By Mike Schneider
The view has changed. Forbes Media is now on the Jersey side of the Hudson. But the free market views of its Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Steve Forbes, they remain rock solid.
He guided us through his company’s gleaming new headquarters in Jersey City, made possible in part by $27 million in state tax incentives over the next decade. In return, Forbes Media relocated its 350 employees to the Garden State. A big change for a company that’s spent almost a century on the other side of the river but now has a high-tech headquarters that mirrors its evolving media empire.
“We still do the magazines, still do 1,200 to 1,300 articles a year. Very good journalism. We think it has never been better. Paid circulation has maintained itself. But on the content cation side, on the web side, we now have 1,500 contracted contributors, people who submit copy. So we have over 110,000 submissions a year. We virtually now do a magazine a day thanks to this technology,” said Forbes.
NJTV News Senior Correspondent Mike Schneider sat down with Forbes.
Schneider: How many years were you in New York?
Forbes: Ninety-seven years but nothing is forever. The building that we are in has been owned by New York University for several years and now they are taking it over and making the move. We think the view here is great, the facility here is great. Totally opposite of what we had in the old building but if you are going to make a change you might as well go all the way.
Schneider: You are a Jersey guy. A lot of businesses leave New York and go someplace else. What attracted you to this location?
Forbes: Well New Jersey has very good incentives. I think Gov. Chris Christie is very serious about trying to change the environment which deteriorated very sharply in the last 10 or 15 years. While there is still a lot more to go, I think the intent is there. That’s the nice thing about having 50 states in this country, you just look around, what’s working and what isn’t. Having lived in New Jersey my entire life, I think it’s the state, as we all know, that gets no respect. But if you visit the thing people are always astonished. ‘I didn’t know there was anything but concrete here.’
Schneider: How would you characterize the U.S. economy right now?
Forbes: The U.S. economy is doing better but let’s put it into perspective. We are supposedly in the sixth year of a recovery. It’s the first time in American history we’ve had such a small recovery from a sharp downturn.
Schneider: Why do you think that is?
Forbes: Several things. One is mucking around with the dollar. Whenever you do that you get less investing for the future.
Schneider: You have been very outspoken about that and I want to ask you about that.
Forbes: The tax code gets more and more convoluted in anti-growth. The whole uncertainty about health care. If you’re a potential employer, you don’t know what your labor costs are going to be.
Schneider: Let’s start in reverse order there. Health care. Obamacare has been a what for the U.S.?
Forbes: It’s been a disaster. It was one thing to try to deal with people who were uninsured but that didn’t mean the government had to muck up and convolute and overturn the whole health care system.
Schneider: Let me ask you about taxes. Obviously back in 1996, when I was covering your presidential campaign, the flat tax became your mantra. You came out of the Midwest roaring, on the cover of all of the news magazines at the time as well. You’d still like to see that?
Forbes: I think that we are going to see something very exciting happen in 2016. First of all, today, among Democrats and Republicans, there’s a consensus that we have to reform our business tax code, which is now one of the worst in the world. If President Barack Obama was serious, he could get an agreement on that in a matter of months. We will see if he is after the turn of the year. On the personal side, I think you are going to see several candidates running for president in 2016 who are going to advocate their versions of the flat tax.
Schneider: The first thing that you mentioned when we started down this road was the dollar.
Forbes: I think we’re going to see a move to start to make the dollar something that is stable in value instead of a roller coaster.
Schneider: What precisely does that mean? What would you do? Would you go back on the gold standard?
Forbes: Well we did a gold standard for 180 years and had higher growth rates than we’ve had since. So that alone means it’s something we should look at. I would be in favor of that. But the idea the Federal Reserve can manipulate money, they have been doing this nonsense for six years, which has helped the government finance their deficits. Big companies can find it easy to get money but small and new businesses, households, very tough environment. Small and new businesses are the job creators so if you have a credit market that doesn’t work for them, we all pay the price.
Schneider: The feds made things worse not better? Some say they are the ones who guided us through this whole mess.
Forbes: They helped create the mess. They helped create the mess and after the media crisis, the panic of 2008 and 2009, when that ended, the feds instead of stopping back and letting markets work, started to manipulate markets. Suppressing interest rates across the board. That was great for government but for small businesses, if a lender doesn’t know what the real cost of lending you money is going to be, you are going to get less lending or more onerous conditions. the fed has not connected the dots yet.
Schneider: You ran for president as Republican. Do you think that only the Republicans will be capable of implementing the kind of ideas that you are talking about? Or could a bipartisan government, could a Democratic government do it?
Forbes: I have seen no potential Democratic candidates who have this pro-growth program. They seem to have forgotten John F. Kennedy who ran on getting America moving again. Including major cuts in taxation.
Schneider: As I said, I covered you when you ran for president. Do you ever dream or think about doing it again?
Forbes: No. I’m an agitator now. I get my exercise on a bicycle. I’ll let others do the political running.
Schneider: Is there one out there who is either running or could be running that you would like to see in the White House?
Forbes: I’m looking at all of them, including our own governor [Christie] in terms of what they are going to put out on the table starting in 2015.
Schneider: You mentioned Christie. Does he have the makings of a good president?
Forbes: He has the makings, which is why he attracted attention and support to be a national leader, to be president. Remember, when he came into office, New Jersey literally and no money. Not just rhetorically, there were no hidden reserves. He was told weeks after he took the oath of office, the state Treasury is going to be empty. So he had to deal with a massive crisis off the bat. He is a person who is not going to be suddenly saying, ‘Oh this is terrible.’ He is one who is going to dive in and try to do something about it. People are going to be interested to know what are you proposing to do about taxes, about the dollar, about health care. But they know that this is a guy who if he puts his mind to something, will at least try to do something about it. Even if the opposition party dominates the Legislature.
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