Here people said, ‘Oh my goodness, I’ve been living beyond my means. So let’s save.’ And once you start saving, you don’t spend. And then all of a sudden people that are working at the factory don’t have jobs. So that feeds on itself.
And you’ve got to turn that around. How’s that done? The president’s the first that has to do it, he’s the cheerleader in chief, the governors and the mayors I suppose as well. The good news is that New York has continued to invest in it’s future. And so people continue to come here.
Tourism is down a little bit, but most museums report more tourists than ever before. The problem is they’re not spending money in the bookstores. They’re not spending money getting in. But as long as they keep coming we have a future.
And so, the long term question for people that live here and have businesses here, is when the economy recovers -- I happen to think it’ll be earlier than later -- but whenever, will we have the people to let businesses expand? Will we have the transportation system and safe streets so they can go to this restaurant and enjoy it? Will we have good schools that attract people, and cultural institutions?
I think there’s a reason to be optimistic. Now that’s not to say there aren’t people who are losing their jobs every day, losing their houses. House loss here is a lot less than in those overbuilt areas in the warm climates.
There are people who are worried about health care, and don’t have insurance, and there is all of that. But I think we’ve done the right things, and we’re not walking away from those who have problems.
Let me ask you about Ireland, because the economy there is one of the worst in Europe now.
I know. I remember my company, I was one of the few people that didn’t speak Gaelic at some point! We had the Neils and Siobhans, and then when the Irish economy improved, a lot of them went back, and when I go to Ireland they show up at the events to say hello, now with five kids. They’re like Orthodox Jews, they have so many kids!
And now they’re starting to come back. But now they have visa problems they did not have the last time, and that’s one of the differences.
I argue that this country is committing national suicide. We should open the borders, not close them. And you need to open them in tough times more than you need to open them in good times. And government has to lead, and I don’t think most of our leaders are willing to do that.
I don’t have any easy answers for Ireland. It has some great natural advantages. Gaelic notwithstanding it is an English speaking country, and English is the business language of the world, so that gives you a real advantage.
It is a place where education is valued. When we used to hire people, they were all from great schools, well-educated, and it (Ireland) has a work ethic.
And they play hard too. There’s a – I don’t know how you say it in Gaelic -- a joie de vivre. That maybe something that’s long term and may carry them through this.
I think peace in Northern Ireland is the best thing that happened. They can’t let themselves go back on that. They just have to at all costs … I don’t care what any one crazy person does, the elected officials and the non-elected officials, leaders, opinion makers, have to just work together and say, ‘Calm down, I know one of us just got killed by the other side. But we’re not going to start this war again. Peace is what we all need.’
In fact my company opened an office in Belfast, a tiny office, but down the road Belfast will be a center. Belfast is not going to be a business center if there’s no peace. You can’t take people there, nobody’s going to want to work there. But if there is peace, it’s a great place.
Do you see the global economy coming back soon?
Yeah, but the U.S first. And we all say, there’s conventional wisdom that this mortgage problem was the beginning of the end, and it was an American problem, there was overexpansion everyplace.
Look at the Middle East. They’re building 3,000 tall buildings in places where there’s no reason to go. There’s no water, it’s so hot you can’t go outside, why would anybody want to go there?
We are as guilty as anybody. Alan Greenspan talks about irrational exuberance. He didn’t do anything about it because the politics were ... if you’re doing good business and he walks in and says, ‘Stop doing business because you’re going to over-expand.’ I don’t think so.
Immigration is an issue in the Irish community. The downturn in Ireland has led to a lot of new people coming over here. You’ve spoken out as you said already about illegal immigration, and opening the borders. What practical ways can you think of to do this?