Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin attacked continuing enhanced benefits for unemployed Americans by complaining that workers will “sit home” collecting the money.
Mnuchin made nearly the same comment to reporters on Saturday.
Critics erupted and blasted Mnuchin as an out-of-touch, ultra-wealthy multimillionaire who was grilled at his nomination hearing for shortchanging the same U.S. taxpayers with offshore tax havens sheltering his money.
Many on Twitter pointed out that workers sidelined by the pandemic are taxpayers who expect some protection now from their government.
“This son of a Goldman Sachs banker — literally born sliding into home plate — is calling you lazy,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) tweeted to unemployed American workers.
The weekly $600 in enhanced federal funds on top of standard state unemployment benefits was intended to help workers cover basic costs like food, rent and mortgage payments amid a current unemployment rate of 11.1%. It is set to expire at the end of the week.
The plunge in income is expected to result in mortgage defaults and evictions for some 20 million Americans. It would also damage businesses in an economy overwhelmingly fueled by consumer spending.
Mnuchin signaled that the White House is open to providing some enhancement of benefits, and another round of $1,200 stimulus checks. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Sunday that the Trump administration plans to “lengthen” the current eviction moratorium that’s set to expire Friday — but he provided no details.
The Republican-controlled Senate will finally introduce its next package of COVID-19 aid on Monday, Mnuchin told Wallace.
Mnuchin’s stinginess with wage earners is in marked contrast to his overwhelming support for taxpayer-funded payments to business owners, who can also use some of the nearly $600 billion paid out in the federal Paycheck Protection Program to sit home. Those loans can be forgiven entirely, turning them into grants if the money is used on certain expenses, such as rent, utilities and payroll — including for business owners.
Mnuchin last week indicated that a portion of those loans should automatically be forgiven to streamline the process — without tracking compliance. He has refused even to provide the identity of those who have been given PPP loans under $150,000.
Multimillion-dollar companies, wealthy lobbying and hedge fund operations, large chains, firms owned by foreign companies, federal lawmakers, and several companies with ties to President Donald Trump have been granted substantial loans under the program.
Critics blasted Mnuchin’s demeaning attitude about unemployed workers. They pointed out that Mnuchin was a player who raked in profits from the U.S. subprime mortgage debacle that brought the world economy to its knees. He was paid $11 million in severance by CIT Group in 2017 when he left to become Treasury secretary.