These are some of the headlines that have been ascribed to Peter Schiff after he made an appearance on the Daily Show Wednesday. Unfortunately, these sensationalized headlines have a problem; They’re completely untrue. The Daily Show’s obviously doctored interview with the financial analyst has been accepted by news agencies like The Huffington Post and The Daily Mail as absolute fact. It’s the job of a true journalist to get to the heart of an issue, not hone in on a divisive comment taken out of context and not related to the main argument. In a phone interview with The Libertarian Republic, Peter Schiff set the record straight about how it all went horribly wrong.
You were a guest on the Daily Show back in 2009. Did you know there was going to be a difference between being interviewed by Jon Stewart on set and being interviewed by one of his reporters in a segment?
It was a much better experience last time. I actually got out there, I got to meet Jon Stewart, everybody applauded. Everyone was very nice to me. It was a good experience. They were trying to assure me this time that they weren’t going to edit me to make me look bad, but obviously they were lying. I was a little suspicious. The problem was, I didn’t intend to be there for four hours. I really felt uncomfortable and kind of wanted to leave and they kept saying, “Stay.” If I had only been there for an hour, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into such esoteric stuff. The real meat of the stuff, where I talk about minimum wage and I really explain why it was so bad, they didn’t use any of that stuff. They just decided, ‘Well, we wanna pretend we’re in favor of a higher minimum wage because we have a liberal leaning audience, so we want them to like us. Let’s find a guy who’s opposed it and try to make him look like he’s some out of touch rich guy that doesn’t care about people.’ That was their goal, not to use any of my strong, very highly convincing arguments why we should eliminate minimum wage. They just wanted to try to make me look bad to discredit my view. They were attacking me as opposed to my argument.
What tactics would you use to eliminate the minimum wage?
I said that the Republicans should just call Obama’s bluff, and agree to an immediate increase of the minimum wage to $15 an hour, not $10.10. Because the reason that Obama wants $10.10, is that he thinks, ‘Well the Republicans won’t actually do any more, it’ll be like a compromise.’ He wants to stagger it in, so my idea would be that the Republicans should agree to a compromise, and say, ‘We will agree to an increase in the minimum wage as long as its effective immediately, and we’re increasing the rates to $15 an hour.’ Now, what is the president going to do? Is he going to say, that’s too much? Well, what do you mean it’s too much, don’t you care about people? Don’t you think people deserve a raise? If the president says it would cause some unemployment, then one, he concedes the Republican’s point, and two, they diffuse the entire issue of minimum wage, because now he can’t say, ‘I wanted to raise the wage and the Republicans wouldn’t let me.’ He can’t say ‘Republicans offered you a raise and I refused.’ The other scenario would be if Obama says he would make the minimum wage $15 an hour, then the unemployment rate would probably skyrocket up to 20% very quickly. It would be a complete disaster, and now everyone would know it doesn’t work and would be clamoring to repeal that increase, and Republicans could argue to not reduce the minimum wage, but eliminate it. Either we can have an increase in minimum wage and half the country would be out of work, or we could eliminate it, and given the choice, I think people would rather get rid of the minimum wage. It would destroy the minimum wage argument forever, because people would know how bad it was.
Samantha Bee asked you a pretty leading question towards the end of the clip. Did you know you were walking into a trap?
The whole crazy thing about the way she trapped me was because she said, “Well, what if someone was offering to pay you $2 an hour?” I said, “If someone was offering $2 an hour, they wouldn’t find many employees. You can’t just pay people $2 an hour, because somebody else would pay more. You’ve got interns at The Daily Show that you’re paying nothing. If you were paying them $2 an hour that would actually be an improvement. The people who would work for $2 an hour are people who value something else more than the money. Maybe it’s the experience. Maybe it’s the opportunity to learn something and get their foot in the door. It’s called entry-level.” I also brought up the mentally disabled. I told her I couldn’t remember what the politically correct word was. She didn’t tell me! She could have told me. But I said, “There’s an example of somebody who would work for $2 an hour, because they work for $2 an hour right now. Some of them get more or less because the minimum wage has an exemption for the intellectually disabled. That’s an admission on the part of the government that if they didn’t have the exemption, they couldn’t get jobs. The minimum wage was making it illegal for the mentally disabled to work, and that’s why they had to get rid of it.” But they wanted to make it sound like, “Oh, Peter Schiff thinks that we should send the intellectually disabled out to earn $2 an hour.”
They also edited it to make it sound like you were saying, “That’s all they’re worth.”
But that’s not their worth as human beings, but in their productivity to the employer. What can they do? If someone has the mental aptitude of a six-year-old, how much responsibility can they have? Most of the intellectually disabled are working for the self-esteem. They feel like they’re making a contribution. They don’t have to support a family. They’re living with their families and being supported by someone else. Someone on my Facebook page said, ‘How do you expect a mentally disabled person to support a family?’ I said, ‘I don’t expect them to. They can’t even support themselves because they’re disabled.’
Did you respond to the issue of fast food workers not being able to support their families on minimum wage?
Well, McDonald’s jobs, are they designed for 30 and 40 year olds? No, those jobs were supposed to go to teenagers and young adults as entry-level jobs to gain access to the job market and gain experience, and that’s still the majority of those jobs. There are some older people though that the economy is so bad they’ve resorted to working at McDonald’s, but that’s not McDonald’s fault. It’s not McDonald’s fault that someone is overqualified to cook french fries. If you do the job of a teenager, we’re going to pay you like a teenager. They keep saying how you can’t raise a family on minimum wage. That’s the point, you can’t. If you can’t break out of McDonald’s, don’t start a family. You’re not ready.
Some of your critics have also been saying that it’s not fair that these jobs are low paying. Did you address that in your interview on The Daily Show?
Well I said to Samantha Bee, because she was so critical of Wal-Mart, I said if there aren’t gonna be any entry-level jobs, then how are people going to get into the job market? Wal-Mart is providing entry-level jobs for millions of people. If Wal-Mart didn’t exist, where would these people go? When Wal-Mart opens up a new store, they get fifty applications for every job. Obviously that’s not an indication that they’re underpaying people. If they’re underpaying people, they wouldn’t get any applications. If anything, getting fifty applications for every job probably means that they’re paying better than other jobs. When Samantha Bee said people are being exploited by Wal-Mart, I said, “No they’re not. Wal-Mart made them the best offer they could find, so how is that exploitation?” By definition, if you accept the job offered from a company, it’s because they made you an offer that was better than everybody else. As long as you don’t quit, that means you haven’t found a better job. If you work at Wal-Mart, you can still look for another job in the evening and on your lunch break, or take a personal day and go on a couple of interviews. If you find a better job, you’ll quit. There’s no exploitation in a free market because you can always quit. How can you exploit somebody when it’s a voluntary relationship? Slavery is exploitation. Why should Wal-Mart be vilified for offering their employees better jobs than they can find anywhere else? If Wal-Mart does start paying everyone $15 an hour then they’re going to have to raise their prices, and they’d lose their customers. Liberals want people to earn more money as long as it doesn’t come out of their own pockets.
Barry Ritholtz, the equity analyst that was also interviewed on your segment, said raising the minimum wage would help the economy because people would be less reliant on food stamps. How do you respond to that?
They asked me the same question in my interview, but didn’t put my response. Those arguments are complete nonsense. They try to make the point that if we raise the minimum wage then people who work at McDonald’s would no longer qualify for food stamps, and therefore wouldn’t need them and the government wouldn’t have to spend money on food stamps any more. My point was no, now the government will have to pay money for food stamps and welfare because people will lose their jobs, so now they’ll need even more government assistance, because McDonald’s isn’t just going to raise everyone’s wages up to that level. They’re gonna lay off a lot of people and find a way to automate and cut back on labor as the cost of labor goes up. In addition, they’re going to have to raise prices, and so the people that [sic] eat at McDonald’s will have to spend more money for their food, and they’ll have less money available to spend on something else. If we help the economy to raise labor costs, then ultimately it would increase government expenditures because now more people would be out of the job market completely. They were saying, ‘Well, all these McDonald’s workers are on food stamps,’ and I said ‘That’s not McDonald’s fault.’ A lot of them are maybe taking those jobs because they know they can still get welfare benefits. Maybe they were offered a higher paying job and didn’t take it because then they’d lose their benefits. It might be they’re better off earning $7.50 an hour than $10 an hour because the taxes they’d pay and the benefits they’d lose, maybe they’re worse off. People criticize McDonald’s because they have all these low paying jobs, but who else is going to create the entry-level jobs? Somebody’s got to do it.
In your interview, one of the lines used was when you said, “People don’t go hungry in a capitalist society”
Part of what she was saying was, “If there’s no minimum wage, people are gonna be starving because they aren’t going to have enough money.” I said that’s nonsense, we didn’t have the minimum wage really until the 1960’s. Roosevelt introduced it in 1938 but it was only for federal workers, which didn’t apply to most people. People weren’t starving in America in the 1950’s and the 1940’s. People weren’t even starving during the Great Depression. One of the things we did during the Great Depression, one of Roosevelt’s policies, was to destroy food because food prices were too low. I thought it was stupid for the government to do that, but their goal was to make food prices go up so they bought up and destroyed food. Clearly we wouldn’t be destroying food if we had people starving to death. A free market creates abundance. In a free market people try to satisfy the needs of other people. That’s how people get rich. Everybody needs food and in a free market there’s going to be plenty of farmers that are going to be growing food, and trying to get rich by feeding everybody. There will be enough food. There’s nobody starving. Maybe in socialist countries where you have shortages and famines, then maybe you’ll have starvation, but in a capitalist free market economy there’s going to be enough food for everybody. Even in America, with all our flaws, nobody is starving, because if somebody is hungry, they’re going to get foo. They’re going to show up at a shelter, there’s going to be some charity, plus there’s 50 million Americans are on food stamps. How can they be starving? If somebody was starving, and they knocked on my door and they were emaciated saying “I haven’t eaten in days”, you don’t think I would give them food?
Given some of the comments I’ve been reading about you online, I think a lot of people don’t think you would, or they consider you a selfish person. Have you been receiving personal attacks like that since the interview aired?
Oh yeah, there are people who want me dead, they want me to get various diseases, they want my whole family dead. The liberals that pretend they’re so tolerant are the most intolerant people, because if anybody disagrees with them they want them dead. They think they’re evil and bad but the reality is, they’re the ones who are evil. They want to make it illegal for the intellectually disabled to work. They want to take away the thing that gives them the most satisfaction, their jobs. They want to make it impossible for young people to acquire the skills they need to one day earn a good living. I get emails from people telling me how ignorant I am, which is so ironic because the people emailing me are the ones who are ignorant. All the liberals do is say, “What sounds like I care?”, and, “I’m in favor of that, because it makes me look like a good person.”
I explained to Samantha Bee about how the minimum wage destroyed Samoa. How we created 70% unemployment, and double-digit inflation and how the island is begging for America to repeal the minimum wage and we refuse to do it. We put the minimum wage on Samoa because it sounded good and the liberals liked it. “Oh, we want to make sure the Samoans won’t get exploited,” meanwhile they weren’t being exploited. They all had good jobs, but after they put minimum wage on there they all lost their jobs because the plants shut down. 70% of the island was unemployed. We destroyed the whole economy with our minimum wage, and they don’t even care. That’s been one of the problems for Puerto Rico is that they have to deal with our minimum wage. Their per capita income there is half of what it is in the poorest US state. The higher the minimum wage is, the more damage it does. The only good thing is that they haven’t raised the minimum wage in a while. Inflation is eroding its value, but the lower it is, the less damage it does.
Did anyone from the media reach out to you after this interview to get your side of the issue?
No, but we’ve been reaching out. There’s a lot of articles that have been written about this, and the interesting thing is they’re taking it seriously, like it’s a real news show. They’re writing about it like I went there and this was how I defended the minimum wage. No it isn’t. They took four hours of footage and tried to find the pieces that they could splice together out of sequence and put them in a certain order to depict me in a way that they thought would be funny and make people go, “Oh my God, here’s a rich out of touch guy that we can all make fun of.” They’re reporting on it like this is some kind of journalism, like it was not a joke. The idea was to make fun of Peter Schiff and they’re reporting it like I told them that the intellectually disabled should be paid $2 an hour, as if they’re making more money right now and I want to reduce their pay to $2 an hour. All she did was say, “Can you give me an example of somebody that would work for $2 an hour?” and one of the examples I came up with was somebody who was intellectually disabled. Which they do. They do work for $2 an hour. That’s a fact.
Did you foresee that type of spin happening with that statement?
When that came up, it was so…king of off the subject that it didn’t even occur to me that they were gonna use that footage. They didn’t even use any of the good stuff that I told them. They were just trying to find anything in there that would make me look foolish so that they might get a laugh and they might get some of the reaction they wanted. At end of interview, they recorded her just making a lot of exaggerated faces, as if she actually had those expressions during the conversation. No, there was nothing I said that made her make those faces. But she did all that after the fact so that they could go and splice it in. My brother wanted to be there and kind of watch it with me and they wouldn’t let him in the room. They said, “He has to be by himself, no witnesses.”
I’ve asked them ‘Can we have the raw footage’ because I want to put the raw footage on the internet so people can see what I actually said. They don’t want to deal with the actual footage. Why don’t these news outlets that were reporting on it, don’t they know that that’s what its all about? They’re taking it seriously when The Daily Show told me they wanted people to laugh. I kept saying ‘Whats going to be funny about this? I can’t think of any jokes.’ It’s a serious topic, the minimum wage. It’s doing a lot of damage. I didn’t think it was funny. I think they just push people’s buttons in this world of political correctness. The funny thing is, if you go to my Facebook page, all the people that [sic] were criticizing me for saying mentally retarded, most of them were saying mentally challenged, and that’s not the word either. The actual word is intellectually disabled. So most of thee people mad at me for getting it wrong got it wrong themselves.
Is challenged that much worse than retarded? The thing of it is, if you actually look at the interview, I didn’t say retards. I said mentally retarded, which is the medical terminology. Somebody wrote and said it’s like saying the n-word. No it’s not. I don’t think ‘mentally retarded’ is in the dictionary as vulgar slang. If you play the interview, I was actually trying to think of the politically correct term, and she could have told me what the term was and I could have started over again, and she could have filmed me using the right word. Everybody is saying I never should have used a word like that on TV. I didn’t choose to put that word on TV. The Daily Show chose to put that word on TV. They had four hours of conversation they could have used, but they focused in on that word. That wasn’t my choice, but they’re acting like, ‘Oh, how dare you say that on television.’ I didn’t say that on television. I said it on camera, on tape. They could have edited it out, but they deliberately edited it in! They wanted the shock value of something they knew would get me in trouble because it’s not politically correct. They’re the ones who didn’t care about insulting people because they put on that insulting word.
Why do you think so many people aren’t willing to call out The Daily Show for that?
I don’t know, but they really do a disservice. When you take an issue like the minimum wage and say, let’s have a serious debate, and you try to make the guy who is in favor of a higher minimum wage look as good as possible and then you try to undermine the other guy who’s going to argue the other point and then try to present it as some kind of unbiased reporting, it really is a disservice to the country. Minimum wage is such a bad law, and doing so much harm, and they think I’m just this greedy rich guy. Look, if the minimum wage went up, it wouldn’t affect my life. I don’t employ minimum wage workers. I don’t eat at fast food restaurants. The restaurants I eat at, the waiters and waitresses all make way more than minimum wage, just on the tips I pay alone. I don’t mind if prices go up a little bit because that doesn’t bother me. I’m not pinching pennies on everything that I buy. It would have a much more profound impact on the middle class and lower-income people. I’m concerned for them, and in fact based on my investments, based on where my money is, the gold I have, gold stocks and bar stocks, increasing the minimum wage would be so detrimental to the U.S. economy, it would help me. My investments would do better. More people would want to get their money out of America. They would want to send it to me. It would help my business, and I would make more money if they raised the minimum wage, but it’s bad for the country, so we shouldn’t do it. I do have all these investments that really amount to bets against America, but I don’t want to make those bets. I’m trying everything I can to get America to do the right thing, but the fact that America is doing the wrong thing is beyond my control. I need to base my investments on what’s happening, not what I want to happen. I still want the government to do the right thing, even if it undermines my investment strategy. I’m an American first and an investor second, but if America is going to destroy the economy and the currency, why should I go down with a sinking ship? I’m going to base my investments on what’s happening, even if I’m trying to change it.
One of the reasons you wanted to go on the Daily Show was because the minimum wage is such an important issue and you wanted to change it. Do you regret that now?
Here’s how dumb I was. I thought, okay if I don’t do it somebody is gonna do it, and they’re going to make somebody look like a fool. I thought, my arguments are so strong on the minimum wage. I figured, how are they really going to make them look foolish? I don’t know. Four hours of stuff, I kept wanting to leave. It took them so long to get that out of me. I guess they wore me down and maybe I was overconfident in myself. But I thought, if I don’t do it, who’s going to do it? They’re really gonna make a fool out of that guy.
Another reason I wanted to do it was because I was on the Jon Stewart show once. I really liked it, I had a great show with him. I’ve been trying to get back on it ever since and they haven’t had me back on. So I thought, maybe if I take one for the team and let them poke a little fun at me they’ll bring me on again for a real segment. I wasn’t thinking they were gonna get me this way. I thought they were going to attack me based on my argument. I wasn’t thinking about political correctness, but that almost makes them look worse, this overreaction, this much ado about nothing. It’s obvious that I didn’t know what the term was.
The other part of it is, it’s not just what I said, it’s that I said they should work for $2 an hour. Well, what should they be paid? I would say to all the people that [sic] think yes, intellectually disabled people should be paid minimum wage, “Ok, then you hire them.” The Daily Show doesn’t have any intellectually disabled people on their staff. Why don’t they replace all their reporters with intellectually disabled people, and pay them the same money? Aren’t they worth the same? Aren’t they worth as much as everybody else? I got all these letters from people who say, “Oh, how dare you say my daughter isn’t worth as much as anybody else,” so I said, “Would you get on an airplane if your daughter was the pilot?” I’m not saying she’s worth less than me, but that’s the point. They have limitations. If they were rolling you into the hospital and you found out your surgeon was intellectually disabled, would you let them put you under?