Elected office: None
Current post: President, Euro Pacific Capital
Peter Schiff is the president of a Weston brokerage firm with offices in Florida, New York and California and is a frequent commentator on CNN, Fox and MSNBC. He is routinely given credit for predicting the current economic recession. In early 2007, he published, “Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse.”
But here’s the thing: The 2008 recession was not exactly the collapse he was talking about. If one considers Schiff a financial evangelist, then think in biblical terms of what he sees in store for the U.S. economy. He considers the 2008 downturn a squall, a mere prelude to the coming flood.
“I’m not saying this is definitely going to happen,” Schiff told The Mirror in March. “I’m just saying what will happen if we continue on our present path. I know that everything we are doing is undermining the economy further. We are laying the foundation for a greater collapse.”
Without dramatic corrections in Washington, Schiff sees the U.S. economy unraveling under the strain of an unsustainable debt made tolerable for the moment only by interest rates kept artificially low by a meddling central bank, the Federal Reserve. He likens the government’s fiscal and monetary policies to a Ponzi scheme, destined to collapse when when China and other foreign lenders finally cut off credit.
“At some point, they are going to look at the U.S. and decide we can’t pay it back,” he said.
Then the dollar will crash and interest rates will rise, fueling inflation that could leave currency worthless, he says.
As a financial adviser, Schiff pushes gold as a hedge against a total financial collapse that could leave the dollar worthless. As a candidate, his prescription is draconian cuts that could cause short-term pain, and even chaos, but put the economy on a stable footing for the future.
He gleefully goes where other candidates do not.
“Nobody in Washington thinks I can get elected,” a smiling Schiff said in March. He preaches cutting Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits. “I have stepped on every political third rail that exists.”
He has never held elected office but was an economic adviser to U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign. Like Paul and his son, Rand, who won a Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Kentucky, Schiff’s brand of Libertarianism and economic conservatism makes him popular among Tea Party activists.
Schiff bemoans the U.S. decision to go off the gold standard in 1971, leaving U.S. currency as paper backed only by a government drowning in debt. He argues that the federal government has grown beyond the role envisioned by the founding fathers or authorized by the U.S. Constitution. It is a message that resonates with Tea Party adherents, who see much of the federal government as unconstitutional, including the federal income tax.
His father is Irwin Schiff, an imprisoned tax protester who has insisted that the U.S. has no authority to collect a federal income tax. He said he agrees with his father about the income tax, but that’s not his fight. Peter Schiff says he pays his taxes.
For his troubles, Irwin Schiff was convicted three times in federal court, most recently four years ago at the age of 78. He is serving 13 years in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
“It was his life,” Schiff said. “He was committed to this cause. He was obsessed. He was like Captain Ahab, fighting the great white whale. And that wasn’t what I wanted to do. But I have a lot of respect for what my dad did, and his willingness to put it all on the line the way he did.”
On social issues, Schiff is more liberal than many in the Tea Party. He describes himself as pro-choice. He also has cautioned against elements of the movement that see government conspiracies responsible for 9-11 and the economy. “I think our government is incompetent,” he said. “I don’t think they are evil.”
In a Quinnipiac University poll in June, Schiff came in third behind Linda McMahon and former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, with just 13 percent of those surveyed saying they would vote for him in a Republican primary.
But he has more staying power than Simmons. He did not gain the requisite 15 percent of delegate votes at the Republican convention to primary, but he gathered enough petition signatures to force a primary Aug. 10.
Education: B.A., University of California Berkley
Personal: Schiff, 47, is single and resides in Weston. He is the author of four books: “Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse,” 2007; “The Little Book of Bull Moves in Bear Markets: How to Keep your Portfolio Up When the Market is Down,” 2008; “Crash Proof 2.0: How to Profit From the Economic Collapse,” 2009; and “How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes,” 2010.