The Clash of the Titans: Ideology vs. History

Thursday night I caught an amazing piece of political dialogue on the Anderson Cooper show between Peter Schiff and Cornell West. What an odd pairing!

Peter Schiff, as many will recall, ran an unsuccessful Connecticut senatorial primary bid in 2010.  He’s described as an adherent of the Austrian School of Economics, from the same branch Ron Paul falls: libertarian, believer in free market fundamentalism–unchain capitalism and all things will fall from Heaven.  Schiff is currently the CEO of Euro-Pacific Capital, Inc. and Euro-Pacific Precious Metals.   

In contrast, Cornell West is an academic, sometimes referred to as a ‘public intellectual,’ a professor at Princeton where he teaches from the Center for African American Studies and the Department of Religion.  He has been a consistent voice for the underclass, the working poor and speaks to the effects of race, gender and class in American society.

Though both men have engaged the Occupy Wall St. [OWS] movement, their approaches could not be more different.  Peter Schiff went to Zuccotti Park with a sign–I am the 1%–presumably to start a conversation with the protesters.  Hummmm.  Mr. Schiff’s definition of ‘conversing’ must be different than mine.  From the clip below?  I’d use the word confrontation.

Cornell West on the other hand has been arrested twice during the Occupy encampment—once in DC before the Supreme Court protesting the Citizens United decision, where corporate political funding was equated with free speech, using the precedent that corporations = personhood.  A decision, I might add that I and many others view as horrifically destructive, only adding to the problem of money swamping our electoral process.  Dr. West was arrested for the terrifying crime of holding a sign [a no-no on the steps of Supreme Court] which read: Poverty is the Greatest Violence of All.  On a second occasion, Dr. West was arrested in Harlem for marching with other Occupy members in front of the 28th Precinct, protesting the NYPD’s practice of ‘stop and frisk,’ which allows police to search citizens at will, a procedure that involves primarily people of color.  Reportedly 600,000 stops were made in 2010, with 7% of those stops resulting in arrests.

So, we have two men, both educated, articulate and successful, both engaging OWS from 180 degree positions. Peter Schiff takes the view that unfettered capitalism will save the world as opposed to West’s humanistic viewpoint that unregulated capitalism has brought the world to its knees and threatens to scrap the very safety nets and programs that allow people to better themselves [education, for instance] and escape the violent confines that poverty and hopelessness exact.  

We can argue these principles till the cows come home but a debater makes a serious mistake when they rewrite history to support their ideology, willfully fabricating, tweaking the facts to make their points more relevant and sound.

Peter Schiff, to his shame, pulled out all the old tricks like a fumbling magician who has no talent for sleight of hand. He like so many others who deify free market fundamentalism come off sounding remarkably reasonable, even simpatico with many of the concerns of average Americans.  But they always slip up, only to expose the trickster; those disappearing cards are simply stuck up their sleeves.

In  Zuccotti Park, Schiff claims he pays ‘almost 50% of his income in taxes’ under the current tax system.  50%.  No one in the top 1% pays anything close to 50% in personal income tax and if they did then their accountant deserves to be marched to the wall and executed, toute suite. The rich have all sorts of tax breaks, exemptions, loopholes and shelters that average working people can only dream of.  The claim is sheer nonsense by those who, in their heart of hearts, don’t wish to pay any tax at all.  The same is true of claiming they want to return to the ‘golden’ 1950s when things were on an upswing and America was the most productive nation in the world [as Schiff remarks, as if it were a 1000 years ago].  And the top marginal tax rate was?   91%.

Yes, records were actually kept in the 1950s and we can look up false statements!  Maybe Schiff really meant the roaring mid-20s to 1931 were the rate was 25%, and then BOOM!  Depression time.

I must say I enjoyed the explanation of Wall St. greed as a by-product of Government manipulation.  This is a turn on that old Flip Wilson skit line, But . . . But . . .The Devil Made Me Do it.

In addition, there is the sweet comment—“The regulation we want is the market.  Markets regulate themselves.”  This makes a great sound byte but is nothing more than the same garbage philosophy that brought us to this moment of economic woe, something that even Alan Greenspan, former Fed chairman finally admitted in hound-dog fashion: Did. Not. Work.

But Schiff’s greatest leap into fantasy is saved for the CNN segment I initially mentioned, where he claims that capitalism, free-market capitalism alone led to changes in the workplace: Child Labor Laws, Worker’s Safety laws, the 40-hour work week [see at the 8 minute mark].

I give Cornell West props for not coming through the screen with that claim. I guess Schiff never heard of the Radium Girls, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the Battle of Blair Mountain or the entire Labor Movement for that matter. The unregulated capitalists of that long ago era were not willing to give an inch, let alone provide workers with anything amounting to change.  Justice was wrenched out through struggle, protest, suffering and deprivation. Justice was long in coming but come it did.

West’s suggestion that he and Schiff need to sit down over coffee and cognac is way too easy and polite.  West would be advised to bring a straight jacket in Peter Schiff’s size for safety purposes. Or march him to church to beg forgiveness for fibbing [also known as spreading disinformation] to the public.

There’s a quote attributed to the late Daniel Moynihan:

“You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.”

In the Clash of the Titans, history always wins.

19 Comments on “The Clash of the Titans: Ideology vs. History”

  1. dakinikat says:

    The biggest dishonesty when it comes to Schiff’s position is the same dishonesty that comes from his nemesis the Marxist. That is it takes a nearly perfect situation to create a perfect market. With Marxism, you need a perfectly omniscient and beneficent central planner.

    In order for Schiff’s fantasy to work there must be huge numbers of buyers and sellers in the market so that no one cares who they buy from, all the products must be homogenous so, again you don’t care who you buy from because every one produces the same good, there must be perfect information available equally to every one, there must be no situation where any one can game the market by any other way other than having a better way of using and getting the resources, and there can be no differences in any costs other that strict production costs or transportation costs, etc. which we call having a competitive advantage naturally. It’s a completely unrealistic scenario for nearly every thing manufactured or produced in a service sector. He might as well be out there spinning fairy tales.

    About the only markets this could possibly work for are agriculture markets and you’d have to roll back all kinds of things including huge corporate farms, prices supports, tarriffs and other protective laws, etc. to get even close to it.

    He’s basically the same as a utopian Marxist with a slightly different view of things. Equally utopian and unworkable in the majority of markets which are full of frictions like consumer love of product differentiation for one.

    • Peggy Sue says:

      You said it better than I could, Dak, but I absolutely agree. And this is when ideology fever always fails and the fairytale spinner is caught up in his/her delusions–the imperfect application of the theory is blamed, if only [for instance] the historically failed Marxist systems had implemented ‘pure’ Marxism, they’d be in Hog Heaven.

      Doesn’t work. Period. But these bad, failed ideas take on a life of their own. Because, I think, they offer pie-in-the-sky, simple answers to people desperate for remedy.

      But I nearly fell off my chair when Schiff declared that the free market had provided the reforms I mentioned. These are the same people who insist the Robber Baron period is merely a figment of Leftist propaganda. Or Ron Paul wanting to go back to the good ole days of 1900. Or Glenn Beck and his cohorts swearing the Founding Fathers were evangelical Christians.

      The fantasy, historical rewrite never stops.

      It’s not even that I agree with Cornell West on every single thing, every single utterance. I don’t. But IMHO, West is definitely on the right side of things here and Schiff is the fool.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Brilliant post, Peggy Sue. I’ve heard Schiff argue before. He is truly living in fantasy land, like most Ayn Rand followers. There is no such thing as a free market, and even if there were, it would lead to oligharchy. In our case, the government has actually helped it happen.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I came home because I didn’t feel good. Lucky me. It was sleeting by the time I got back here.

  2. foxyladi14 says:

    again. 🙂

  3. Peggy Sue says:

    Just to put a point on how ridiculous I find Peter Schiff’s ‘theories,’ that the only reason Wall St. and Corporate bigwigs have resorted to ‘less than ideal’ ways of making money, I picked this article up with photos. One of the largest US Home Foreclosure Mills and their dressup for Halloween last year:

    Because we all know how halarious homelessness is.

    These people haven’t been forced into being heartless and immoral. And there’s no redemption in The Devil Made Me Do It.

    They aren’t worth anything to Lucifer. They’re empty and completely souless!

    • Peggy Sue says:

      Btw, that should read:

      “the only reason Wall St. and Corporate bigwigs have resorted to ‘less than ideal’ ways of making money is the evil Government, I picked this . . .”

      My fingers were too enraged for accuracy!

  4. foxyladi14 says:

    be careful in the storm folks.cause we wuvs ya!! 🙂

    • bostonboomer says:

      It’s nasty here. Are you in it too?

      • foxyladi14 says:

        no I,m in sunny Ohio,next door.this is encouraging.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I’m back in Boston now. I thought the midwest was nice today. New York polticians are overreacting again. Or maybe NY is getting more snow than we are.

      • Peggy Sue says:

        Got a call from my mother-in-law in Philly. They’ve rec’vd rain and flurries but the reports say snow through the night, maybe as much as 10 inches. The salt trucks have already made a first pass. Yikes! Harrisburg got slammed from early reports.

        Plus I saw film from NYC. The Occupy groups are really going to be tested all along the Northeast corridor. The cops have taken any generators/heaters on hand, purposely. Guess they’re hoping they’ll all freeze to death, run out of spunk or come down sick.

        I sometimes wonder what country we’re living in.

        Stay warm folks!

      • bostonboomer says:

        We’re only getting 2-4 inches supposedly. It’s way too early for this.

    • Pat Johnson says:

      I have been losing power on and off all day. The trees are bending over from the weight of the snow because the leaves have not all fallen off. My car is covered already and they are saying this will go all night with a possible build up of 7-10 inches.

      Didn’t it seem only yesterday that I was bitching to you guys about having to clean my car off every other day with the snow we had from late December to late March?

      I’m begging to bitch already and it’s not yet Halloween!!

      And who, may I ask, is supposed to eat all this candy if the kids don’t show up due to the miserable weather? (I’ve already eaten my way through a bag of Milky Ways.)

  5. Beata says:

    At Occupy Denver, police use pepper spray and rubber bullets on protesters at close range:

  6. Fannie says:

    Peter is one hell of a collector of gold/silver, and he’s a great protector of his collections… the other 1%er’s they need to protect it from the tax collectors………..

    I for one would like to know the worth of his total assets.