In an interview posted to the PBS website on Thursday, Jan. 10, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett seemingly compared the government shutdown to a vacation while furloughed federal workers are still without pay. Hassett told PBS economic correspondent Paul Solman that workers are "better off" because they didn't have to use vacation days around Christmas and New Year's, but basically got free vacation time. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for further comment on Hassett's remarks, but did not hear back at the time of publication. The partial government shutdown was in its 20th day when Hassett made the comment. It was also the first Friday an estimated 800,000 federal workers did not receive a paycheck.
Hassett covered many topics during the PBS NewsHour interview, including trade with China, the Federal Reserve, and inflation. When Solman asked if the government shutdown would have a negative impact on the economy, Hassett explained that it wouldn't because the 25 percent of the government workers that are currently furloughed would get back pay at the end of the shutdown. He then seemed to compare the shutdown to a vacation, adding:
A huge share of government workers were going to take vacation days, say, between Christmas and New Year's. And then we have a shutdown, and so they can't go to work, and so then they have the vacation, but they don't have to use their vacation days. And then they come back, and then they get their back pay. Then they're — in some sense, they're better off.
Elite Daily reached out to the White House for further clarification on Hassett's remarks, but did not hear back at the time of publication.
Many people and politicians on Twitter noted that the comparison is misguided, particularly because being out of work is not the same thing as a vacation. Many furloughed Federal employees are dealing with financial strain due to missed paychecks and turning to online fundraising or credit unions for help, as many workers' last paychecks were issued on Dec. 28, 2018, per USA Today. Employees impacted by the shutdown range from parts of the Department of Commerce and NASA staff to 80 percent of the Forest and National Park staff to the IRS and Transportation Department staff. In total, nine of 15 federal agencies are impacted, per The Wall Street Journal. Federal contract employees, who are also impacted by the shutdown, are reportedly not guaranteed backpay when the government reopens, per NBC News.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer took to Twitter on Friday, Jan. 11 to share his thoughts, writing:
How out of touch must @WhiteHouse Economic Adviser Kevin Hassett be to say this about government workers not receiving a paycheck today? 'In some sense, they're better off.' Tell that to the parents who need to pay their bills, pay off loans, feed their families. #TrumpShutdown
Twitter user @ezradf spoke to the misguided comparison in a tweet that read, "Even beyond how insulting it is to the workers who have chosen public service careers, it's also just alarming that a top GOP economist like Kevin Hassett doesn't know what daily economic struggles are like for regular workers around the country."
As of Sunday, Jan. 13, the partial government shutdown is in its 23rd day, and it is now the longest government shutdown in the history of the United States, per The New York Times. The shutdown is a result of an impasse between President Donald Trump and Congress over funding for a border wall, for which Trump has requested over $5 billion. Though Democrats maintain that a border wall would be ineffective and expensive, per NBC News, Trump said he would maintain the government shutdown "for a very long period of time — months or even years" until his request was fulfilled. In a meeting on Jan. 4, he said the issue was of utmost importance to him and Republicans because they felt "very strongly about having a safe country."
Seeing as though many federal workers recently missed their first paychecks due to this shutdown, it may have been a bit misguided to compare missing out on pay to vacation time. Here's to hoping a budget agreement is near to finally bring the longest shutdown in U.S. history to an end.