Although the Occupy movement has a wide range of diverse groups and individuals, a lot of analysts are concluding that the protests are anti-capitalist, anti-free market and pro-socialist. This has led one pro-free market capitalist to enter the fray and initiate discussion with many of the demonstrators.
Peter Schiff, CEO of Europacific Capital who called the housing crisis and current financial collapse in his books and in television interviews years before it occurred, sported a sign that stated: “I am the 1% Let’s Talk.”
Carrying a microphone and a camera, Schiff spoke with numerous Occupy protesters where he attempted to get a better sense of what they are standing up for and what philosophies they adhere to.
While defending capitalism, free markets and other Austrian Economic/libertarian ideals, he also criticized the current system that allows “private profits and social losses.”
“I have come down here to Occupy Wall Street to represent the one percent to see if I can have a dialogue with the other 99 percent,” said Schiff standing in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. “Maybe see if we can find some common ground. It’s not capitalism that failed them, it’s socialism, it’s corporatism, it’s crony capitalism, it’s fascism. That is the problem; capitalism is the solution if we could only fully embrace it.”
Although most of the talks were civilized and everyone shared their points of view, at times discussions became heated and testy and some labelled Schiff as a “fool” and “an idiot.”
When asked if the federal government should exist, if the EPA should be disbanded, if the FDA should be abolished and if the board of education – the protester meant Department of Education – should be gotten rid of, Schiff said the government does have the right to exist but not in the state that it is today and that the three departments mentioned should be eliminated.
The gentleman wearing a Guy Fawkes masked responded: “What I’ve learned over the years is to never argue with a fool. And you my friend are a fool. Thank you.”
In another interview, Schiff asked a lady if he offered her to become part of the one percent, would she accept. The lady, standing in front of a large group of people, responded that she would pay her “fair share.”
Schiff explained that he gives the government half of what he earns; he then proceeded to ask if the government should take more.
“I think we should get rid of the Bush tax cuts,” replied the lady.
Near the end of Schiff’s three-hour interviews, a self-proclaimed “one percent” spoke with Schiff.
“I am also a part of the one percent and I think you’re making us look really bad,” said the lady. “I think you’re facts are wrong, your logic is wrong, I won’t get into a long discussion, but I don’t think you’re helping the cause.”
When asked if she thinks her taxes should be raised, she said that she pays 10 percent of tax on her income and feels it should be raised.
He probed: “How would you like to pay 50 percent like me?”
“I would,” responded the lady.
“Oh really?” said Schiff. “Then why not write a bigger check when you pay your taxes instead of paying 10 percent? No one is stopping you from paying higher taxes.”
She concluded: “I’m glad you’re talking, but I think there are many one percenters who would disagree with you.”
Schiff appeared on television the following day. Speaking alongside Princeton University professor Cornel West, Schiff defended his viewpoints yet again on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.