The Daily Bell is pleased to present this exclusive interview with Peter Schiff
Daily Bell: Hello, Peter. Thanks for being with us. How’s your father (Irwin Schiff)?
Peter Schiff: He’s hanging in there. He’s still a political prisoner but his spirits are still quite high. He’s still hopeful that one of his legal motions will get him out, but unfortunately, the court system is very corrupt in the United States and so being innocent doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be free.
Daily Bell: How is your brokerage doing? You are offshore now? Are the regulators still giving you a hard time?
Peter Schiff: They give everybody a hard time. I don’t think they single me out. That’s part of the problem in the US economy and so many economies around the world. Governments are overregulating and driving up the cost of doing business, driving a lot of entrepreneurs out of business. One of the reasons we have so few jobs today is because the government is waging war on the job creators.
My offshore business is actually growing very rapidly. In fact, I think my business in the Caribbean, EuroPacific Bank, is my fastest growing business. I don’t think it’s an accident that it’s the fastest growing and it’s the least regulated, even though it is highly regulated as a bank. But as a financial institution, I think that there are fewer regulations offshore than in the United States. So that is my fastest growing business. Revenues are growing fast, profits are growing fast and we’re hiring more people. Hey, what do you know!
My US broker-dealer business, Euro Pacific Capital, is stable. The Canadian business, Euro Pacific Canada, is doing well. My precious metals business, Euro Pacific Precious Metals, is relatively stable. So the real growth is offshore. I have my asset management company, Euro Pacific Asset Management in Puerto Rico now and that’s growing slowly as well but nothing like EuroPacific Bank. That’s been much more rapid.
I guess that where you have fewer regulations and where you don’t have the onerous labour regulations, it makes it a lot easier to grow a business.
Daily Bell: Have you moved to Puerto Rico?
Peter Schiff: Not yet. It’s something that I’m planning on doing. I’ve purchased property there, I have an office there, I have employees there so I’m developing my connections in Puerto Rico and they’re going to grow and ultimately, I’m going to be there. I just haven’t made a decision as to exactly when. I have family here, I have a son, so it keeps me here even though I would prefer not to be. I would actually prefer to live in Puerto Rico right now but I have other reasons to stay here. Certainly from a tax perspective and even from a lifestyle perspective I think spending more time in Puerto Rico would be the right thing to do so ultimately, I am going to be out there.
In fact, if anybody is interested in learning more about Puerto Rico they should go to USTaxFreeZone.com. We’ve prepared a video for people who are interested in learning more about how to move to Puerto Rico because many people have already done so just because they’ve heard me talk about it on my radio show. Go to USTaxFreeZone.com to see video and get more information to discover whether or not they should consider moving to Puerto Rico themselves. I think more and more Americans from the mainland are going to be washing up on Puerto Rican beaches because the opportunities and the incentives are really, really too big for people to pass up.
Daily Bell: You had an appearance on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart a while ago that stirred some controversy. Tell us about it.
Peter Schiff: The way they edited it out – they interviewed me for over four hours to condense it down to a few minutes of trying to make me look bad because I want to abolish the minimum wage. Of course, I want to abolish the minimum wage because I care about people, I care about jobs, I care about young people in particular and minorities. I want to make sure that they can get jobs, they can get on-the-job training, that they acquire additional skills that would enable them to earn higher wages in the future and I want them to be able to step on the job ladder so that they can climb up and go to higher and higher rungs. The biggest job killer is the minimum wage law.
But the woman who interviewed me from “The Daily Show,” one of the things she mentioned in that four-hour interview was that she was a socialist, a Marxist. Of course, they didn’t show any of that but I had her admit that she was basically a communist. So people at “The Daily Show” buy into this nonsense. They don’t believe in the free-market system. They believe in government. They believe in the system that destroyed the Soviet Union. But they don’t think with their heads because they don’t really have much up there. They think with their hearts. So they tried to present me in a sinister light by taking a lot of things out of context and they actually had to piece that segment together kind of like Frankenstein made his monster, because they actually would show them asking questions and then the answers that I gave were not even to the questions that they were asking then. They were to questions that were asked at different parts of the show. So they would take the same question they asked me in, say, the third hour of the interview, and they would take a part of the answer that I gave in the first ten minutes, and another part from the next 40 minutes – so they would basically take fragments from various sentences that happened in different parts of the interview and put them together to make one sentence as if I was expressing one complete thought. So the whole idea was to try to rearrange my words and try to make me look as bad as possible.
Daily Bell: Weren’t you attacked for using an un-politically correct term or otherwise supposedly demeaning an entire group of people?
Peter Schiff: Yes. It had to do with the intellectually disabled. I told Samantha that the minimum wage law does not apply to the intellectually disabled right now so most people who are intellectually disabled who have jobs are paid substantially below the minimum wage. I gave her the example of my wife’s aunt, who has Down’s syndrome, who works for something like $1 or $2 an hour and I said, look, she’s got this job and she loves her job. It’s the thing that she looks forward to every day. It gives her life meaning. But if her employer were forced to pay the minimum wage that job wouldn’t exist. So I tried to say, isn’t it better that she can have a job? She said, well, how’s she supposed to support a family on $2 an hour? I said she doesn’t have a family to support. She’s 60 years old and she’s never left home because intellectually, she’s not capable of supporting herself. But at least she has this job. I said the reason that the minimum wage doesn’t apply to the intellectually disabled is because people realize that if they did, none of them could get jobs because they can’t perform at a level that’s even equal to $7.25. They’re not functioning at that level.
So basically, the way they put the interview together was like, ‘Peter Schiff wants the disabled to work for $2 an hour,” as if the minimum wage actually applies to them, and I just want to force them to work for $2 an hour as opposed to my pointing out this is the reality, and it’s an admission by the government that the minimum wage does destroy jobs because that’s why they have an exemption for the intellectually disabled. I pointed out that not only does the $7.25 an hour minimum wage destroy jobs for the intellectually disabled, but it also destroys jobs for a lot of non-intellectually disabled people, too. A lot of people who aren’t disabled still aren’t worth a $7.25 an hour wage.
They also really tried to play up my talking about what people are “worth” as if I’m making a value judgment on the value of a human being. I explained to her that in the marketplace, the work is your productivity to your employer – the value added. If you can only add $5 an hour of value to a business, they’re not going to pay you $7 an hour. No business owner is in business to lose money. So you have to be worth at least the minimum wage plus the cost of other labour costs before you’re going to get hired. They tried to turn that around as if I was saying ‘some human beings, especially the intellectually disabled, are worth less.’ I got a lot of emails saying, ‘How dare you say intellectually disabled have lower value?’ as if I was talking about people’s worth as a human being as opposed to their productivity in the marketplace and what an employer would be willing to pay them.
Daily Bell: In this four hours of interviewing did they allow you, even if they didn’t show it, to explain your reasoning further or clarify your points?
Peter Schiff: They asked me for an example of people who work for $2 an hour – and I didn’t even come up with $2 an hour, by the way. They asked, what if employers wanted to offer $2 an hour; would that be okay? I said, well, if they can find somebody to work, that’s fine. If I ran an ad and said I’m looking for people to work for $2 an hour, not that many people would reply to that ad, but it’s a free market. People should be willing to try to hire people for $2 an hour if they can find somebody. And if somebody takes the job, that must mean that that’s the best job they can find because if anybody would be willing to give them $2.50 or $3, they would take that one instead. Then she said give me an example of somebody who works for $2 an hour. That’s when I came up with the intellectually disabled because I knew that they did work for $2 an hour, and some work for less. There are some intellectually disabled people who get 50 cents an hour.
I gave them another example, which they didn’t use, unpaid interns. I said unpaid interns work for free so $2 an hour would be a raise. I said that because I knew that “The Daily Show” had unpaid interns. In fact, the person who booked me for that interview and who was sitting in the room during the taping was an unpaid intern. So that person was working for nothing. So I asked, “Wouldn’t $2 an hour be better than nothing? Of course. But why can’t unpaid interns get paid $2 an hour? Because that would violate the minimum wage law. So instead, they work for free, which doesn’t violate the minimum wage. I said, wouldn’t it be better to pay somebody $2 an hour than to pay them nothing? The irony of it is “The Daily Show” didn’t want to pay their interns minimum wage so they pay them zero, instead. And they’re mad at me? I don’t have any employees that I pay minimum wage. All of my employees get more than the minimum wage, including my interns – I have paid interns and I pay them well. The thing is, I pay everybody more than the minimum wage, yet I’m advocating for repeal of the minimum wage. They’re talking about how much they love the minimum wage yet they pay people nothing.
Daily Bell: Did “The Daily Show” interviewer respond to this at all?
Peter Schiff: No. She couldn’t. It’s such a massive hypocrisy, as if I just want to exploit people. I don’t exploit anybody. They’re exploiting people by forcing them into unemployment because basically, what “The Daily Show” believes and what people promoting minimum wage believe is that if I’m a young kid, say a young, inner city kid, maybe I’m a minority, and I really want to get out of poverty. Here’s some businessman that’s willing to hire me and pay me $5 an hour. I can get into the business. I can learn something. Who knows where I can go from there? I’ll learn on the job. Maybe I’ll get a raise. Maybe I’ll get a promotion. He’s excited about $5 an hour. It’s better than hanging out in the streets. It’s better than joining a gang. I really want to take this job. But the liberal’s going to say, ‘No. You can’t have that job. Sorry. It’s illegal for you to take that job because $5 is not enough money.’ He’ll say, ‘Well, it’s better than zero.’ ‘Yeah, but it’s still not enough. If your boss is not willing to give you $7.25 or $8 or $9 and then the boss is like, ‘I can’t afford to pay that. You’re not worth that much. Maybe in a couple years you’ll be worth that much, but right you’re only worth $5’ – so that job never happens. That poor kid never gets the opportunity.
And you never know. There are plenty of people in American history that started working for very low wages, entry level – the story ‘from the mailroom to the boardroom, ‘ is common in economic history. Well, if you can’t get into the mailroom because of the minimum wage, how do you work your way up to the boardroom? You can’t.
So I’m in favor of freedom, I’m in favor of opportunity, I want to let people work if they want to work and the liberals say no. They want to destroy jobs, they want to kill jobs. Today you have all these protests going on again with fast food workers. They want $15 an hour. It’s absurd. The work that they’re doing, the productivity that they have in these entry-level jobs is not $15 an hour. They tried to show that I think the only people who have these jobs are teenagers.
On the contrary, I mentioned that most of these jobs are done by teenagers or 19, 20, 21 year olds, young people – they’re entry-level jobs. But I do recognize that more and more people are now falling back on these jobs. People in their 30s and 40s are unfortunately now forced to take these jobs because all of the regulations and taxes that the liberals love so much have destroyed the better-paying jobs, and now people are forced into these low-paying jobs. So now you have retired people who, because of the government and all of its money printing and inflation is driving up the cost of living, and they have to take a minimum wage job at McDonalds to supplement their retirement income.
I recognize that these trends are happening and it’s unfortunate but you can’t solve them by saying, ‘Well, we now have somebody trying to support a family on an entry-level job so we need to force employers to pay $15 an hour so this person who’s working as a fry-cook can support his family.’ He can’t support a family on an entry-level, low-skills job. Now, that’s not the fault of McDonald’s. So what’s going to happen if they succeed in trying to force McDonald’s or other fast-food restaurants into paying $15 an hour? What they’re going to do is turn fast-food restaurants into self-serve gas stations. That’s what they’re going to look like.
Daily Bell: Right. Aren’t old-fashioned service stations an example of how not having a minimum wage has worked?
Peter Schiff: Absolutely. At one point in America, when you went to a gas station there was an army of people, two or three kids, who would come running up to your car the minute you pulled in and would pump your gas, wash your windows, check your fluids, check your oil, put air in your tires – they would do all this stuff for you while they were pumping your gas. What happened to all those kids? Why are kids no longer pumping gas? Because the minimum wage made it too expensive for the gas stations to hire kids. Instead, they invested in machines. They invested in self-serve pumps and credit card swiping devices. So now you pull up to a gas station and you swipe your credit card, you fill up your car with gas, and while it’s filling up, you wash your own windows, you check your own oil, you check your own tires, you pay and you leave – and you don’t even interact with a human being. In fact, at many gas stations there are no human beings on the premises.
In addition, gas stations used to be service stations, too, so a lot of the kids who were pumping gas, between fill-ups would help the mechanics work on the cars. And in the process, they learned how to be mechanics themselves. Most mechanics didn’t go to auto mechanics school; they learned how to be mechanics because they worked at gas stations and there was a repair shop there. That’s where they learned their skill. So they started off working for tips pumping gas and they ended up being highly skilled auto mechanics. Some of them ended up opening up their own service stations, their own repair shops, maybe even had a whole chain of them and they became rich. And, of course, in the process, Americans lived a more gracious lifestyle because you could pull up to a gas station and have lots of service. You didn’t have to get out of the car, especially in the rain or the cold. People took care of it. But all that is gone.
The same thing is going to happen in the fast-food industry. I think it’s going to happen already with all this pressure. I think a lot of these fast food companies are getting tired of the negative publicity. Now you have a new ruling from the federal government saying that people who work for franchisees can actually sue the franchisor for labour problems. So at some McDonald’s franchise, if the owner discriminates or whatever, you can now sue McDonalds for actions that are totally beyond its control. So the government is going to make it difficult in addition to all this publicity, all these strikes, maybe even more laws.
So what I think is going to happen, basically over the next several years, five years, is that they’re going to take the human beings out of fast food. So you’re going to go into a fast-food restaurant and there will be no people there. There may be one person there in case there’s a problem, maybe one guy. You’ll walk in there and there will be a keypad where you can type in your order, you’ll pay for it with your credit card or maybe an app from your telephone, there will be robots that prepare the food, make the burgers, cook the fries, make the shakes. It’ll come down to you on a conveyer belt and you’ll pick it up. There are already no waitresses or waiters there. They’re not even there anyway. You take the food to your table, clean up after yourself, put the stuff away and that will be that. There won’t be anybody there. So all the people who are now out there protesting that they want $15 an hour because $8 an hour isn’t enough are going to get $0 an hour. That’s what’s going to happen.
Another real problem is that, just like getting rid of all the pump jockeys at the filling station destroyed all the opportunities for people to learn how to be mechanics so that now we don’t have that many auto mechanics – a lot of them are immigrants and it costs a fortune to get your car repaired because we have such a shortage of skilled labour – when we destroy all the entry level jobs in the fast-food industry, where are young people going to go to learn job skills? If you’re in high school and all the fast-food, entry-level jobs no longer exist, what are you going to do? Where is your first job going to be? It’s not going to exist. I guess it would be in retail but how many people can work at a clothing store or as a stock boy or whatever? And there again more and more of these low-skilled business’s jobs are going to be automated and that’s just going to be it because the more expensive you make labour, the more incentive there is for employers to try to substitute capital for labour. The more expensive you make people to hire then the fewer people are going to get hired.
I tried to explain that to “The Daily Show”: It’s supply and demand. If something is more expensive you, buy less of it. Everybody does that. If you make unskilled labour more expensive then businesses will buy less unskilled labour. That’s just it. Wages go up; employment goes down. There’s no way around it.
Daily Bell: Tell readers how the minimum wage came about in the first place.
Peter Schiff: Again, I told “The Daily Show” this, too. The first minimum wage was actually meant to stop people from hiring blacks or hiring Asians by trying to force them to pay higher wages because they were getting jobs and getting hired at lower wages. Labour unions are big proponents of the minimum wage because it forces employers to use skilled labour as opposed to unskilled labour. And by increasing the price of unskilled labour you make it more likely – I gave the example, what if I’m a business man and I can hire one skilled worker at $20 an hour or three unskilled workers at $6 an hour who would end up doing the same job. I can hire the three unskilled works because that’s only $18 an hour rather than the skilled worker who wants $20 an hour. I don’t have to hire him. I can hire the three unskilled people instead and save money. But if the skilled worker can successfully lobby for a $7 an hour minimum wage, and now the three unskilled workers cost $21 an hour, now I’m not going to hire those people. I’m going to hire the one skilled worker for $20. So minimum wage put those three unskilled workers out of work.
Daily Bell: Pretty common-sense logic there. Did they play that explanation in their snippet of your four-hour interview?
Peter Schiff: No, of course not. They tried to twist that around and used part of my answer from that to answer a question about something else. Again, it was an orchestrated attempt to make me look bad. And the thing is, people took it seriously. There were a lot of websites that reported on “The Daily Show” clip as if it was actually a news segment that they were watching, as if it wasn’t supposed to be entertainment. But when you take a four-hour interview and you piece it together in a deliberate attempt to portray the person you’re interviewing as some kind of villain or bad guy, it’s not news. Yet legitimate news websites reported on me saying, “The mentally retarded should be paid $2 an hour.” I didn’t say that’s what they should be paid. I said that’s what they ARE being paid. My point was what would happen if you try to force people to pay them more.
In fact, that’s what Obama is actually trying to do. Obama’s new rule, which basically is saying that if you contract or subcontract to the US government, you have to pay all your workers $10.10. That actually applies to the intellectually disabled. So all of the companies now that work for the government, when these contracts come up they’re going to have to fire all of their intellectually disabled workers. That’s what’s going to happen because they can’t pay them $10.10. They can’t even pay them $7. They pay them $1 or $2 right now, or even 50 cents. They’re going to have to fire them all. So the president is basically putting a lot of the intellectually disabled out of work. And of course, they’re not really working for the money. They’re really working for the esteem of having a job, and the president’s going to take that away from them, all because it sounds good.
Daily Bell: Any other examples of where this has happened?
Peter Schiff: Sure. I gave “The Daily Show” the example of American Samoa. I said, what are you going to tell the American Samoans? They had a nice economy, they had good lives, and then when the US imposed the minimum wage law in Samoa we destroyed the economy. We created 30%, 40% unemployment overnight – double-digit inflation. We single handedly wrecked their whole economy with the minimum wage. And despite the pleas of the Samoans, the pleas, “Get rid of this minimum wage,” their pleas fell on deaf ears. The minimum wage stayed there and so it’s illegal to work in Samoa and the whole place has been in a depression ever since they did this. It’s basically the worst economy in the South Pacific because they can’t survive, and it’s all because of the minimum wage. Once they raised the minimum wage their two biggest employers shut down their factories and left the island. They employed something like more than half the men and they said, ‘We can’t afford the minimum wage. We’re out of here.’ I said to “The Daily Show”, why don’t you go look at that? Why don’t you look and see what the minimum wage does.
That’s what happened in Puerto Rico, too. The first time the minimum wage was applied in Puerto Rico the unemployment rate went to something like 30% and the main reason the unemployment rate in Puerto Rico is so high today is because the minimum wage in Puerto Rico is the equivalent of about $15 or $16 an hour. In Puerto Rico the average income is half of what it is in the US. So you have much more unemployment there because the minimum wage on a relative basis is much higher in Puerto Rico than it is anywhere else because they still have to abide by the US minimum wage. There are all these examples of where the minimum wage destroys jobs, destroys economies. They just remain blind to all that because they want to sound like, ‘Oh, we care. We want people to be paid more.’ I want people to be paid more, too, but they have to be worth it. They have to earn it. You can’t just decree it. You can have any minimum wage that you want, but you can’t force the employers to pay it because the alternative is that they don’t hire someone. The alternative is that they hire someone in India or some other country. They outsource or they automate or they just get by with fewer workers.
But they want to live in a vacuum and just want to say we’re just going to force higher wages. We’re going to demand that these employers pay more. And of course, they don’t realize that to the extent that employers pay more, they have to charge more and the people who get hurt the most by these higher prices are the people who are working these minimum wage jobs. It’s the poor that are disproportionately hurt when the minimum wage forces businesses to raise prices. It devalues the higher wages that you just got, because now, your wages went up but the prices of everything you’re buying went up, too, so you’re no better off. In fact, you may be worse off if prices go up faster than your wages or when taxes take a bigger bite out of what you earn because you’re now earning more so you’re paying higher rates.
Daily Bell: In your opinion, why did “The Daily Show” producers choose not to air any of those examples?
Peter Schiff: They wanted to make me look like a bad guy. Here’s what happened. After they did this and they took my comments out of context, I said this is not fair. I had an email from their producers that said they wouldn’t do that, they weren’t going to try to make me look bad, weren’t going to take me out of context. I said since you misrepresented all this, since you brought me there under false pretenses, and I have a letter right here from your booker who told me this, I demand that you make the entire four hours of footage public. You have all four hours of footage; just put it up on the Internet so that people can see what I actually said and how I actually answered the questions that you actually asked me. And they refused to do it. They refused to make the entire thing available even though they have it.
I initially considered suing but ultimately, it was going to be time-consuming and expensive and I realized I was going to get nothing out of it anyway. But the interesting thing is that even under threat of litigation, they wouldn’t make public something they already had. All they had to do was put it on their website. I said, if you don’t want to do it, just send me the rough footage and I’ll put it on my site. Either publish it on your site or send it to me, and they refused to do it because they know that they’ll look ridiculous, that I made their reporter look like a complete moron during that four hours. And if people actually could see the entire interview, they would say, ‘Wait a minute. This guy makes a lot of sense. We should get rid of the minimum wage law.’ But that’s not what “The Daily Show” wants. They don’t want to educate their viewers. They just want to brainwash their viewers. They want to reinforce their support of this destructive law. Hey, if I’m really such a bad guy, why not show the whole four hours of what a bad guy I am? What are they so afraid of? If I’m that bad, just post it. The only reason they don’t want to post it is because they know that it makes them look bad and not me. In fact, there were other people in the room while we were taping who were totally convinced that I was right. No one could watch that four hours and at the end, if asked, “Are you in favor of the minimum wage?” answer yes. Four hours of me just talking away is going to convince anybody that you’ve got to get rid of it. That’s why they don’t want to show it. They don’t want a convincing argument as to why. They just wanted to try to make me look bad so they could advance their agenda.
Daily Bell: How did you respond to the segment publicly?
Peter Schiff: I posted a video in response to it on my YouTube channel, The Schiff Report, taken from my radio show. ?I titled it “The Truth Behind my Daily Show Interview.”
I really did not know that they would basically take my answers and use them for different questions. In fact, my brother went with me to the studio and they refused to allow him to be in the room while I was being interviewed. They didn’t want any witness.
Anybody could do this, of course. I could ask you, “What’s your favorite farm animal?” and you answer, “A pig.” Then I could ask, “What’s your husband like?” “Oh, he’s a really nice guy.” But I could take the recording and change it so that when I ask, “What’s your husband like?” you answer, “A pig.” Yet without releasing the entire recording, you have no way to prove that when I asked about your husband you actually replied, “He’s a really nice guy.” They create a dialogue based on questions and answers that weren’t even related to each other.
So the bottom line is this: Nobody should think “The Daily Show” is a news show. It’s not. It’s a comedy show. I did go on “The Daily Show” one time live, which they have on their site and US readers can see here. It was a legitimate, very good interview. I got lots of applause. Jon Stewart was very sympathetic, very flattering to me in the interview. When people get to see an actual interview, I was very complimented on “The Daily Show.” It’s fine being interviewed by Stewart live, but when you go in with Samantha Bee it’s a totally different story.
Daily Bell: In summary, caveat emptor applies to programming as well as anything else.
Peter Schiff: Correct. That’s exactly right.
Daily Bell: Back to some discussion of other aspects of the economy besides the minimum wage … What should the Fed be doing these days other than going out of business? What’s it doing wrong?
Peter Schiff: It’s doing everything wrong. It’s printing too much money. Interest rates are too low. The Fed should stop buying bonds and mortgages and should actually be selling them and strengthening its balance sheet. It should be raising interest rates. Now, I’m not naive to think that there wouldn’t be any short-term effects or that it would cause the stock market to crash, the real estate market to crash. We’d be back in a severe recession, banks would fail, the government would have to restructure its debt, which would mean default on its obligations. All that would be painful but that’s what’s going to happen eventually anyway. It’s just that the Fed is delaying that day of reckoning. But by delaying it, it’s going to make it that much more painful because we’re going to have a lot more to reckon with because we didn’t fix the problems sooner.
It’s like if you’re an alcoholic, you’ve got to stop drinking even though that means you’re going to be hung-over for a while or maybe you have to go to rehab. Or if you’re a drug addict. It’s not a pleasant experience. It’s more pleasant to keep taking drugs but you’ve got to do it eventually, and the sooner the better. The longer you’re addicted, the more screwed up your life is going to be, the better the chance that you’re going to lose your job, your spouse leaves you, you lose all your money and you’re in the gutter or end up being dead. So you’ve got to deal with your problem. But the Fed is trying to prevent us from dealing with our problems. It’s trying to come up with a quick fix solution that doesn’t really solve anything; it just numbs us to the pain.
Daily Bell: What about in Europe? The ECB is making an announcement this week about QE there.
Peter Schiff: They’re doing the same thing in Europe now with these rate cuts. Europe doesn’t need lower interest rates; they’re already practically zero. They’re talking about needing more inflation. That’s the last thing that the unemployed people in Europe need – to have to pay more for food or for energy. A rising cost of living doesn’t help the economy. A falling cost of living is helpful to the economy. It’s so perverse that the economists are trying to convince us that what we need for a healthy economy is for things to be more expensive, for the things that we need to cost more money, and that is completely absurd. It is the opposite of reality. It is the reduction in price, it is the creation of abundance – the more we produce, the less stuff costs and that’s what creates wealth. That’s what creates a rising living standard – when you can buy more stuff for less money, not buy less stuff for more money. But that’s the goal of the central banks – let’s make stuff more expensive so that fewer people can afford to buy stuff and somehow that’s supposed to grow the economy and create jobs.
Daily Bell: Where do you see stock markets heading this fall?
Peter Schiff: They’ve been creeping higher. I think another correction is coming but I don’t think we’re going to get a crash. I just think that the Federal Reserve and other central banks are printing too much money for that to happen. Because we’re not going to get real economic growth. That’s not happening. We’re going to slip back into an official recession. I think unofficially we’re actually in a recession because I don’t believe the statistics. In particular, I think inflation is being understated so that automatically means that growth is being overstated.
I think what’s going to surprise people is the fact that the Fed ends up having to have embark on a whole new round of quantitative easing because the last several rounds just didn’t work. I think we’re going to be seeing unemployment rates starting to pick back up again.
Look, we just had the worse Hollywood box office in about 20 years. People are saying, “Well, it’s because the movies weren’t any good,” which is BS. Box offices outside of the United States were up. The movies were fine. I haven’t seen any significant collapse in the quality or quantities of movies. There were plenty of big-budget sequels that came out this summer. I think the problem is American’s can’t afford to go to the movies because it’s too damned expensive and they don’t have good jobs. People aren’t going to the movies because they can’t afford it. How is inflation going to solve the problem – drive up the cost of the tickets even more, make the popcorn even more expensive? That’s going to bring people into the theaters? I went to a movie – not even 3-D, just a regular movie – over the summer and took my son. The adult ticket was $13 and under-12 were $11. I remember when I was a kid and went to the movies, the adult tickets were $4 and the kids’ tickets were $2. That’s a big difference when you’re talking about half price — $2 was a big deal when it’s $4 compared to $2. But when you’re talking about $13 versus $11? If you’ve got a family with a couple of kids, they can’t afford that. What’s it going to be in five years, $20 for an adult, $18 for a kid? It’s absurd.
Daily Bell: What’s driving the market – fundamentals? We think it’s almost purely monetary policy these days.
Peter Schiff: It’s just cheap money. That’s all that’s driving it. It’s inflation. You can say to some degree it’s about earnings, but earnings are a function of share buybacks. Companies are buying back stock and they only can afford to do that because they can borrow so cheaply, so it’s stock buybacks that are driving earnings from share growth, not topline revenue growth. And of course, the other thing that’s sustaining earnings is that corporate debt service is so low. Despite a record amount of debt on corporate balance sheets, their debt service costs are so low that’s adding to their earnings. That’s the same thing that’s happening with the federal government. Despite the fact that we have a record national debt, the interest payments that we make per year are lower than we made in Ronald Reagan’s presidency, even though the debt was a fraction of its current size and that’s because the carrying costs are so low. I recently completed a 30-page report on this topic called “Taxed By Debt” (download here), with a lot more information than we have time to go into here.
So what would happen to corporate earnings if interest rates went up? They would collapse because now their debt service costs would go up. The same thing would happen with the US budget deficit. What would happen to the US budget deficit if interest rates went up? It would skyrocket because the cost of servicing the $17.5 trillion debt would skyrocket.
So it’s the cheap interest rates that are sustaining the government’s finances and sustaining corporate America. So you take away the cheap money and we’re in a massive bear market, which is why the Fed’s not going to take it away. Because remember, they’re basing their recovery on asset prices, on the wealth effect associated with rising stock prices and rising real estate prices. But the minute they take away the monetary support, those asset prices collapse, and the wealth effect works in reverse. So if you build a recovery on inflated asset prices, you have to keep inflating those prices to keep the recovery going. So all this talk about ending QE and strengthening the balance sheets by raising interest rates is just false. They can’t actually do it. In fact, they’re going to have to do more of it to maintain the bubble because as the bubble gets bigger, you need more air to keep it inflated. It’s like with drugs. As you get used to a drug you build up a tolerance, and you need a bigger and bigger dose to get high.
Daily Bell: Why have central bankers decided to create another asset bubble? We think they want to stimulate through 2015 at least at an aggressive rate. Your thoughts?
Peter Schiff: It’s because that’s all they’ve got. They also don’t want to make any of the necessary reforms that would be required to generate economic growth. So since we can’t have real economic growth, a fantasy is better than reality. All they can do is blow bubbles, so that’s what they’re doing. They’re oblivious, just like they were oblivious to the real estate bubble and the dot com bubble. It’s almost like the bigger the bubble, the blinder the Fed is to it.
Daily Bell: Okay. A crash is inevitable. Do you have a timeline for when it will happen?
Peter Schiff: If the Fed did the right thing there would be a crash but I don’t think that they’re going to do the right thing. They haven’t done the right thing yet, so why would they start? I don’t think they’re going to do the right thing until they’re forced to do the right thing, which means there’s going to have to be a dollar crash, which would bleed into the bond markets. I think you have to have a collapsing dollar and maybe a big drop in long-term bonds to force the Fed to finally do the right thing. But, of course, by then, it’s going to be so much more painful than having done the right thing earlier on their own terms instead of having to respond to our creditors in the foreign exchange markets. And, of course, right now the dollar is not under pressure. The euro is starting to fall because of all the bad monetary policy over there, so that’s kind of buying us some time. But again, the borrowed time is being used to just worsen our own problems.
Daily Bell: So are there some good opportunities you see right now, or are you nervous about everything?
Peter Schiff: Sure. There are opportunities outside the United States, outside the eurozone, outside Japan, in particular. There are a lot of countries that are not making nearly as many mistakes. They’re making some mistakes based on what we’re doing. We’re basically corrupting the monetary policy of the entire world. But some countries are less corrupted by it than others.
We’re still finding value in countries like Singapore and Hong Kong and Norway and New Zealand. There are areas to invest and there are stocks to own and currencies to own. Certainly gold is going to be a major beneficiary of all the inflationary monetary policies and silver, and companies that mine those metals, so there are a lot of opportunities that people can take advantage of. They can simply go to my brokerage firm, Euro Pacific Capital, if they’re in the US and find out what we’re doing, use the funds that we have, the strategies that we have that will hopefully produce superior returns in the market environment that I envision. And, of course, I still produce my free monthly Gold Videocast that I encourage people to watch.
Daily Bell: Do you think gold has another decline versus the dollar upcoming?
Peter Schiff: Not really. I think it has a big rally coming versus the dollar and other currencies, as well – the euro, the yen.
Daily Bell: What about silver?
Peter Schiff: Silver, too. I released a free report last year, “The Powerful Case for Silver,” which outlines why I’m bullish on the metal. Both gold and silver will go up. And all commodities, in general, too. We’ve had a pullback in oil prices but I expect that to be reversed and oil prices to move higher.
Daily Bell: Would you buy paper metals or stick to the physical? Would you take possession?
Peter Schiff: Physical. I think mining stocks represent some of the best values out there. If people are going to buy physical they need to be leery about it. I have a special report that anybody who’s going to buy physical metals should download. It’s a free download, at GoldScams.com. That will basically tell you all the ways people will try to scam you in the physical gold market. So before you buy physical gold, make sure you don’t get scammed. Be sure to get my free report on gold scams.
Daily Bell: One last topic, as we know you need to run. High Alert Investment Management, of which I’m chief strategist, has become involved in the cannabis industry. Your thoughts on this sector? Is cannabis a promising emerging industry?
Peter Schiff: I haven’t invested in it, though there could be some opportunities there. Personally, I think legalization of pot is a good trend. I wish they would legalize more drugs, not just state-by-state but on the federal level. I think the war on drugs has been a huge failure. As a result of the war on drugs, I think more people use drugs than would use them if we didn’t have a war. But more importantly, we’ve driven up the price of drugs and therefore the profits for the criminals who deal in them. As a result our police are much more corrupt. We’ve helped to corrupt governments around the world with all the drug-related money. We have all sorts of violence and murders and robberies as competing gangs battle it out for turf and market share. We’ve destroyed the inner cities. We’ve imprisoned tremendous percentages of men in this country, particularly young African-American men or other minorities who are locked up because of the War on Drugs. And probably 90% of the robberies in America are committed by drug addicts who are only stealing to afford the drugs that would easily be affordable if they were legal.
So not only is the drug crime there because of the war on drugs, but almost all crime in American can be directly attributable to the war on drugs. So if we legalize drugs we’ll eliminate most of the crime and also eliminate most of the money needed to fight the crime. We wouldn’t have to pay all this money to keep people locked up. It would be a huge boom for the US economy if we can end the war on drugs.
To the extent that somebody could profit now in the states that have legalized it, where there will be legal businesses, I still think it’s pretty risky though because the government can come seize your bank account. Even though state by state it’s legal, the federal government still says it’s not legal. So you have conflicting rules, and I think as a business you expose yourself to some liability. And it makes it harder to actually invest in it. Maybe if you’re a mom-and-pop business and you’re dealing in all cash and you don’t have a bank account. But then again, you’re still subject to having your cash seized by the government. The very corrupt federal government that we have probably increases the risks even for the legal entrepreneurs.
Daily Bell: Is there something in particular that might happen that would make you more likely to invest, something you would watch for?
Peter Schiff: Well, it would just depend on the investment. I mean, you can’t invest in everything. I’m doing my own thing right now. I don’t know how many barriers to entry there will be. I think there will be a lot of competition in that sector. I don’t know what the opportunities might be. If somebody could come up with some really interesting brand and have a premium for their brand, perhaps. It’s just nothing that’s really on my radar right now.
Daily Bell: Any last comments on the EU/ECB?
Peter Schiff: I just think the problem in Europe is not that interest rates are too high, obviously. Rates are the lowest they’ve been in hundreds of years and lowering interest rates from .15 to .005 isn’t going to change anything. It’s not like businesses are thinking, ‘Gee, if interest rates were only a little lower I’d go out and hire people.’ The idea that we need to create more inflation, as if the problem in Europe is that prices aren’t high enough, that if they can only make the cost of living higher that’s going to solve their problems – it won’t. None of this is going to work.
The problem in Europe is that there’s too much government. Government is regulating too much and spending too much and taxes are too high. What government needs is to repeal regulations, specifically those that create all this unemployment. They’ve made it even more expensive to hire people in Europe than we’ve made it here, and so there are even greater incentives not to hire people. So they need to deal with those negative incentives that are the byproduct of their rules and regulations, and they’ve got to get rid of those rules and regulations. They’ve got to lower government spending. But no politician wants to promote that because these bad regulations get votes. They’re lousy for the economy, they’re lousy for the job market but they’re great at the ballot box. So instead of actually doing something politically dangerous that might work, what do they want? They actually want to just rely on the ECB to print money and create inflation so they can wipe out all of their vote-getting, job-killing, growth-stifling obligations. That’s really what Europe wants to do. They want the central bank to inflate away their debt.
And they’re trying to solve the political problem of too much debt. But none of that is going to solve the economic problem of too much government and too much regulation. This is not going to solve their problems, just like it’s not going to solve our problems. Creating inflation and this whole idea that they’re fighting deflation – there is nothing wrong with falling consumer prices. That’s what grows the economy. That’s what makes living standards higher. All consumers want prices to come down. In fact, all businesses want prices to come down because that means they can sell more stuff. If you produce something, you want the cost of what you produce to come down so you can lower your prices so that more people can afford it.
Look at the cell phone companies – isn’t it better, can’t you sell more cell phones for $100 a piece than for $2,000 a piece? Do they sell more flat-screen TVs now or did they sell more when they were $10,000 a piece? Henry Ford made a lot of money because he dramatically reduced the price that he was selling cars for. Why did he make so much money? Because he dropped the price of the Model T. So entrepreneurs want low prices because they sell lots of product. This idea that nobody will buy if prices go down is absurd.
They’re basically saying, hey, the economy is bad in Europe. People are unemployed. Okay, great, let’s make the cost of milk go up. That will really fix it. Let’s just make sure those poor, unemployed people have to pay higher prices at the grocery store and that’s going to solve their problems. That’s going to make their problems worse! Now they’ll have unemployment and inflation instead of just unemployment and no inflation. People think the inflation’s going to give them a job. No, it’s not. You know what people get jobs from inflation? Older people who are retired because inflation means they can no longer to stay retired because their savings are no longer adequate to buy them food and energy, so now they have to get a job. But they don’t want a job. Inflation creates jobs for people who don’t want them because they’re forced to work when they’d rather not because it’s the only way they can survive.
Daily Bell: Thank you very much.
Peter Schiff: You’re welcome.