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White House Economic Adviser Implies Federal Workers Are on 'Paid Vacation'
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12 Jan 2019 05:47 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Kevin Hassett (Image source: Public domain)

 

White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett has it all figured out as he described how to make the government shutdown not seem that bad for federal workers. In fact, he's making it seem like the government employees should be thankful for this blessing that came into their lives a few days before Christmas. He stated they will be "better off" having gone through the shutdown. 

This is the shutdown that Donald Trump said he'd be "proud" to force as a way to get Congress to pay for his border wall. However, since it went into effect on December 22, he's tried to put the blame for it on the Democrats. That pride is no longer there.

 

Fitting right into this mentality is his chief economic adviser, Hassett. In an interview on "PBS NewsHour" he reasoned that many of the 800,000 federal employees affected by the shutdown had been planning to take vacation days around the holidays anyway, so they wouldn't have been working even if the government was still open for business. And now, they get to keep their vacation days. 

PBS economic correspondent Paul Solman asked Hassett if he saw the shutdown affecting the economy in the long term. But he didn't see the shutdown as negatively affecting the workers.

 

"When the shutdown ends, they go back to work, and they get their back pay," he explained. "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 when they come back, and then they get their back pay. Then they're — in some sense, they're better off."

 

This amounts to one of Trump's advisers trying to find reason for a move Trump himself said he would be proud to do and has now backed away from.  

But we can probably be assured there aren't 800,000 federal employees right now being overjoyed that while they missed their paycheck on Friday, they now have extra vacation days.

 

Additionally, that's assuming the workers aren't "working." But the government can't truly shut down everything, so some of them are working without pay. Most likely they don't feel "better off." 

And this is also assuming that the workers get that back pay. One year ago they finally passed legislation stating that the employees who were furloughed in the 2013 shutdown would get paid in full.

 

Luckily for the current workers, Congress just approved that they wileventually get back pay. But they won't see a dime until the shutdown is over. So while they're counting their vacation days, they have already missed at least one paycheck, money that would pay their mortgage and buy their groceries.

 

The Office of Personnel Management tried to be helpful, though, with advice that was "inadvertently" posted, telling government employees that to make ends meet they should barter with their landlords and also provided them with letters to send to creditors to explain why they weren't being paid. 

Let's not forget that this happened three days before Christmas. While the workers hadn't missed any checks at that point, they knew it was coming. That means Santa probably didn't bring as much as he usually does to the kids of government workers. But the kids were probably just grateful knowing that their mom or dad would get a few extra vacation days.

 

Hassett recognized that there could be a short-term effect on the economy but doesn't feel it will hit long term. However, he did say the shutdown would have cost the economy around $20 billion through Friday and $10 billion more each additional week. To the overall economy, it's $1.2 billion per week.  

His boss has been accused of holding federal workers "hostage" while he demands funding for his border wall.

 

Some lawmakers are a little more helpful in this situation. They have vowed to not accept their paychecks until the federal employees received theirs and others have donated their pay.  

Maybe Hassett should do the same. Instead of his pay, maybe he'd like some extra vacation days.

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