In perhaps a preview of a debate to come, Princeton professor Cornel West faced off with financial strategist and radio host Peter Schiff on CNN Thursday afternoon, butting heads over some of the key differences between what could be described as the tea party’s ideology versus the main thrust of “Occupy Wall Street.”
Schiff, who recently went down to Zuccotti Park in New York City to speak with protesters on camera, maintained that the economic problems faced by the U.S. are not driven by unmitigated greed on Wall Street, but the interference of government in its affairs.
West pointed out that through the lobbying industry, much of Washington has been either outright bought off, or forced to cope with the culture of greed in order to stay in power, essentially giving the top 1 percent of Americans a much louder voice in government, thereby helping to facilitate deregulation and create more space for corporate corruption.
And while both seemed to agree that “too big to fail” and the bank bailouts were negative development, their opinions diverged again when it came to the Federal Reserve. Schiff, who’s mostly libertarian, pointed to the nation’s central bank as having a key role in allowing market bubbles to inflate and burst. West countered that the Fed and its members are really just the capstone of Wall Street’s greed, allowing the oligarchs to operate in an essentially unregulated environment.
Then they squared off on unions, but Schiff did not seem to recognize that unionization is itself a free market force. Instead he pointed at the unions as causing problems for the free market, and insisted that the 1 percent “gave” the people child labor laws, weekends and other liberties that workers in the U.S. hold dear. West wasn’t having it, and seemed to squirm at the line of attack, repeatedly pointing to the decades of struggle unions went through before winning those key rights from labor bosses.
Neither men saw eye to eye, clearly, but they still managed a friendly conclusion.
“I wish we had more time, because I want to debate my brother Peter on this directly,” West said.
Their host, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, seemed receptive to the idea and suggested that the network would welcome both guests back soon.
This video was broadcast by CNN on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011.