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Obama Gets Real

Peter Schiff

By: Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital

For most of his time as a national political figure, Barack Obama has been careful to cloak his core socialist leanings behind a veil of pro-capitalist rhetoric. This makes strategic sense, as Americans still largely identify as pro-capitalist. However, based on his recent speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, the President appears to have reassessed the political landscape in advance of the 2012 elections. Based on the growth of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the recent defeat of Republicans in special elections, he has perhaps sensed a surge of left-leaning sentiment; and, as a result, he finally dropped the pretense.

According to our President’s new view of history, capitalism is a theory that has “never worked.” He argues that its appeal can’t be justified by results, but its popularity is based on Americans’ preference for an economic ideology that “fits well on a bumper sticker.” He feels that capitalism speaks to the flaws in the American DNA, those deeply rooted creation myths that elevate the achievements of individuals and cast unwarranted skepticism on the benefits of government. He argues that this pre-disposition has been exploited by the rich to popularize policies that benefit themselves at the expense of the poor and middle class.

But Obama’s knowledge of history is limited to what is written on his teleprompter. And his selection of the same location that Teddy Roosevelt used to chart an abrupt departure into populist politics is deeply symbolic in the opposite way to that which he intended. It is not by some genetic fluke that Americans distrust government. It is an integral and essential part of our heritage. The United States was founded by people who distrusted government intensely and was subsequently settled, over successive generations, by people fleeing the ravages of government oppression. These Americans relied on capitalism to quickly build the greatest economic power the world had ever seen – from nothing.

But according to Obama’s revisionist version of American history, we tried capitalism only briefly during our history. First, during the Robber Barron period of the late 19th Century, the result of which was child labor and unprecedented lower-class poverty. These ravages were supposedly only corrected by the progressive policies of Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. We tried capitalism again in the 1920s, according to Obama, and the result was the Great Depression. This time, it allegedly took FDR’s New Deal to finally slay that capitalist monster. Then, the account only gets more farcical. Apparently, we tried capitalism again under George W. Bush, and the result was the housing bubble, financial crisis, and ensuing Great Recession. Obama now argues that government is needed once again to save the day.

This view is complete fiction and proves that Obama is not qualified to teach elementary school civics, let alone serve as President of the United States. I wonder what other economic system he believes we followed prior to the 1890s and 1920s (and during the 1950s and 1960s) that that he now seeks to restore? Capitalism did not start with J.P. Morgan in 1890s or John D. Rockefeller in the 1920s as the President suggests. In fact, it was about that time that capitalism came under attack by the progressives. We were born and prospered under capitalism. The Great Depression did not result from unbridled capitalism, but from the monetary policy of the newly created Federal Reserve and the interventionist economic policies of both Hoover and Roosevelt – policies that were decidedly un-capitalist.

The prosperity enjoyed during mid-20th century actually resulted from the incredible progress produced by years of capitalism. Contrary to Obama’s belief, the New Deal and Great Society did not create the middle class; it was, in fact, a direct result of the capitalist industrial revolution. The socialist programs of which Obama is so fond are the reasons why the middle class has been shrinking. America’s economic descent began in the 1960s, when we abandoned capitalism in favor of a mixed economy. By mixing capitalism with socialism, we undermined economic growth, and reversed much of the progress years of laissez-faire had bestowed on average Americans. The back of the middle class is being broken by the weight of government and the enormous burden taxes and regulation place on the economy.

America’s first experiment with socialism, the Plymouth Bay Colony, ended in failure, and our most successful colonies – New York, Virginia, Massachusetts  – were begun primarily as commercial enterprises. When the founding fathers gathered to write the Constitution, they represented capitalist states and granted the federal government severely limited powers.

Apparently, Obama thinks our founders’ mistrust of government was delusional, and that we were fortunate that far wiser groups of leaders eventually corrected those mistakes. The danger, as Obama sees it, is that some Republicans actually want to reverse course and adopt the failed ideas espoused by great American fools like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.

The President unknowingly illustrated his own contradictory thinking with the importance he now places on extending the temporary payroll tax cuts. If all that stands between middle-class families and abject poverty is a small tax cut, imagine how much damage the far more massive existing tax burden already inflicts on those very households! If Obama really wants to relieve middle-class taxpayers of this burden, he needs to reduce the cost of government by cutting spending. After all, there is no way to pay for all the government programs Obama wants by simply by taxing the rich.

History has proven time-and-again that capitalism works and socialism does not. Taking money from the rich and redistributing it to the poor does not grow the economy. On the contrary, it reduces the incentives of both parties. It lowers savings, destroys capital, limits economic growth, and lowers living standards. Maybe Obama should take his eyes off the teleprompter long enough to read some American history. In fact, he could start by reading the Constitution that he swore an oath to uphold.

In Defense of the 1%

Peter Schiff

By: Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital

Last week, I spent the afternoon visiting the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in lower Manhattan. I brought a film crew and a sign that said “I Am The 1%, Let’s Talk.” The purpose was to understand what was motivating these protesters and try to educate them about what caused the financial crisis. I went down there with the feeling that much of their anger was justified, but broadly misdirected.

Indeed, there were plenty of heated discussions. I did little more than ask how much of my earnings I should be allowed to keep. In return, I was called an idiot, a fool, heartless, and selfish. But when we started talking about the issues, it seemed like the protesters fell into two categories: those who generally understood and agreed that Washington caused this mess, and those who could only recite Marxist talking points. It was the latter who usually resorted to calling names once I pointed out the hypocrisy of their positions. They might shout, “the banks have taken over the regulatory agencies, so we need more regulations!” Obviously, this is paradoxical. If they’re blaming government for causing this problem, why would they suggest more government as the solution?

I think some of the leadership of Occupy Wall Street comes from this kind of radical Marxist background – and perhaps they’re smart to intentionally keep quiet about their goals. Because the vast majority of protesters I met did believe in capitalism – they’re just tired of being screwed over by crony capitalism. Noted school-choice activist Michael Strong calls it “crapitalism,” and that’s what it is. It’s a rotten deal for everyone, and they know it.

The problem is that many of these people are under the mistaken impression that Wall Street banks are to blame for this state of affairs. That’s like blaming the dogs for getting into the trashcan. Sure, it’s bad behavior, but the ultimate responsibility lies with the authority figures – in this case, Washington. After all, it’s not the New York metro area that has benefited the most from this crisis. Rather, the counties around DC are now ranking as the wealthiest in the country. And while wealthy New Yorkers have historically made their living providing essential financial services to the global economy, Washington has always made its living one way: at our expense.

That’s why I have trouble sympathizing with people calling themselves the “99%”, implying they stand in opposition to wealth no matter how it’s earned. I own a brokerage firm, but I didn’t receive any bailout money. In fact, I have to work twice as hard to compete with bigger financial firms that are propped up by the US government. The least I deserve is the ability to keep what I earn.

Remember, if the IRS weren’t taking so much from the wealthy who have earned it, there would be that much less for Wall Street bailouts. A hundred years ago, major banks had no business lobbying Washington, because compared to their free-market earnings, the government simply didn’t have that much money to dole.

The other tool the government didn’t have to use against us back then was the Federal Reserve. Even if we drastically reduce taxes, the Fed might decide to do what it has been doing: printing money to finance government profligacy. This acts as a secret tax on everyone with a bank account, and is critical in transferring wealth from hardworking Americans to politically connected elites. So, really, the protests shouldn’t be on Wall Street but around the corner on the ironically named Liberty Street, site of the New York Federal Reserve Bank – the heart of this dishonest system.

Until these twin sources of financial oppression are brought under control, the average American’s standard of living will most likely continue to fall, more jobs will leave for increasingly capitalist emerging markets, and more young kids will be left with nothing better to do than block traffic.

One common refrain I heard at the protests was that our problems result from the rich not paying enough taxes. Most feel that economy was better when marginal tax rates were higher, and that lower rates are a cause of financial decline. Forget about the faulty logic of this assumption, it ignores two key points. First, while it’s true that marginal tax rates were much higher after World War II, the tax code also used to contain many allowances and exceptions, such that very few people actually paid the nominal rate. Second, prior to 1913, the rich paid no income taxes at all; yet, lower- and middle-class living standards rose much faster in the 19th century than in the 20th!

Overall, I think there was a real lack of understanding of basic economic principles among the Occupiers. Protesters thought that the rich owed a duty to share their wealth with society. However, they failed to see that in true capitalism, the rich can only acquire their wealth by serving others. No one succeeds in a vacuum. Consider the late Steve Jobs. He became a billionaire by sharing his wealth. Think about the millions of people around the world whose lives are vastly better because of Apple products. Think of all the Apple employees who benefit from high-paying jobs he created. Think about all those investors who made money from Apple stock. Steve Jobs shared his wealth with the entire planet before he ever paid one dime in taxes. In fact, any money Steve Jobs did pay in taxes likely prevented him from creating and sharing even more wealth. Had Jobs tried to hoard his wealth instead, he never would have acquired it in the first place.

Of course, the idea that Occupy Wall Street protesters have a right to share directly in the private profits earned by others is immoral. The protesters were correct in being outraged by having to share in Wall Street’s losses. But if they do not want to share the losses, they have no right to demand a share of the profits!

One protester equated the low wages paid by Wal-Mart to slavery, yet thought the government should take 70% of my income. In the case of Wal-Mart, employees are free to choose other jobs. What choice would I have when faced with a 70% income tax? They call it “slavery” when Wal-Mart offers workers better opportunities than they could find elsewhere, and “justice” when government enslaves me by forcibly taking 70% of the fruits of my labor.

Another protester challenged my claim that businesses create jobs by stating that consumers create the jobs by spending money. When I asked him where the consumers got their money, he replied “from their jobs,” which actually proved my point. Without jobs, consumers have no purchasing power. And without production, there is nothing to purchase.

I’m calling for these protesters to educate themselves on the causes of the current financial decline and not to waste their time attacking the wrong target. They have every right to be angry, but also an obligation to be part of the solution. Yes, I am the 1% – but I’ve earned every penny. Instead of trying to take my wealth away, I hope they learn from my example.

C.E.O. and Chief Global Strategist

Euro Pacific Capital, Inc.

Peter Schiff Testimony Before Congress on Obama Jobs Bill

Hi everyone. Here is an interesting video that I came across on YouTube. I am quite surprised that the US Congress even bothered to invite Peter Schiff to testify, but I think it was a very smart move and I sincerely hope they take his recommendations to heart. Here is what Mr. Schiff had to say about this testimony:

Dear Friends and Supporters,

As many of you know, last week I was invited to Washington to testify in front of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Government Reform and Stimulus Oversight. For that, we can thank Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH).

The subject of the hearing was job creation in the United States – specifically, what the government can and can’t do to boost employment. While many people have asked me in the last few days why I even bothered to participate, I think it was a valuable experience. I don’t expect that anything I said will make an immediate impact on policy, but at least some of my opinions got a fair hearing in the halls of power.

After the testimony, I did have a few one-on-one meetings with open-minded Congressmen from both sides of the aisle. Maybe they were just being polite, but they had no obligation to talk to me, or even invite me, in the first place. So, I thank them for the opportunity.

Still, I don’t think those few open minds in the Capitol are going to be enough to keep this ship from sinking. There just isn’t enough time or a strong enough will for reform from the American people.

That is why it is so important for you to act individually to protect yourself and your family from the new age of stagflation. Please take the time to view my testimony, understand the problems we face, and align your investments accordingly.

The video at the top of this posting is a condensed version of the full testimony. If you wish to see the full testimony video look below (warning: it is over 2 hours long):