Three-term New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg harped on the importance of vocational education and blasted Colorado’s decision to legalize marijuana as stupid Friday evening before a sold-out crowd at the Aspen Institute.
When an audience member asked the 72-year-old Bloomberg about Colorado marijuana, he responded that it was a terrible idea, one that is hurting the developing minds of children. Though he admitted to smoking a joint in the 1960s, he said the drug is more accessible and more damaging today.
“What are we going to say in 10 years when we see all these kids whose IQs are 5 and 10 points lower than they would have been?” he asked. “I couldn’t feel more strongly about it, and my girlfriend says it’s no different than alcohol. It is different than alcohol. This is one of the stupider things that’s happening across our country.”
On education, Bloomberg said the U.S. should deliver the kind of schooling that will help people become self-sustainable and increase a sense of dignity. If a person has the option of going to Harvard or becoming a plumber, he said he would suggest thinking about the plumbing career.
“The Harvard graduate on average will never catch up to a plumber,” Bloomberg said. “Partially because the first four years — instead of spending $60,000, you make $60,000.”
Cities should create jobs that meet the skills of its residents, he said, not potential residents. In New York City, where 56 million tourists visit annually, Bloomberg said the hospitality and service industries are key. Though some might say those aren’t good jobs, he claimed that a waitress in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel makes $150,000 a year because of strong union negotiations. A waitress in a decent New York restaurant will make $50,000 to $60,000 a year, he said.
Bloomberg, who is now worth $36.6 billion, according to Forbes, said the poor in the U.S. need better education. By the end of his life, he said he’s going to write a book about why the poor remain poor.
“It’s always the poor that get screwed,” said the founder of Bloomberg L.P.
Moderator Jennifer Bradley, director of the Center for Urban Innovation at the Institute, then asked what the U.S. can do to get people out of poverty. Bloomberg responded that conventional wisdom points to education, but education isn’t going to help uneducated adults. Bradley later asked how government can offer basic fairness to the children “who have been failed.”
Bloomberg claimed that 95 percent of murders fall into a specific category: male, minority and between the ages of 15 and 25. Cities need to get guns out of this group’s hands and keep them alive, he said.
“These kids think they’re going to get killed anyway because all their friends are getting killed,” Bloomberg said. “They just don’t have any long-term focus or anything. It’s a joke to have a gun. It’s a joke to pull a trigger.”
At one point, the former mayor brought up New York City’s stop-and-frisk practices, which gained national attention in 2011. Bloomberg said that during his last year in office, a minister at a Baptist church in Harlem invited him to speak.
“While I’m sitting there waiting for him to introduce me, he said to his congregation, ‘You know, if every one of you stopped and frisked your kid before they went out at night, the mayor wouldn’t have to do it,’” Bloomberg said. “And so I knew I was going to be okay with that audience.”