Shiff pans government's direction on economy
Let the market be.
This ideology may stray far from that of President Barack Obama's stimulus plan, but according to economist Peter Schiff it is the only way to stop the U.S. economy from spiraling into a bottomless abyss.
"Everything the government has done and is in the process of doing is going to make this much, much worse," said Schiff, the Nostradamus of economics, who was at the forefront of predicting America's economic firestorm. "The president is clueless."
Schiff, founder and president of Darien-based Euro Pacific Capital Inc., has long been claiming that the United States' economy across the past decade was nothing but "a house of cards." Now that the house has crumbled, Schiff claims the federal government's bailouts will eventually leave the entire country paralyzed beneath its rubble.
"I knew we were living in a fool's paradise for most of this decade," he said. "The root of the problem with our economy is that it was based on borrowed money."
Schiff's skepticism was echoed by many on Wall Street on Tuesday as Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner unveiled the administration's stimulus plan. While claiming to be more transparent than the bailout plan of the Bush administration, a lack of
details on such matters as mortgages and foreclosures has drawn parallels to his predecessor's vague proposal.
"I know the bailouts are making it worse," said Schiff in a phone interview on the same day the Senate voted 61-37 in favor of the $383 billion economic stimulus bill. "The governments infected us with a disease. The market has the cure and the government doesn't want the cure. . . . They're going to kill the market. Death by inflation."
Many of the tax breaks unveiled in Geithner's plan, such as cuts for first-time homeowners and breaks for new car buyers, are leading Americans to further overvalue the dollar, according to Schiff.
"We need to go back to saving and producing . . . Americans have to stop borrowing money," Schiff, a Westport resident, said. "Consumers should only buy things they can afford."
Geithner's plan will put $2.5 trillion into the financial system — $350 billion of which will come from the bailout fund, while the remained is made up from private investors and the Federal Reserve, making use of its ability to print money.
"The end is going to be a disaster for the dollar," Schiff said. "The world is going to stop enabling us . . . and we're going to be drowning in a sea of our own worthless currency."
Obama has urged Americans of a need to change course, using the analogy of a "bus heading toward a cliff." Seeing the market as capable of recuperating itself, Schiff said, "Barack Obama isn't changing course, he's stepping on the gas pedal."
Change in Schiff's eyes would be straying from America's current credit-based economy and allowing the natural evolution of the market to strengthen the dollar. The short-term effects of such non-action may be debilitating for many, but may be the only solution to for the enduring success of the economy, according to Schiff.
"The market is working for the long-term health of the economy," he said. "If we do not change policy . . . the longer we wait to do it, the more painful it is, which means the less likely the government will do anything."
Schiff, a prominent figure in the world of economics, was somewhat perplexed as to why he was not asked to sit in on any of the discussions regarding the country's economic situation. A frequent guest on many major news networks, including Fox News, CNN and Bloomberg TV, Schiff said he has been forwarded numerous letters constituents have sent their respective congressmen urging the government to involve Schiff in the dialogue about the economy.
"I've talked to congressmen," Schiff said. "No one seeks me out. I'm not hard to find."
His prominence in the financial sector has spurred a grassroots effort, from an outside party, to get Schiff elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010. Schiff, however, does not intend to run against Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) in the next election.
"I have no intention to run for Senate. I can probably accomplish more getting people's money out of this economy," he said.
Too much a fan of his day job, Schiff's focus is now on expanding his business from six offices to a possible 30 worldwide. Schiff's plans may be put on hold for now, as his expansion relies heavily on the state of the U.S. economy.
"There might not be enough Americans with money left (to invest)," he said.