Patterico's Pontifications


A Reminder: Always See the Clown Nose on Jon Stewart — And Everybody Who Works for Him

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:00 pm

I’ll confess my bias up front: I’m a fan of Peter Schiff. He’s the CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, Inc. and a successful author of several books. He’s perhaps best known as the man whom the experts laughed at in 2006 when he said that the housing bubble was about to burst, which I chronicled in this post. I don’t agree with everything Schiff says, and he strikes me as the sort who is not always politically correct, but I learn things listening to his radio show and think he’s a bright, insightful guy with a free-market outlook that I appreciate.

So I am especially distressed to see how Schiff was misused by the clowns at Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. Here’s the clip, which portrays Schiff as a clueless aristocrat who wants to put the mentally disabled into virtual slavery:

The whole thing is worth watching for the utter arrogance of the harpy (Samantha Bee) conducting the interview. But here is the key exchange that seems to have people in an uproar:

BEE: Give me a picture of a person whose work would be worth $2 an hour.

SCHIFF: You know somebody who might be? Maybe somebody who is, uh, you know, what’s the politically correct word for mentally retarded? You know, what’s the new . . .?

BEE: [sporting a look of disgust] Okayyyy . . .

Schiff sets the record straight in his latest column:

When I accepted “The Daily Show”’s invitation to be interviewed about my opposition to a minimum wage increase, I knew that I was walking into a trap. But given how counterproductive I know such an increase would be to those the law proposes to help, I took the risk anyway.

Of the more than four hours of taped discussion I conducted, the producers chose to only use about 75 seconds of my comments. Of those, my use of the words “mentally retarded” (when Samantha Bee asked me who might be willing to work for $2 per hour – a figure she suggested) has come to define the entire interview. Although I had no intention of offending anyone, I just couldn’t remember the politically correct term currently in use (it is “intellectually disabled”). Assuming she knew it, Bee could have prompted me with the correct term, but she chose not to. By including those comments in the final package, “The Daily Show” proved that they did not care who they offended, as long as they could make me look bad in the process. The volume of hate mail I have received in the show’s aftermath confirms their success on that front.

Well, of course she didn’t provide the term. Anyone who watches the clip can easily see that she is far more interested in being snide than in getting an honest point of view. And by the way, “mentally retarded” is the term used by the government. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to Schiff:

When asked the $2 per hour question, I responded that very few individuals would take a job at that pay, even if it were legal. In a free market, businesses compete for customers by keeping prices down, and for labor by keeping wages up. Any employer offering even low-skilled workers just $2 per hour would be outbid by others offering to pay more.

However I did suggest two groups of people who might be willing to work for $2 per hour. The first group — which was edited out — was the unpaid interns who tend to value work experience and connections more than pay. (In fact, “The Daily Show” staffer who booked me, and who was present during the interview, had been thrilled to start there as an unpaid intern). Since many interns work for free, $2 per hour would be an improvement. Some interns are even willing to pay to work. Since employers are afraid to hire them without pay for fear of violating labor laws or inviting lawsuits, they often hire young people working for college credit. These individuals are forced to pay college tuition to get a job they could have had for free had there been no minimum wage.

The other group was the intellectually disabled, who are in fact already exempt from the current minimum wage law by federal regulation. Although many have taken my support for this exemption as some sort of advocacy for modern slavery, I offered good reasons for the rule. While saying nothing about any person’s value as an individual or a human being, it is undeniable that the intellectually disabled have, in general, fewer marketable skills than the general population. Anyone arguing otherwise is just speaking from emotion. If an intellectually disabled person can’t perform work that produces a minimum wage level of output, then no employer seeking to make a profit could afford to pay that person the official minimum wage.

I further explained that since such individuals typically live with their parents or other caretakers, they are not working to support themselves or anyone else. They are working for the self-esteem associated with having a job — the pride of working and making a contribution. Many of the jobs they perform may seem mundane to those of normal intelligence, but they are often the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. I pointed out that if the federal minimum wages were to apply to them, a great many of those opportunities would vanish. Others may disagree, but I believe a job for such a person at $2 per hour is better than no job at all.

You know who agrees? As Schiff suggests, the answer is the federal government. The following quote is from a Department of Labor Fact Sheet (.pdf) on the policy that allows employers to apply for a certificate to pay certain disabled workers a wage less than the minimum wage, including those who suffer from the disability of — drumroll please — “mental retardation”:

Section 14(c) of the FLSA authorizes employers, after receiving a certificate from the Wage and Hour Division, to pay special minimum wages – wages less than the Federal minimum wage – to workers who have disabilities for the work being performed. The certificate also allows the payment of wages that are less than the prevailing wage to workers who have disabilities for the work being performed on contracts subject to the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act (SCA) and the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act (PCA).

A worker who has disabilities for the job being performed is one whose earning or productive capacity is impaired by a physical or mental disability, including those relating to age or injury. Disabilities which may affect productive capacity include blindness, mental illness, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, alcoholism and drug addiction.

There is an audible gasp when Schiff mentions the concept that the work of the “mentally retarded” might be worth $2 an hour. But the federal government itself — the Department of Labor — recognizes that if a disability such as “mental retardation” “actually impairs the worker’s earning or productive capacity for the work being performed” then a wage lower than the standard minimum wage is appropriate.

Samantha Bee doesn’t tell the Daily Show audience that, because in cutting up four hours of Q&A to make Schiff look as bad as possible, she is looking for shock value. She wants something that will make people laugh and be outraged at the rich guy. She’s not interested in something like truth.

But don’t bother getting all outraged at Samantha Bee or Jon Stewart. They’re just comedians, you see. As Jim Treacher once explained:

I’ve been getting more and more annoyed with him trying to have it both ways, being an increasingly self-righteous advocate and yet deflecting criticism with “It’s just a comedy show!” . . . I don’t think he necessarily needs to choose between pundit and comedian. He can do both. Just maybe not in the same breath. It was maddening when he lectured those guys and they wanted to talk to him about it, and he kept going, “Wait, I’m just a comedian!” Clown nose off, clown nose on, clown nose off, clown nose on.

I expand on the concept here, in a post titled I Always See the Clown Nose on Jon Stewart. I say to Peter Schiff: the same concept that applies to Jon Stewart applies equally to Samantha Bee. These people like to pretend like they are the ones telling the real truth. Clown nose off. Until you take their mocking “journalism” and hold it to the standards that real news organizations abide by, and show how dishonest they have been. Then, they will say they are just a comedy show. Clown nose on.

The solution, as I suggested in my 2009 post, is to treat them like comedians all the time. If they ever try to make a serious point, just say: who gives a rat’s ass what you think? You’re just a comedian.

It is, perhaps, Schiff’s idealistic mistake to have talked to these people in the first place — and, having chosen to do so, it was almost certainly an additional error to treat them like people who might listen to him seriously and give him a fair chance to make his points. Instead, every answer of his should have been prefaced with: “You probably won’t understand this because you’re just a comedian who is here to unfairly edit me and mock me, but . . .” and then give his answer — and then insist on recording the whole thing himself and releasing the tape. That could have been funny and we might have all had some fun at their expense.

But Schiff thought the subject was important enough to try to evade their trap and make some important points. Lesson learned, Peter, I guess. Next time, always see the clown nose on Jon Stewart.

29 Responses to “A Reminder: Always See the Clown Nose on Jon Stewart — And Everybody Who Works for Him”

  1. What you have here is false comedy.

    Somebody reasons out the supposed truth from the joke.

    Sammy Finkelman (8b8667)

  2. Yeah, spitting out coffee gets me every time.

    AZ Bob (ade845)

  3. can we have a philosophical discussion about that dizzy twat’s dress?

    por favor?

    I’ll bring bean dip

    happyfeet (8ce051)

  4. Who is John Stewart?

    mg (31009b)

  5. John taketh no h

    for he is Jon Stewart

    and he is magnificent

    happyfeet (8ce051)

  6. i thought we weren’t allowed to say the r word here

    happyfeet (8ce051)

  7. naw Feets: you can say Rethuglican all you want…

    i mean, everyone else does. 😉

    redc1c4 (abd49e)

  8. Totally Off Topic, but, then again, signs of the apocalypse should be…

    i am, amazingly enough, in total agreement with the publicly stated position of the government of the revolutionary islamic republic of Iran. 😎

    (better go by a lottery ticket %-)

    details here:

    redc1c4 (abd49e)

  9. No mention of the fact that generally most of these protesters are not real McDonalds workers in the first place. They tend to be either Occupy types, or people hired to protest — often at less than the minimum wage.

    Milhouse (b95258)

  10. No mention of the fact that generally most of these protesters are not real McDonalds workers in the first place. They tend to be either Occupy types, or people hired to protest — often at less than the minimum wage.

    Or as we found out in LA this past fall, they are SEIU members in other industries who are fulfilling some sort of union service obligation by picketing on behalf of the unorganized workers. But of course your point that they aren’t really the fast food workers themselves is completely on target.

    JVW (709bc7)

  11. the SEIU *can* be very entertaining…


    redc1c4 (abd49e)

  12. The worst is that a fair number of the “viewing public” actually see Jon Stewart as an real news source, perhaps their only news source.

    Now ask yourself again, “How did this country get into such a mess?”

    gramps, the original (64b8ca)

  13. Dishonesty is not funny.

    Mike S (189787)

  14. Meh… I don’t find either Stewart or Colbert the least bit funny.

    Colonel Haiku (949048)

  15. The “evolution of language”. What will be the euphemism when “intellectually disabled” becomes politically incorrect? On the other hand, maybe there should be zero tolerance on some things, because one thing leads to another and “the law does all that it should when it does all that it can”. Think about that last thing. Read below for fun.

    Mr. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

    This is a writ of error to review a judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeals of the State of Virginia affirming a judgment of the Circuit Court of Amherst County by which the defendant in error, the superintendent of the State Colony for Epileptics and Feeble Minded ….

    Carrie Buck is a feeble minded white woman who was committed to the State Colony above mentioned in due form. She is the daughter of a feeble minded mother in the same institution, and the mother of an illegitimate feeble minded child. …. An Act of Virginia, approved March 20, 1924, recites that the health of the patient and the welfare of society may be promoted in certain cases by the sterilization of mental defectives, …. that the Commonwealth is supporting in various institutions many defective persons who, if now discharged, would become [p206] a menace, but, if incapable of procreating, might be discharged with safety and become self-supporting with benefit to themselves and to society, and that experience has shown that heredity plays an important part in the transmission of insanity, imbecility, &c. ….

    The judgment finds the facts that have been recited, and that Carrie Buck is the probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring, likewise afflicted, that she may be sexually sterilized without detriment to her general health, and that her welfare and that of society will be promoted by her sterilization, and thereupon makes the order. In view of the general declarations of the legislature and the specific findings of the Court, obviously we cannot say as matter of law that the grounds do not exist, and, if they exist, they justify the result. We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11. Three generations of imbeciles are enough. </b

    nk (dbc370)

  16. “the law does all that it shoul.d is needed when it does all that it can”

    I was being unconsciously kind to the demented old barrister. Maybe. I’m not sure which is worse.

    nk (dbc370)

  17. Schiff acknowledges he knew he was walking into a trap, yet he took the bait, went anyway, and let them question him on tape for over 4 hours. That’s both stupid and arrogant, almost as much so as a GOP candidate agreeing to allow political assassins like Candy Crowley and her ilk to conduct Presidential debates.

    Fool me once…

    ropelight (fd3ec1)

  18. Somebody’s hurting from the absence of John Oliver.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  19. I have a Microsoft cert for SQL server 2008 Database Development, but no work experience in that. I have 40+ years of IT programming experience. In today’s job market, you need experience to get a job.

    I would be more than happy to work for $2 per hour for 3 to 6 months doing SQL Server 2008 Database Development just to get the work experience on my resume.

    David Aitken (e0d788)

  20. can we have a philosophical discussion about that dizzy twat’s dress?

    I don’t like that word, happyfeet. Don’t use it here.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  21. I have never seen Jon Stewart except an occasional clip presented somewhere else. Problem solved. As for those who watch and believe him, Justice Homes spoke for me.

    Mike K (cd7278)

  22. What, we can’t say “dizzy” around here?

    Icy (83aad2)

  23. i don’t like that word either it always pains me deeply for when I have to call upon its services

    but to call upon its services is something I shall never again do in these demesnes

    go free, little word, I free you from my service

    no – don’t look back

    it’s over

    happyfeet (8ce051)

  24. Greg Gutfeld had the right idea with Bee when he refused to give her any outrageous outrage following her bit attacking “The Five” a couple of weeks ago (though having baited the left successfully on the HuffPo before coming to Fox News Greg’s more savvy about how to deal with liberal snark than is Schiff, who isn’t known for his humor anyway and needed to clarify how mendacious Bee and her Daily Show producers were in editing the video).

    John (a4c2a4)

  25. Thank you.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  26. Patterico – It was nice to see Stewart laugh in Nancy Pelosi’s face on last night’s show, though.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  27. you are welcome Mr. P

    Mr. daley I do not belong to this smart club of people what have access to the merriments of the cable television

    last night I watched that movie about the hotel what had the exotic marigolds – it was on the hbo go… I cried like a little baby

    let’s see the other movie I found recently was called Sightseers – this one was on the netflix

    very fun and just a nice warm-heartedly gory film about the banality of banality – loved it in no small part cause it’s a road trip movie

    i’m thinking I’m overdue for a road trip


    in terms of musics this is charming

    happyfeet (8ce051)

  28. This has been an issue for decades, I just wish people would learn. Back in the ’80’s, my brother was in business school at Boston University. He was a marketing major and in class one day, the professor asked, “What do you do when 60 Minutes calls for an interview?”
    Well, if you ignore them, they will do a hatchet job on you. If you agree to the interview, they will do a hatchet job on you. (Dowdification doesn’t happen just to quotes, it happens to video all the time.)
    The answer, which was followed by a Utility president in the West apparently, was to have your own cameras follow the 60 Minutes cameras around and video the same things. The Utility then took 30 minutes of TV time following the 60 Minutes broadcast and put up full interviews with complete answers and its rebuttal of the ‘evidence’ given by the show.
    These days, it is much easier to do. No need to buy TV time, simply put the video on YouTube and your own website. Ted Cruz did this recently, I believe, with an interview on CBS. He aired his full answers on his website, showing what the TV producers decided didn’t make the cut.

    Shows like The Daily Show are even worse than ‘hard-news’ shows like 60 Minutes because they exist to ridicule people on the Right. They offer no upside for appearing. About the only one I recall getting the better of Stewart, who remember does this every day and so has had LOTS of practice, was the law professor who wrote the memos on interrogation techniques. But he had also had lots of practice dealing with law school students trying to trip him up year after year. For the vast majority of other people, this show and others will only try to make you look bad.

    Peter Schiff is an intelligent man, his mistake was thinking The Daily Show was something more than a concerted effort to mock the Right. Because, even though many of the uninformed get their ‘news’ from the show, the show exists to make people laugh. They just choose to only find humor by looking to the Right, rarely ever to the left. And they will always run and hide behind the clown nose when someone tries to call them out on it.

    Stewart has been doing this for years and any politician who doesn’t understand that is an idiot who shouldn’t be in office.

    Recovering Journalist (a0678e)

  29. “Mr. daley I do not belong to this smart club of people what have access to the merriments of the cable television”

    Mr. feets – Nor I.

    Clips of Mr. Stewart laughing in the face of Granny McRictusbotoxface abound on the toobs.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

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