Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, recently appeared on The Daily Show to argue against raising the minimum wage in the United States. As the interview progressed, he stated,
“If we eliminated the minimum wage laws then individuals would be free to accept jobs at whatever pay they’re able to get.”
Interviewer Samantha Bee followed with,
“Paint me a picture of a person whose work would be worth $2 an hour.”
“You know somebody who might be? Maybe somebody who is, uh, you know, what’s the politically correct word? Uh, you know, uh, for uh, you know, mentally retarded? I’m not going to say that we’re all created equal. You’re worth what you’re worth.”
Schiff’s remark resulted in some controversy, to say the least. The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) responded with the following,
“The National Down Syndrome Society does not agree with the sentiment that Mr. Peter Schiff used on the Daily Show last night. People with Down syndrome and other disabilities are achieving more than ever before and are leading productive lives by seeking meaningful and competitive employment. We invite Mr. Schiff to learn more about what people with Down syndrome are doing and how they are contributing in society. “
Schiff responded to the controversy with a blog post on his web site. He says,
“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, the use of my words “mentally retarded” . . . 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”). . . 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.”
Apparently, Mr. Schiff believes the controversy is about his use of the word “retarded.” While this word is generally understood to be pejorative, the true reason people are upset is the cavalier manner in which he suggested that individuals with disabilities are worth less than other people.
Schiff goes on to say,
“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.”
The Daily Show is known for it’s liberal slant, and as a satirical show, they do have a tendency to make particular individuals look foolish. However, for the many families across the world who are raising children with autism and other disabilities, it is disconcerting to hear words like these from a man who was born into a wealthy family, attended Beverly Hills High School, and is worth $70M.
With the rising rate of autism, and the large numbers of children who will be coming of age in the coming decade, it is more important than ever to support programs that offer people with disabilities the skills they will need to succeed.