
“How completely tone deaf and utterly compassionless can you be? Our economy is more than just numbers,” one Twitter user wrote. “Our economy is people and our people are hurting.”
Igor Bobic contributed reporting.